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Proper care for your houseplants

There are all kinds of containers in which to grow houseplants. The most important factor any needs to have, though, is drainage. It is extremely difficult to grow plants in a container with no drain holes.

Incorrect watering is probably the number one reason why houseplants fail to thrive and over-watering is the most common error made. Over-watering does not mean too much water is given at one time, it means the potting mix stays too wet. This happens when the plant is watered before it has dried out enough or the pot is left sitting in water in its saucer.

It is essential that excess water is able to drain away after a plant is watered. If it cannot, air spaces in the potting mix are filled with water and the roots can drown. Roots need air just as much as they need water.

It's also important to match the size of the pot to the size of your plant. Avoid using a pot too large for the rootball of your plant. When repotting to a larger sized pot, increase the size by only a couple of inches in diameter. Move your plants up gradually in pot size, rather than jumping from a four inch pot to a 12 inch pot all at once. This gives the roots time to expand into the new mix without becoming waterlogged in the excess.

This may not make sense to you if you haven't tried it, but experienced houseplant growers know what I mean. Trust me on this one!

Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Cornell Cooperative Extension offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450, and Essex County, 962-4810. More information may be found on-line at http://ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.

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