Soil the hands, your fingers will turn green
‘A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.’ -Liberty Hyde Bailey
By SUNITA VIJAY
Plants in full glory have the potential to enliven the surroundings. They bring joy to the corner they are made to brighten up. Before I talk about the care part of house plants, it is important to know what are house plants. House plants are foliage plants who have adjusted well to grow in low to medium light. This adaptation has made them the fittest choice to grow indoors in our home, in verandah, semi-sunny balconies and commercial spaces.
Many plant lovers complain that they bought healthy plants from the nursery but in no time their health deteriorated. We must keep this in mind that nurseries turnover is high. Plants here are grown in controlled environment to sustain for a short period. Just like humans, when a plant is displaced and made to settle in a new environment it struggles hard to acclimatize.
The foremost important thing to do after bringing a potted plant home is to check the soil. If the soil is clayey then there is a need to replace it with new soil. Packed bags of soil for pots are easily available these days in nurseries or for order online. Use of packaged soil for potted plants is healthy. It is sterilized and is less prone to microbes and pests. Do not forget to keep pebbles or small stones over the hole of the pot before repotting the plant. This will help in proper drainage. Make sure the plant is not kept in a sunny spot. If you are planning to keep the pot inside the house, make sure the room is lighted with yellow light bulb or the plant is strategically placed to receive diffused light on regular basis. After a week’s stay inside it is needed to be kept outside in semi shade to rejuvenate and recharge itself for at least ten days. Replace the spot with another plant. Always buy the replacement plants so that the house buzzes with life throughout.
Second most important thing is to check for moisture in the soil on daily basis. Potted plants have their limitation. Their root system is confined inside the pot. Roots need water as well as air. If the plant’s soil is not fibrous or it is watered regularly without a break, excess moisture will harm the plant. Effective drainage is important especially in the potted plants. Over watering is more harmful then less water. Let the soil be dry for a day. Turn the soil with some sharp pointed tool and then water it the next day. This practice will provide the needful air to the soil. Proper soil moisture is the key to healthy plants. More water will rot the roots and they will die. Less water will dry and starve the roots. Maintain appropriate moisture as per the plant’s requirement. You can check the soil’s moisture by either using a spoon or a stick. The soil that sticks to it will give you a fair idea about the moisture content.
Signs of under watering may include slow growth of leaves, pale looking leaves, or the leaves may turn brown, lose their colour, curl up and fall prematurely. The signs of overwatering would be mould or fungus on leaves, green colour pigment on the top of the soil, perennial wet soil, young and old leaves falling off at the same time and brown patches may develop on the leaves.
Third and last requirement is the adequate temperature, humidity and light. Plants are grown under ideal conditions in nurseries. Try to give the same climate of the place that plant came from. Less exposure to light or diffused sunlight may shrink the leaf size and the length of the stem will become longer. The old leaves will turn yellow and drop. It is an indication to take the plant out in semi-shaded spot. To provide humidity, daily misting on leaves will help or keeping a bowl of water filled container near the plant will help. Plants kept on kitchen or bathroom sills receive the right amount of humidity. Fertilize the plant as per the size once in two months to replenish its nutrients that may have drained with water.
As a thumb rule do not be lured to buy delicate and exotic plants. They require more care. Grow native plants that adapt well. They need less efforts and yield satisfying results. To keep them healthy change the soil once a year and turn the soil once a month. Check for diseases, pests or any sign of unhealthy behaviour that is needed to be addressed.
Plants are living beings. Cater to their needs, they will not disappoint. They do not require much time but a daily watchful eye, little care and they are on their own. Your efforts will reflect in their health; the sparkle in the eyes of the onlooker is complementary. No one is born with green fingers. You have to make them green by working with the plants.