After last week’s introduction to houseplants, I’ll be turning back to my experts to learn about caring for them.
Fern’s Amy Dolomont and Planted’s Katie Shipman say that determining the right lighting conditions in your home is crucial.
“Many people don’t understand the difference between dim, indirect or bright light,” Dolomont said.
Shipman defines direct light as when the sun hits the bottom of the plant. Plants that are more than 1.50 m away from a window are in indirect light. Farther back than 5 feet or areas not receiving natural light are considered dimly lit.
LED light technology has updated the way we provide light to plants. LED lights come in all sorts of styles, from inexpensive, functional shop lights to high quality, stylish lights that enhance a room. They also come in different colors.
“For most houseplants, choose white or yellow lights,” Shipman said. “But for flowering plants, choose lights in shades of pink.
Houseplants need good quality potting soil from which they can obtain nutrients and water. Different plants need different types of soil, but all need to drain excess water efficiently.
Standing water quickly rots the roots. Ordinary potting mixes will do, but soils with good quality organics will give better results over time. Generally, succulents take a gritty, sandy mix that drains quickly, while others need more organic matter to hold varying amounts of water. The staff at the plant stores are a great resource for finding what you need.
Plants can be planted in almost any container as long as it has a drainage hole. Hard-fired ceramic pots do not dry out as quickly as terracotta pots. Pots should be no more than 2 inches larger than the plant’s root ball.
If plants need to be repotted, the new container should be no more than 2 inches larger than the original. Shipman recommends learning to cast by hand. It takes time, but it puts you in better contact with your plant.
Shipman and Dolomont both recommend using high-quality organic fertilizers that slowly release their nutrients into the soil.
“Fertilizer rates depend on the time of year,” Shipman said.
Fertilize more in spring and summer when plants are growing and cut back in fall and winter when they are dormant.
Check for pests regularly to catch problems before they get out of hand, Shipman said. If you find uninvited guests, a quick dip in the shower will set them back. If they persist, wipe down the stems and leaves with neem oil or an organic pesticide. For serious problems, Shipman uses an organic, systemic insecticide that is absorbed by the plant’s roots.
All shops offer a wide range of courses from basic care and planting to terrarium construction, wood planting to macrame, handicrafts and seasonal workshops. They will even give private lessons. Trading and trading is part of the game. The plant project organizes a thematic plant swap every second Saturday of the month. All three companies offer design and installations for residential and commercial spaces.