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Look for light and water problems when diverse group of
I have a peace lily whose leaves turn dark, then yellow
and also the stem. Some new leaves come out but not as many as are
I have a moisture meter and monitor once a week. I also
have a book, Creative Homeowner Easy-Care Guide to Houseplants by
I own 31 houseplants and only several are doing okay.
The Chinese lily, crotons, some pothos, dumb canes and bromeliads
are not. Any help would be appreciated. I grew up on a farm so I
have always loved having plants. - H. Z. -
When many plants of different types are struggling in a garden,
indoors or out, don't try to diagnose them individually. Take a
look at basic care as it applies to the whole lot.
Our gardens are like a menagerie -- a bromeliad is about as
closely related to a peace lily as an orangutan is to a kangaroo.
For a zoo full of ailing animals, you wouldn't look for disease as
it's unlikely so many species could share one ailment. You'd look
for impure water or gas leaks since all animals do share a need to
drink and breathe.
All plants need adequate light on their leaves and water and air
for their roots. Most plant problems can be traced to improper
lighting or irrigation. If you are certain the plants have enough
water, plus good drainage so excess moisture falls away from roots,
then check the light situation. Too much sun troubles some plants,
but lack of light is worse. Symptoms of light deprivation include
spindly growth, leaf loss, insect build-ups and more.
Set up a fluorescent fixture so it's just inches above a group
of plants. You can use a shop light with ordinary tubes such as you
might hang in a garage or workroom. Turn it on to keep the plants
in direct light for 10 or more hours a day.
Keep close tabs on water. Each kind of plant will dry out at its
own rate, and water use will vary even among similar plants if
their leaf masses and pot sizes are different. Weekly watering may
be too much for one, too little for another.
It's my bet that those plants under a light will shake off their
problems, begin growing better and be more fun for you.
You recommended buying trees through Global ReLeaf's
tree sale, but those trees are bare root. Doesn't that make it
harder to plant? And what if you can't plant right away when you
pick them up? How would you store them? Not in the refrigerator
crisper drawer like you told us to store bare root perennials if we
can't plant them right away!
True, you should be ready to plant a bare root tree as soon as
you get it, but you can store it if need be. Lay it on moist
newspapers on a cool garage or shed floor, and cover it with a
second layer of damp paper. It will keep.
As for bare root being risky, not at all. It's the best way to
go. In the future as we perfect methods such as air spading to
gently remove all the soil from a tree's roots, we'll see more of
Bare root's big advantage is the transplant keeps more of its
roots, compared to balled and burlapped (B&B) plants which
often lose 90 percent of their roots as they're dug for sale. In
addition, a bare root transplant is lighter, easier to handle.
That's better for the planter and for the branches and trunk, which
are often damaged in planting a B&B tree when uninformed people
use them as levers to shift the weight of a heavy root ball.
Finally, you can be sure to plant a bare root tree at the proper
depth since you can see where major order roots grow from the trunk
flare and keep that flare above ground level. That is sadly not the
case with a B&B or potted plant, all too often too deep in its
ball or pot to begin with and its problem hidden by soil.
Start cutting back ornamental grasses...
...before they shatter, or spring bulbs come up nearby only to
be trampled as you work in the bed. Even if you like to leave grass
plumes for birds as nesting material you can cut now, bundle the
cuttings and prop them elsewhere.
Can't wait for spring flowers?
Force lily of the valley, forget me not, or another early
blooming perennial or biennial by digging a small clump, potting it
and bringing it indoors. Keep it in a cool room with good sun and
enjoy the show. You can return it to the garden after the coldest
weather has passed but chances are the plants around the spot where
you dug will have taken their chance and filled that space
Green thumbs up
to March as the whack and repot month. Houseplants are resuming
strong growth now so it's a great time to chop them down to keep
them to a reasonable size, or repot them if you're willing to allow
them more room. They will rapidly refill their air space or soil
Green thumbs down
to starting seed too early indoors. Unless you have supplemental
light you're liable to end up with spindly, weak seedlings. If you
must sow now, build a cold frame while you wait for the seed to
sprout. Then you can move the plants outdoors into the sun much
Originally published 3/13/04
Thanks to Debbie Juriga for Sponsoring this