Salisbury Press

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNPoinsettia plant can last long after the holidays with proper care. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNPoinsettia plant can last long after the holidays with proper care.

Care to make holiday plants last

Friday, November 29, 2019 by LEHIGH COUNTY EXTENSION Special to The Press in Focus

The holiday season is made more alive and enjoyable by the flowering and fruiting plants associated with it. You can enjoy these plants long after the holidays have become a memory, if you are willing to administer a little sensible care.

The favorite is the poinsettia, available in varying shades of red, pink, white and marbled. Exposure to freezing temperatures, to overheated or drafty rooms, or to several days of drying may cut short your enjoyment of a poinsettia, regardless of how much or little tender loving care you lavish on it.

If your plant arrives with a decorative wrap around the pot, poke holes in it so no water can accumulate. Poinsettias like all the winter light they can get. Place your plant in a sunny window, keeping foliage from touching cold glass panes.

Keep it out of drafts from open doors and registers. The best temperature is between 65 to 70 degrees F. Water only when the surface of the growing medium turns a lighter color or is dry to your touch. After watering, remove water standing in the saucer.

Many houseplants require a little extra care in the winter. Indoor plants are a diverse group of plants. Because of the diversity of plant species and the range of habitats from which the plants originate, it is difficult to make general statements. One broad statement that can be made is that most home and office environments are poorly suited to the needs of living plants.

Light, water, temperature, humidity, ventilation, fertilization and soil are the chief factors affecting plant growth. Incorrect proportions of any one factor will prevent a plant from growing properly indoors.

Light is probably the most essential factor for houseplant growth. The growth of plants and the length of time they remain active depend on the amount of light they receive.

Plants need light as an energy source for photosynthesis. When examining light levels for indoor plants, consider the intensity, quality, distribution and duration of the light. Houseplants can be classified according to their light needs: high, medium and low light requirements.

While light is probably the most essential factor for houseplant growth, proper watering is typically the most critical factor for houseplant survival. Overwatering and under-watering account for a large percentage of indoor plant death.

The most common question home gardeners ask is “How often should I water my plants?” Some plants like drier conditions than others. Differences in soil or potting media and environment influence water needs.

Most indoor plants tolerate normal temperature fluctuations. In general, foliage houseplants grow best at temperatures from 70 to 80 degrees F during the day and 60 to 68 degrees F at night. Excessively low or high temperatures may cause plants to fail, stop growth or cause a spindly appearance and foliage damage or drop.

Atmospheric humidity is the amount of moisture in the air expressed as a percentage. You can place gravel trays (in which an even moisture level is maintained) under pots or containers. As the moisture around the gravel evaporates, the relative humidity goes up. Another way to raise humidity is to group plants close together.

Indoor plants, especially flowering varieties, are very sensitive to drafty air and heat from registers. Forced air dries plants rapidly, overtaxes their limited root systems and may cause damage or plant loss.

Indoor plants, like most other plants, need fertilizers containing the three major plant nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). These are available in many combinations and under a multitude of brand names.

Before you bring a plant into your home, research what kind of care your plant will need. With a little tender loving care, your houseplants will live a long, healthy life.

Spotted Lanternfly Update: Be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly egg masses. Information on what to look for and how to destroy the eggs:

extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.