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What's ailing your houseplant?

Many of you received a gift plant recently or you might have bought some houseplants for yourself to brighten up a room. Im sure you chose the best looking specimen at the store but, after a few weeks in its new environment, your plant may not be looking its best. The most common complaint I hear is that the leaves are turning yellow or brown. Dont panic, at least not yet. As long as youre paying attention to your plant and notice when the leaves first begin to turn, you should still have time to make corrections. Its the people who wait until the plant is nearly bare before taking action that have the worst trouble. Stick your finger into the soil up to your first knuckle. Is it completely dry? Is it soft and soggy? Neither one is ideal. The single most common problem houseplants suffer from is over-watering. This doesnt mean the plant gets too much water at a time, it means the plant stays too wet too long. When the soil in the pot stays damp, many of the air spaces are filled with water. The plant roots cant get enough air and they suffocate, or drown. The dead roots cause the plant to languish and droop. Concerned owners might assume the droopy plant needs more water which only increases the problem. First make sure your pot has plenty of drainage holes in it and remove any decorative foil so you can see the saucer. Wait until the soil has dried somewhat (check the plant label for your plants specific needs) before watering, then add water until it runs into the saucer. You cant apply too much water at one time; overwatering occurs when you apply water too often, before the soil has had a chance to dry out somewhat. Be sure to empty the saucer in an hour; water left in the saucer will keep the soil too damp. Dry is Safer
When in doubt, its better to err on the side of keeping the plant too dry than too wet. A dry plant will usually show that its dry by wilting or developing a dull color to its leaves. If you water right away, the plant will recover quickly. But when you over-water, first the plant roots die then the plant begins to wilt, so by the time you see a symptom the damage has been done. Avoid the Sauna
The most common houseplants are from tropical climates, meaning they like moderate temperatures and plenty of humidity; water them at the first sign of wilting or drooping if youre sure the soil isnt still soggy. Unfortunately, the typical North Country home in January is anything but tropical. Even the houses with plenty of heat still suffer from very low humidity, not at all jungle-like. So even when you have the watering just right and there are no bugs in sight, your plants might still be suffering from lack of humidity. This wont kill your plants, but it tends to cause the tips and edges of the leaves to turn brown and crisp. Misting the plants with a spray bottle supplies only a fraction of the humidity they crave. A room-sized humidifier is what you need, and youll enjoy the extra moisture as much as your plants. Pay Attention
These are a few of the most common problems houseplants develop. By paying attention to the symptoms when they first develop youll be able to make adjustments that will help your plants. Dont be too discouraged, though. There are just some plants that grow well for some people, and others that grow well for other people. If youve tried a certain plant with no luck, try a completely different plant and you might be surprised by how well it does. Sometimes it just takes trial and error to find the right plant for the conditions in your home.

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