Houseplants Are More Than Just Green Things
by Marjorie Dorfman

Page 2

Plants beautify even unattractive homes as long as they are properly taken care of. Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind. First of all, dump dying houseplants instead of just wishing it wasn’t so and thinking there must be something you could do to save them. (Just remember how far that attitude got you with your last spouse!) Grow up and face the fact that a yellowing leaf will never turn green again and a faded flower will never revive. If a plant looks dead, it probably wants to be. Leaf bypasses and stem transplants are not yet health care options to improve the quality of life within the plant kingdom. Say goodbye, farewell and adieu. Also, chuck all dusty flower arrangements. Nothing lasts forever. Use those fake greens sparingly for the truth shall always set something loose, if not free, like a falsy floating upstream. Never place artificial flowers in glass containers at eye level. If you want to pretend they’re alive, you must make a conscious effort to foster the illusion. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and find another fantasy!

Living with plants, children and pets can put both a damper on and/or add to any fantasy, (particularly one involving peace and quiet). Larger plants usually sit directly on the floor, which can make symbiotic co-existence a problem at times. If your cat, dog or child enjoys digging in the dirt, place a thin layer of pebbles on the surface, but nothing heavy enough to interfere with air circulation. (Your child may still grow up to become a gossip columnist looking for dirt, but it’s worth a try.) This procedure may fend off infantile, canine and feline treasure seekers, and then again, it may not.

spider plantMore plants die from too much watering than any other cause. This is partially because an over-watered plant sends out no signals of distress as in the case of a dry plant whose leaves will droop. Generally, the warmer the room, the more often your plants will need water. Always use room temperature water and apply it thoroughly. Watering a plant just a little each time will moisten only the top part of the soil, leaving the rest of the plant as dry as a bone. Use discarded vase water to water plants if it is available. It may look and even smell a bit yucky, but it is good for plants and is equivalent to adding peas, spinach or broccoli to a human diet. Rainwater is also good for houseplants. Just pretend you’re Gene Kelly. (Talk about another fantasy.) Dance with a bucket outside your home or yard during the next rainstorm in your area. You may end up with more than a bucket of rainwater— maybe even a new friend or two!

To provide nutrients that your plants need for good growth, use any complete, all-purpose, houseplant fertilizer. Long acting ones can cause problems and should be avoided. Dilute fertilizer to a weaker strength than that recommended by the manufacturer. Never try to make up for a missed feeding by using a stronger solution. After watering, over-feeding is the largest cause of houseplant death. Don’t feed a plant when the soil is dry. Water it first and above all, remember that fertilizer is food, not medicine and should never be given to a plant that is ailing or nesting.

In closing, consider your plants as silent companions in your home. They may not pay rent, but they do "sing for their supper" by enhancing surroundings with their beauty and their grace. They don’t talk back and they are grateful for every drop of water you give them. They don’t need a college education and they never gossip. Make them part of an indoor jungle all your own. Let others in, if you dare. Be careful not to go too far, like my mother’s friend. If all else fails and they die, the jungle fantasy need not be abandoned. Rent some tigers and run and hide!

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