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Sunday, November 11, 2001
Garden Life

Caring for indoor plants
Satish Narula

WHO does not love plants? People are becoming more and more environment conscious and want to have plants around them all the time, be it in the garden outside or indoors. Keeping plants indoors, however, can make them unhealthy.

Indoor plants need careful tending. Photo by the writer
Indoor plants need careful tending. Photo by the writer

It is necessary to identify what is wrong and provide immediate relief. The term ‘indoor plants’ is, in fact, misleading. They should be called ‘shade-loving’ plants. Most plant species that keep well for some time indoors actually grow in deep woods, under tall trees where the sun reaches them only partially and there is lot of humus and humidity. These plants can grow under such conditions even if they find a foothold in the cracks of stones or bark of trees.

No doubt insects, pests and diseases are the usual cause of plant ailments but at the same time factors like light, humidity, temperature, improper nutrition etc can cause equal damage. Peoperomias that become tall and spindly in your home are actually small plants in their natural surroundings. If the stems of plants became unusually elongated, their leaves lose colour and become pale and their size is reduced, you can be sure it is due to a lack of light. 

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Similar symptoms may appear when plants are overfed with nitrogen. Such plants need a change of place, to a brighter spot. If you keep them in the sun all at once they wilt and die.

Long stems with bush green foliage are also a cause for alarm. It may be due to excessive nitrogen. Water is essential for plants but too much or too little of it may play havoc with them.

In case you find there is yellowing of the basal leaves and that these have started falling, stop watering as it is a symptom of water accumulation in roots. It also means that there is some drainage problem.

Do not try to correct it by opening the hole at the base of the pot. It will not solve the problem. Restrict watering. Similarly if there is falling of leaves, shift the plant to a slightly darker place. The problem here is too much light. A paucity of water usually manifests in wilting of leaves and if the tip and edges start turning brown.

Experience will teach you how much water different plants need.

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This feature was published on November 4, 2001
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