Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Monday, November 18, 2013

Houseplants: The Unexplored Continent

I have many houseplants, but have not written much about them, with the exception of my citrus trees and banana plants.  Can you care for indoor plants organically?  Yes, and you better!  Any chemical you apply to your plants indoors will stay indoors for quite a while and may volatalize into the air.  In addition, these substances may be absorbed into carpeting and furnishings, only to be re-emitted under certain conditions (increased humidity, for example) or with contact.  Houseplants do have a few problems of their own, and I hope to address this over the next few weeks (molds and fungi, insects, like fungus gnats...).  But plants also have benefits: they are soothing to our psyche, they are beautiful and restful to look at, give us something to care for, and they improve our indoor air quality overall, absorbing some environmental contaminants (from cleaners, paints, etc), as well as taking in CO2 and producing oxygen.

So, I thought I would give a few house plant tips from time to time.  Here is today's tip: did you know that when dust settles on the leaves of your houseplants the dust can block enough sunlight to reduce photosynthesis?  And dust that adheres to the underside of leaves can block the stomata, or respiratory openings, through which the plant exchanges gasses to the air?  Last weekend I took all my houseplants (at least the 40 or so downstairs, haven't done this to to the upstairs plants yet) and did this:
I gave them a lukewarm shower in my kitchen sink. This removed dust, added some moisture and made my plants happy!  At the same time, if you have an over-abundance of mineral salts in soils of salt-sensitive plants (like spider plants, dracaenas: you can tell when you see a white crusty substance on the surface of the soil, and the tips of the leaves often turn brown), you can use this "shower" to flush the salts out of the soil, making sure to let the soil drain well afterwards.
Happy gardening!

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