Helpful houseplant hints
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URBANA -- Some people
have it, some people do not. Are you one of those with a "green
thumb," or are you one of those who can kill silk flowers? asks
James Schuster, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture
educator based in Cook County.
"For most of us, we tend to fall somewhere between the two
extremes," he said. "For those who tend to forget to water their
houseplants, consider these plants: cacti, succulents, as well as
Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti (not a true cactus), aloe plants
and Sanseviera plants. These plants can go a month or more without
watering. However, when they are watered, they need to be watered
thoroughly. Watering too often kills these plants. During bud and
blooming periods, the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti need a little
more frequent watering."
The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti may need their light and
temperature conditions modified to bring them into bloom. Contact
your local University of Illinois Extension office or the garden
center where you bought the plants for information on getting these
plants to bloom.
"Heartleaf philodendron, devil's ivy and English ivy take more
frequent watering when grown in potting soil," he said. "These
plants, as well as the Sanseveria plants, tolerate a fairly wide
light range. If the plants do not get enough light, they will spread
out their leaves or the leaves may become smaller and further apart.
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"The heartleaf philodendron and the devil's ivy can also be grown
in a vase with just water. You need to add a weak solution of
fertilizer infrequently to the water during the summer months and
add water as needed."
From the middle of spring to late summer or early fall, plants
should be fertilized with very weak fertilizer solutions about once
"Frequent weak solutions are better than heavy fertilizations
when plants are grown in a home environment," said Schuster. "Do not
fertilize during late fall and winter. Allow your plants to go
partially dormant during late fall and winter. Water just enough to
keep your houseplants from wilting."
Schuster offers one last hint, for plants that frequently drop
leaves or grow a little "leggy" -- shake the plants vigorously for
five to 10 seconds about three times a week. "The shaking simulates
the vibration the plants get from gusty outdoor winds," he said.
"The shaking will make your plants stronger so they will reduce leaf
drop (leaf drop often stops) and the new growth will be more
[University of Illinois news