Q: Why do my houseplants all lean toward the window? They look lopsided and ugly!
A: They are growing toward the sunlight! This is called phototropism. To keep your plants from getting lopsided, simply rotate them a quarter turn or so every other week. This will allow them to grow evenly and look full and bushy.
Q: Do plants need a period of darkness? The ones on my desk at work get light 24 hours a day.
A: A few plants, like Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia, need a specific period of darkness in order to flower. Most other plants do just fine without any. This isn’t to say they grow even more however, so you might want to save some energy and turn off the lights at night.
Q: There is an ugly crust on some of my pots. What is it and is it harmful?
A: This is a build up of salts that results from fertilizer. It can harm your plants if any of the foliage comes in contact with it. To remove, soak the pots in warm water for 15 minutes. To prevent it from returning, be sure to water your plants thoroughly enough to allow the salts to be flushed out through the drainage holes.
Q: Can I use soil from my garden for my houseplants?
A: Yes, but I do not recommend it. Garden soil carries insects and often diseases. You are much better off with a commercial potting mix. However, if you really want to go with garden soil, you’ll have to sterilize it first. To do so, make sure it is free of twigs and rocks, and then pour into deep baking dish. Add just enough water to wet it completely, stir, and bake in a 180 degree oven for 45 minutes (warning, it will stink!). Let cool, add equal parts perlite and peat moss, and it will then be ready for your plants.
Q: Will the chlorine in my tap water hurt my plants?
A: It depends on the levels in your particular water source. If you can smell or taste the chlorine in your water, than it is likely high enough to hurt your plants. Signs of chlorine damage are brown or yellow leaf tips and root burn. To be safe, let the water used on your plants sit in a jug for a day or so to let the chlorine dissipate.
Q: We have a water softener. Can I still use my tap water on my plants?
A: No, I’m afraid not. Water is “softened” by removing minerals such as calcium and replacing them with salt. While its not enough for us to taste, its much more than what is normally found in water. These salts will kill most houseplants.