MISTAKES TO AVOID IN GROWING HOUSE PLANTS

Overpotting plants

One mark of a good cultivator is to grow plants that are large in proportion to the pots they occupy. A specimen that is all pot and little plant is not good. This does not mean that repotting or potting on into bigger receptacles should not be promptly attended to when required. It is just a caution to use judgment as to the size the specimen is likely to attain within a reasonable time.




Using ordinary garden soil for house plants

No matter how good the garden soil is for vegetables, flowers, etc., it usually needs the addition of leaf-mold or humus and sharp sand (and ofttimes some fertilizer) to make it suitable for plants that are to be grown in pots.

Potting Christmas Begonias too firmly

Christmas Begonias of the Melior and Glory of Cincinnati types thrive in a light, humusy soil that is pushed loosely into place about the old ball at potting time rather than being packed firmly.

Potting Cacti in a heavy, rich soil

The plants will grow too fast; they will be too soft and will not bloom. Use a very sandy, gritty soil and good drainage.

Overwatering pot plants

Inexperienced indoor gardeners usually overwater. Give just enough to thoroughly moisten the soil in the pot when the surface feels dry. Blooming plants usually need more water than foliage plants or bloomers which are not in flower.

Overwatering terrariums

Give moisture to terrariums only if the soil feels dry when the finger is pressed into it. If water collects on the glass sufficiently to "rim", remove cover for a day or two.

Watering house plants by the calendar

Plants should be watered whenever they need it, which is generally when the surface soil begins to dry out. They should then be given a thorough soaking and water withheld until the soil again begins to get dry.

Failing to give forced potted Hydrangeas and Azaleas enough water while in bloom

These plants are pot-bound. Soak pots in bucket of water once a week and water daily but do not permit water to stand in saucer after soil is soaked.

Keeping pot-grown Cactuses too dry

When grown in pots Cacti need reasonable amounts of water - occasional soakings. These soakings will be less frequently needed than is the case with most other plants, but still they are necessary to wet the soil through. Be sure that the soil is porous and the drainage perfect.

Standing house plants in a watertight jardiniere

There is danger that water will collect in the bottom of the container, partially submerge the pots and make the roots unhealthy.

Standing house plants outside during cold rains

While there can be no objection to standing many kinds of house plants out of doors on warm, rainy days, it is definitely harmful to follow this practice when the outdoor temperature is below that to which the plants have been accustomed indoors.

Failure to fertilize plants during their best growing periods - spring, summer and early fall

Use fertilizer tablets or liquid fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize during the dark days of winter. Do not use castor oil or tea leaves as fertilizers for house plants - both are valueless.




Failing to understand that all plants which live more than one year must have a "resting" period when they can consolidate their gains, so to speak, and prepare for future efforts

Don't expect them to keep growing and flowering forever.

Failing to keep the surface of the soil in house plant pots lightly cultivated so that the roots can get some air

Watering tends to pack it hard, and it must be broken up. On smallish pots, an old kitchen fork isn't a bad cultivating gadget.

Neglecting to increase stock of house plants

Most house plants can be readily increased by slips, bulblets or division. Start young plants of favorite house plants each year. Then you will have a good young plant ready to replace the old one that should be discarded. Any surplus young plants make excellent gifts, or can be "swapped".

Keeping ungainly specimens from year to year

When house plants outgrow the space you have to spare, root cuttings from the parent plants and discard the parents. Most house plant cuttings root readily. Don't be crowded out of your own living room by a Monstera for instance. Cut off the top to the size you wish. Pot it up and it will live and thrive. Discard the root and lower stem.

Keeping gift plants too warm

Most flowering gift plants thrive better in a cool sun porch than in an overheated room. Among these are Cyclaxnen, Christmas Cherry, Azalea, Hydrangea, Geraniums, Priniulas and Cinerartas. Poinsettias need 70 degrees and sunlight.

Buying diseased or pest-infected house plants

When buying plants from a greenhouse or florist, inspect them carefully for mealy bug, white fly, aphids, etc. Buy only clean plants.

Permitting a pest-infested house plant to contaminate its neighbors

Segregate any pest-ridden plant until clean. If you are unable to eliminate the bug or disease in a reasonable tine, destroy the plant.

Neglecting regular pest control

A weekly inspection for pests and diseases on house plants is essential. As soon as pests appear, follow an intensive spraying program until they are under control.




Leaving Azaleas to take care of themselves after blooming

Tender Azaleas used for indoor bloom need water and sunlight after flowering and a place in the summer garden in broken sunlight where they will get plenty of moisture at all times.

Expecting Geraniums and Heliotrope to bloom indoors in winter and go on flowering outdoors in summer

Geraniums and Heliotrope grown as young budding plants for winter bloom indoors cannot be expected to bloom in the garden in summer. When set out in their pots for a "vacation", cut them back and let them rest without too much water. If they are to bloom the following winter, remove any summer buds which appear.

Expecting hothouse Azaleas to make good house plants for years

Such plants are forced in a greenhouse where the atmosphere is moist. In the drier atmosphere of the home they will not bloom as well and may drop their leaves. In the north, greenhouse Azaleas will not live out of doors over winter. In the south they will, if properly cared for.

Washing the foliage of fuzzy or hairy-leaved plants

African violets, Gloxinia and other hairy-leaved plants should be dusted with a soft brush if necessary, but never washed.

Neglecting to wash shiny-leaved plants

A weekly foliage bath is a fine general conditioner for shiny-leaved house plants. It removes dust and grime, gives moisture directly to stems and leaves, improves appearance and discourages insects.

Oiling leaves to make them shine

This clogs the stomata (breathing pores) and is especially injurious if the oil is applied to the underside of the leaf where most of the breathing pores are situated.

Return to Gardenings Tips