Vail Daily column: Wildflower Gurus: Choose the right houseplant based on water, fertilizer needs
Ryan Summerlin March 10, 2013
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a two-part series on how to take care of your houseplants. Visit www.vaildaily.com to read the first installment.
Houseplants can be great additions to your house for character, color and air purification. In the last article, we talked about climate (temperature, light and humidity). Knowing the climate of your house will allow you to select a houseplant that will grow well. This week, let’s look at watering and feeding needs and make some suggestions.
Are you someone who wants to water daily or are you the person who wants to water once a week? It is important to meet the watering needs of a plant. First and foremost before watering, check for soil moisture by sticking your finger into the top of the soil, looking at the drain holes for signs of moisture, or by using a soil water meter to test how wet the soil is. Plants such as cacti and succulents like to be kept dry and will be adversely affected by too much water. Other plants, such as juncus grass or lucky bamboo, prefer to be continuously moist. When you water, always do so thoroughly until the water comes out of the drain holes.
Houseplants have no access to nutrients when containerized. Nutrients that are normally obtained in their natural environment must be supplemented via plant food when brought indoors. Either an organic (Daniel’s Plant Food) or a synthetic (Ferti-Lome) plant food can be used. Organics are typically not as potent as synthetics and are safer to use over the long term. Synthetics are fast-acting when compared to organics. However, extensive use of synthetic fertilizers can lead to soil sterilization. Many major brand names of synthetic plant foods are derived from salt. The salts can build up in pots. A white ring is a common sign of this. Too much salt will lead to plant death! To avoid plant stress and death, flush salt by placing the plant in a sink and run water through the plant until it drains. Do this for about thirty seconds and much of the salt deposits in the pot will dissolve in the water and flush out. Applying Fox Farm Sledgehammer will rinse excess fertilizers and salts from the soil with simple and routine applications.
All of this is beneficial to know before deciding to get a houseplant. You can now set realistic goals for yourself. For those of you that want hassle-free plants, the best option is cacti and succulents. They can be left in a warm window and not watered for weeks. Ginger, cyclamen, rhododendron, juncus spiralis, pilea and fatsia japonica are great for those of you who enjoy the serene duty of watering. Plants known for their foliage include rex begonia, dizygothica, jade, ficus, ferns, calathea, spider plants, schefflera, hedera, ivy, crotons, pepperomia and many more. For those of you that are looking for the colorful flowering houseplants some suggestions would be anthurium, kalanchoe, African violet, reger or angel wing begonias and cyclamen. There are plants that are great for both foliage and flowering, including goldfish, lipstick vine, many cacti, liriopi and the sensitive plant.
Some creative ideas for displaying plants would be to place in a stylish hanger or in a terrarium. A succulent planter is another eye-catching centerpiece that can be a great conversation starter. A simple wood or metal planter contrasts nicely against succulents and works beautifully with almost any interior house decor. Hanging epiphytes (air plants) in wooden crates with added mosses is a creative way to display your orchids and tillandsias. Buying several small plants of the same variety and planting them together in a pot is a great way to have the affect of a larger plant at a much lower cost.
The Wildflower Farm carries a variety of meters, plant foods and fertilizers, handmade plant hangers and, most important, plants! Colorado Alpines, providing full landscape services, and Wildflower Farm, the valley’s only year-round retail garden center, are both located in Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.