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Indoor Plant FAQs

QUESTION: What are the best plants for my house?

ANSWER: Some of the hardest plants are the ones with dark green leaves. They can tolerate lower light situations and do even better if they can get more light. But really it all depends on what kind of lighting your plant is going to get. I would recommend Dracaena Lisa or Janet Craig, Pothos (Epipreneum Aureum) and Aglaonema. These are all okay in low light and are, overall, pretty hearty. They are also really good in cleaning the air and eliminating some toxins 

QUESTION: Why has my Bromeliad’s Flower fallen over? 

ANSWER: A couple of thing might have happened here. A fallen head makes me think that the bromeliad was overwatered or that someone watered into the cup. Many people say to water into the cup. Unless the plant is in really good light, I don't agree with that. The water will sit in the cup, causing the flower to rot. I prefer to water the soil. And only every other week. If you water more frequently, the soil will become too wet, and the entire plant will rot.

QUESTION:  What type of light does this plant need?

 

ANSWER: Well, first you need to find out the name of the plant. Not all plants need or want the same type of light. A Ficus Benjamina, for instance, loves light and can tolerate heat, therefore, a south facing window would work. But in that same location, a Dracaena Janet Craig, would burn and shrivel. Remember, that the darker the green, the lower the light it can tolerate. OK, that was tolerate. It probably won't grow in leaps and bounds. Just make sure that the plant gets light. Nothing lives in a cave.

QUESTION: Do your indoor plants need fertilizer?

 

ANSWER: Yes, they do. You should use a mild fertilizer (like Schultz Instant Liquid) that is water soluble and that you use at each watering. That way it makes it simple to use and remember. Follow the directions on the bottle and don't use too much. It will cause the leaves to burn.   We begin fertilizing in March and continue until October. You don't want to use a fertilizer in the dormant season which is November through February.   Remember, you need food to grow, and so does your plants.

QUESTION: My plant is droopy. Does it need water?

ANSWER: Learning to understand plant language is an art. If a plant is droopy, it could mean that it is either over or under watered.  Check the soil at the roots, before you water it, to see if its wet.  You may need a probe to reach deep into the bottom of the pot.  If it's wet, don't water it.  It it's dry, then water it enough so that a little bit of water comes out of the drainage holes.  It should be good for a couple of weeks. 

QUESTION: Why do I need to prune my Pothos?

 

ANSWER: Have you ever seen a Pothos that has never been pruned? It has two or three runners that just go on and on with no fullness in the center of the plant. Granted, you may like that look, but it is not the best for the health and longevity of the plant. You should cut the runners about one node from the top of the soil. Don't prune at the end of the runner, as that is where the new growth will start. And you want to prune about 1/3 of the plant at a time. As the new growth starts, prune again. Remember that wherever you prune a plant is where the new growth will begin. If you keep this up (and add a little fertilizer), you will have a beautiful FULL plant again. And those runners that you cut?? Put them in water. Once they begin rooting, you can put them in soil and you have yourself a new plant!

QUESTION: When do you repot a plant?

 

ANSWER: We will repot a plant when the roots are coming out of the holes in the bottom of the grow pot. At that point, the plant is usually looking for more water to offset the amount of leaves it has grown. Lots of plants, however, prefer to have their roots crowded, for example, Dracaenas. And there are some plants that prefer to have lots of room in the soil, like most Palms. Make sure you are doing what is best for your type of plant, use soil that does not contain wood products and don't damage the root ball.   And add a little prayer that it will adjust to the change.

QUESTION: When can I fertilize my interior plants?

 

ANSWER: We fertilize our indoor plants from March through October. Those are the growing months. You do not want to fertilize in the winter because the plants go dormant, just like the exterior ones, and giving them fertilizer during those months will cause them to have fertilizer burn (brown tipping on the edges of the leaves).   We use a professional product, because we are the EXPERTS, but fertilizers like Schultz Instant Liquid, are good for home use. Make sure you follow the directions for use and keep away from children and pets.

QUESTION: How do you keep a bromeliad alive?

 

ANSWER: Bromeliads, like orchids, are flowering plants. The flower is only going to live so long. You can cut the flower out when the color fades and just keep the green leaves. It will take a while for another flower to grow, so you may just want to get a new one. When you first get your bromeliad, dump out any excess water that may be in the cup of the flower. Any water in the cup will cause the flower to rot. After you find a bright location in your home, not direct light, please, you will want to water the bromeliad on the top of the soil with about a half a cup of water.   About every two weeks, given the time of year, should be just fine for your bromeliad.

QUESTION: Do I need to take my plants outside at any time?

 

ANSWER: If your indoor plants were grown indoors, leave them indoors. The harsh sun will burn their leaves, if put in direct sun. Plants like it better when you put them in that one perfect spot and just leave them alone. Maybe rotate them every now and then, but they will acclimate. Unless they are just not the right plant for the location you put them in. But that's our job. We put the right plant in the right location...and we guarantee it!

QUESTION: What Do We Do?    

 

ANSWER: We provide and care for plants across Southern California.  They don’t understand. “Who needs that?” they say. “Go to a nursery.  Buy some plants, and a watering can.”

QUESTION: Do interior plants have a dormant season?

 

ANSWER: Yes they do! Actually they are dormant from November through February.

 

You shouldn't expect a lot of new growth and you don't want to fertilize during this time either. You'll end up with leaf burn. 

 

Also, You will probably want to cut back on your water since the plant won't be using as much.

QUESTION: What is the plant that has the glossy red flower?

 

ANSWER: That's an anthurium. I love using them!  They work great as substitutes for bromeliads!  And during the holidays as poinsettias! 

 

As long as they have good light, not direct, they will keep growing and blooming.  Not too much water, though.

QUESTION: How do I keep poinsettias alive?

 

ANSWER: There are so many ideas of how to keep poinsettias alive.  What we have found successful is to water the plant every three days.  You want to keep it moist, but not saturated.  

 

So, if you touch the soil and it feels moist, but the soil does not stick to your finger, then water it!  Do not let the soil dry out! And give it plenty of air circulation. Poinsettias don't like stuffy rooms!

QUESTION: Do you water less during the winter?

 

ANSWER: That depends.  Are people using their heaters more?  That will take some moisture out of the soil.  Are people going away and not turning on the heat?  That is really not good for the plants. They need to be between 55 and 85 degrees,  otherwise they get cold damage.  

 

How does that affect watering?  The plant will not need as much as the plant is worried about how to stay warm.   And remember that plants have a dormancy period. That is between November and February.  They typically will not need as much water.

QUESTION: Do plants need more water when the heater is on?

 

ANSWER: Yes!  The warm air takes out the moisture in the air and also in the soil.  Don't overcompensate by doubling up on the water. You just want to give your plant a little more water than you would during fall or spring.  

 

Keeping your plants warm is very important, but you don't want the soil to be bone dry, either.  

 

And remember, do not give your plant fertilizer when you are using your heaters.  I mentioned before that plants go dormant during winter, and with the low humidity, adding fertilizer will cause issues with the roots and the leaves will burn.

QUESTION: I see webs on my plant. What is it?

 

ANSWER: Well, most likely you have spider mites.  Look at the leaves to see if they look like they have salt and pepper on them.  And, if you rub your finger between the leaves and doesn't feel kind a gritty? 

 

If those answers are yes, you do have spider mites. These guys are airborne and very very difficult to get rid of. 

 

Use an insecticidal soap with a little peppermint oil and spray it on the plant.  Make sure you wipe off the leaves because really the only way you are going to get rid of the insect is by physically removing them.  

 

You're going to have to do this for about a month consistently as these bad boys really like to reproduce.

QUESTION: Does air conditioning hurt my plants?

ANSWER: As the summer months are upon us, air conditioning is a must!  And interior plants are no exception in enjoying the cool weather.  Over 85 degrees and your indoor plants will start to wilt. It's just too hot!  

 

But keep in mind that the air conditioning will take out some of the moisture in your plants.  You may want to increase your water to the plants, just a little. And if they are in really good light, you may want to increase the water even more.

QUESTION: WHAT DO YELLOW LEAVES MEAN?

ANSWER: A bright, yellow leaf that comes off easily means that two weeks ago, you did not give the plant enough water.  

 

But it could mean that the plant is acclimating (getting use to its new home) or is rotting from too much water or maybe it needs more water.  

 

Test the soil before adding anything!  If the soil is dry, add water.  If wet, wait until the next watering, but most likely if the plant is limp and yellow, it is rotted.  There is not much that can be done about over-watering.

QUESTION: SUCCULENTS ARE SO POPULAR. WILL THEY LIVE INSIDE?

ANSWER: Oh, yes, succulents are so amazing!  They have so many shapes, sizes and colors!  Will they live indoors? That depends.  

 

Will the plant get bright indirect light?  That is the key to keeping these babies alive.  A nice east window would be perfect.  

 

And go easy on the water.  Remember, many of them are drought tolerant, so they don't require much water. We usually water our succulents about once a month, especially if they are not in very good light.   

 

The cost of them has come down dramatically, so get a small one and give it a try.  The only problem will be choosing just one!

QUESTION: There are small cotton balls on my plant.  What is it?

ANSWER: That, my friend, are mealybugs.  And, if you look very closely, you will see that your "cotton balls" have multiple legs and a tail!  Yuck!  

 

Mealybugs are airborne, meaning that they fly around (or sometimes, hop on you, if it's easier) and land on plants that they can feed from.  They can be eliminated by using a mixture of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% water and spraying directly on the bugs.  

 

As with any feeding insect, you will need to physically remove the bug by using a rag or cloth to wipe them off the plant.  Make sure you check under the leaves as well. You will need to repeat this routine for at least a month to get the infestation under control. Good luck!

QUESTION: How do you take care of orchids?

ANSWER: I know I've answered this question before, but it seems to come up regularly. Orchids are kind of easy to maintain.  If you just remember that they are not going to have flowers forever and you don't need to give them a lot of water!  If they have the right conditions (like good light?), the flowers will stay on for quite a while.  Water your orchid thoroughly every two weeks and put it back in the location that it came from. Or you can drop an ice cube or two on the top of the soil and just let it melt. Either way, do not give your orchid too much water. They don't have the root system for it and can't drink up all the water

QUESTION: Do I need to clean my indoor plants?

ANSWER: Yes. Like everything else indoors, plant leaves get dusty.  Besides looking bad, this can block sunlight, and reduce the plants ability to photosynthesize and stay at optimum health.

So, how should you clean your indoor plants?  For smaller plants, move them to the sink or shower, and hose them off.  For larger plants too big to move, wipe the leaves off with a damp cloth. For fuzzy-leafed plants that do not like their leaves wet, use a soft brush to dust them.

QUESTION: What is the first thing to do when I get my plant?

ANSWER: Most people think that re-potting their plants into a decorative container as soon as the get it home from the nursery is a great thing to do. 

 

Actually it's probably the worst thing you can do.  

 

You want your plant to acclimate to its new home, your home.  So let it get used to where it's going first.  

 

Put some B6 into the water that you'll be using to water the plants.  Do that for about a month and you should start seeing a very happy plant! 

QUESTION: What is the best way to move plants?

ANSWER: Here in So. Cal. it is fairly easy to move plants from location to location.  There are several things to keep in mind, though.

  1. You will want to stuff paper on the top of the soil so that you don't loose any soil if you have to lay the plant down.  

  2. Next, you want to cover the plant entirely with paper (preferably brown paper-it's cheaper).  You want to keep the plant nice and cozy for its trip.

  3. When you load the plants INTO your car, keep them close to each other, so that they don't move around too much.  Do not put your interior plants in the back of a pick up truck. You will fry the plant, damage its leaves and lose tons of foliage! 

  4. When you get to your destination, unsleeve your plant, put it in a nice sunny location and give it some B-12.  It may lose some leaves, but it is just acclimating to its new home.

QUESTION: How do I take care of my poinsettia?

ANSWER: Poinsettias need to be moist. Now, I didn't say wet, I said moist.  And they do not want their soil to dry out.   

 

The best way to accomplish this is to put a couple of ice cubes on top of the soil every day.  It's a slow melt and it won't over water the poinsettia because that is the last thing you want to do.  

 

Poinsettias are susceptible to spider mites, powdery mildew and gnats.  And they all come to attack this plant when it is over-watered.  

 

When the season is over, you can plant that pretty little plant in the ground and watch it grow.  With any luck, it may turn color again the following year!  

QUESTION: What do brown and yellow tips mean?

ANSWER: It means you need to know how much water your plant needs. Brown tips typically mean that the plant is receiving inconsistent watering. In other works, you are watering the plant when it does not necessarily need water or if it really does! If you touch the brown ends, it will either be crunchy or supple. If it is crunchy, it means that you are not watering enough. If the tips are supple or soft, it means you are overwatering. And usually those supple tips will be turning yellow and brown. Before you water any plant, go as far down into the plant. If it is dry, then water. If it is wet, don't. I know, easier said than done.

QUESTION: How do you take care of an air plant (tillandsia)?

ANSWER: There are mixed answers to this question.  And, from experience, they really are pretty easy to maintain.  First, they need to be in good light, but not too hot.  And they need to have some air circulation, too.  Then, every other week, you need to full soak them in water for about an hour, depending on the variety.  Let them dry out and then put them back in that great light location.  They may produce a flower, which you should probably cut that off since you want the plant to produce leaves, not flowers.  Any more questions on this peculiar looking plant, please feel free to call us!

QUESTION: Do I really have to prune my Pothos? Can't I just leave it long?

ANSWER: Sure, you can let the runners go as far as you want. Just remember, is that the healthiest thing you can do for the plant? And that answer is no. If you let the runners just run wild (haha), they are putting their energy into growing new leaves at the bottom. You will notice that the older growth at the top (or head) will start dying off, making the plant very thin on top. To avoid this, and still have some long runners, prune off 3-4 of the longest runner just above the first node that comes out of the soil. This will force that runner to sprout a new leaf from the node, filling in the head. And as an extra bonus, you can take the part that you pruned off and put it in water. In about a week or so, you will see roots sprouting that you can plant in soil.

QUESTION: Which houseplants are the best for cleaning the air?

ANSWER: NASA did a study back in the 1980s that recommended several types of plants to remove indoor air pollutants. The most popular and heartiest are as follows: Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Dracaena Marginata (Dragon Tree), Sansevieria (Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law's Tongue), and Epipiremnum Aureum (Pothos). Each of these plants will target a specific toxin and all of them will make you feel better. You can bring the garden indoors and make your home a cleaner and healthier place.

QUESTION: How often do you water a plant?

ANSWER: A lot of people, plant companies included, profess that plants need to be watered weekly. In my professional opinion, an every week watering is not necessary and tends overwater many plants. We train our plants to need water every other week. Most plants like to dry out in between waterings, but you don't want them to go bone dry either. You need to make sure you give them the right amount when you water so this doesn't happen. It's really not rocket science, but you do need to learn what the leaves are telling you and this may take a while. Hence, why you call the experts! We already know how to speak "plant".

QUESTION: What does it mean when my plant is turning light green?

ANSWER: Good question for this time of year. If your new growth is light green, it could be that the plant needs more light. Move it to a better light source. If it is turning light green all over, it could be that it is too much direct sun. Try moving it away from the sun and add some ironite at your next watering. It will be green before you know it!

QUESTION: I got this plant as a gift. Can I put it outside?

ANSWER: If you put an indoor plant outside, it will acclimate to the outside, meaning that it will not be happy if you decide to bring it back inside. Take, for instance, a Ficus Benjamina. It has been growing inside in a greenhouse or a home or office and now you decide to move it outside. If you put it directly into the sun, the leaves will burn, so you should put it under a patio cover first. Give it about a month, so that the leaves can thicken, and then you can put it in the sun. But don't bring it back inside. Chances are, you will have fall leaves all over your floor!

QUESTION: Why is the floor sticky below my plant?

ANSWER: Does it feel like someone dropped a soft drink?  If the answer is yes, then you probably have an insect.  The sticky stuff is honeydew and is the by-product of aphids and scale as they feed on plant sap.  If they are not physically removed, they will cause the plant to weaken and eventually die.  You can use an insecticidal soap and clean rag.  Spray the plant leaves, especially the underneath of the leaves, and wipe the insect off.  And you will know that your insects were alive if the color on your rag is green (yuck!). Repeat this procedure for at least a month.