The dusting of snow we had this week, definitely closes the book on the outdoor growing season. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on plants all together. Caring for houseplants can be a …
The dusting of snow we had this week, definitely closes the book on the outdoor growing season. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on plants all together. Caring for houseplants can be a big stress reliever during the long cold nights of winter, plus there are many benefits for keeping houseplants.
First of which is fresher air, houseplants are natural air filters. And then there is the cathartic effect of just getting your hands in the dirt. Ever since we were kids, we liked to play in the dirt and that is a feeling you never outgrow. The simple act of repotting a plant can make you happier. The art of bonsai has been taught for centuries and in the modern era we now have fairy gardens.
I have plants in my house that are older than my now adult children. And I have plants that are younger than my grandchildren. I don’t usually have the time to fawn over my plants, in fact sometimes they are lucky if I remember to water them. But they are a hardy lot that seem to thrive on neglect.
There are some plants that are just easier to take care of like aloe. We brought home an aloe plant last year that was only about six inches tall and now it is about two feet tall in a fourteen inch clay pot. Next to the aloe is a citronella geranium that came in from the porch at the end of the summer. It is only in a ten inch plastic pot, but it has now grown to almost four feet high since coming inside and it thrives on neglect too.
But sometimes your plants need your attention, especially when they get bugs. There are plenty of insects that will just love to suck the life out of your houseplants if left untreated. Most are easy to kill, but there are few that will take the right tools for the task.
First the easy ones, aphids, spider mites and whiteflies, are easily killed by insecticidal soaps, oil sprays and spinasad. If you need to spray your plants and they can be moved easily, then place your plants into the bathtub and spray them there. The reason for this is that some sprays could stain your carpet, upholstery and drapes.
One insect that is a little tougher to tame is fungus gnats. Those little black flies that look like fruit flies but live in the soil of your houseplants. Well they really don’t live there, but they do lay their eggs there and when the larvae hatch out they eat the roots of your houseplants. Beside spraying to kill the adult flies, you need to let the soil dry out between waterings to kill the larvae.
The toughest insect to kill is scale. An insect that has a strong outer shell that will protect it from any spray. The only way to kill them is with a systemic insecticide that you put in the soil and the plant sucks it up into the stems and leaves. When the scale sucks the sap from your plant, they ingest the insecticide.
This works well for most houseplants, but you cannot use this remedy for any plants you might eat, like herbs growing in the kitchen window. Luckily scale doesn’t like herbs.
Now if you don’t have any houseplants or you think they are just too hard to take care of, start small. Do you have any apples, oranges or lemons in the fridge? Take a seed from any one of them, place it between some wet paper towels and in a few days you should see the seed start to sprout.
As soon as you see the seed starting to crack and a root appear, place it gently in soil about a half an inch deep and in a day or two you should start to see a stem emerge from the soil. This is a great project to do with the kids or grandkids on a soon to be snowy day.
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