Help for Houseplants

Healthy Houseplants

Depending on where you live, tending indoor plants may be the only gardening you can do. While not the same thing as gardening outdoors, caring for houseplants can fill our yearning to commune with nature and grow things. For many of us, time with our plants provides a welcome solace to the cares of the outside world. Our gardens – no matter where they are or what shape they take – provides us with time to touch the soil, connect with the earth and experience the pleasure of growing beautiful plants.

Tending houseplants is quite different from growing outdoors or even in a greenhouse. In most home environments, the air is dryer than and lighting is insufficient to a houseplants needs. In addition, it requires extra care to make sure that the soil in your containers remains alive and vital to help the plant have its best life.>

Misting plants, locating them away from heat and drafts, and providing supplemental light go a long way in improving the environment, but the soil health needs to be addressed. Organic material in any soil or planting mix will decompose over time, causing the organic acids necessary for good fertility to disappear. It's hard to replace this in a container or a pot. Here are some product options that will help keep your soil alive:

  • Apply EM-1 to re-enliven the soil with this powerful microbial inoculant. It helps build stable aggregate and soil structure by producing high levels of polysaccharides, beneficial enzymes and organic acids. The end product is amended soil that is better able to absorb and retain moisture.
  • Use Soil Activator to encourage active root growth that will help make your plants more robust.
  • Insect Frass is an odorless alternative to guanos and fish-based fertilizers. It has and N-P-K of 2-2-2 and works both as a fertilizer and a bio-stimulant for the soil. It is also full of chitin which helps to keep the soil free of soft-bodied pests.

Pest Problems

If you are having pest problems with your indoor plants, the first place to start is with a spray of insecticidal soap or Neem Oil. These sprays will help eliminate aphids, whitefly, mealybugs and other pests that love houseplants.

If your problem is scale, spider mites, or powdery mildew, try Green Cleaner. It contains a proprietary mix that will kill these difficult to control pests.

Fungus gnats are also a common issue in houseplants. They are tiny and hover around on the soil, are attracted to light and your face. They are just plain annoying. They seem to come from nowhere but may come in the soil or with the houseplant. Contact sprays provide only a few days of relief because they have breeding populations in the soil around your plants. So, those adults above the soil are gone, but more are emerging from the soil.

The fungus gnat lifecycle can be completed in the small confines of your basic indoor potted plant. Their population grows when the soil remains wet for long periods of time. This generally happens with cooling temperatures indoors. Often, in winter, water applications are increased because the home environment is drier due to heating. This combination of cooling temperatures and increased use of artificial heating creates conditions where the plant cannot out-compete the fungi in the soil for water. The fungi win the battle and start growing prolifically which is when the gnats arrive.

Here is a plan of action for Fungus Gnats:

  • When the temperatures cool or at the first sign of fungus gnats, place small sticky traps called Gnat Stix in the soil – the sticky section needs to remain above the soil line.
  • To kill the bugs, apply the beneficial nematode, Heterorhabditis bacteriaphora. Simply apply some to the soil with water and you're done. The adult population will dwindle and that will be it. Let the battle begin.
  • Apply beneficial fungi that will actually help the plant take up water, as opposed to the fungi currently present which are competing with the plant. These are called endo- and ecto-mycorrhizal fungi. We carry a product called Root Build 240 which contains spores of these beneficial fungi.

For more options on Fungus Gnat control, follow this link: Fungus Gnats

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