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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Preparing Plants for Indoors

The arrival of fall weather is a signal for many gardeners to turn their interest to the interior landscape. Plants are either being brought in from outside where they have been reviving after the difficult winter season indoors, or new plants are purchased to make the long hours of our inclement weather confinement more enjoyable.

Here are a few keys to success with indoor plants. To begin with, if you've been fertilizing your plants regularly through the summer, or if you have a new plant that's been growing vigorously, less fertilizer will be needed during winter, and, for most plants, none may be needed. On the other hand, if your plants are growing vigorously and if you have a bright sunny spot for them, or if you're using artificial lights, then you may need monthly applications of a soluble fertilizer.

Make sure that you put your plants in an area where you have plenty of light. If it's a place where you're comfortable reading a newspaper, that should be sufficient. Or, consider using artificial lights. Incandescent light sources are not particularly good for use with plants, but fluorescents, and especially wide-spectrum fluorescents, are excellent. Try to place the lights within 18 inches of the tops of the leaves.

How to water is often a problem. Weekly is sufficient for most plants and if you'll put the pot in a saucer filled with pebbles any excess water that drains through won't soak back up into the pot and cause the roots to drown.

Temperature is also an important environmental factor. Plants flourish much better at their natural temperature. In almost every house, there are wide differences in temperatures between rooms, and even between areas of the same rooms. For example, at night, a window-sill is almost always cooler at night than the center of the room.

Humidity is the fourth important factor to consider when growing plants indoors. The natural habitat of a plant may have been very humid, or very dry, or somewhere in between. The air in most homes is usually too dry in winter to support many types of plants with the exception of succulents. The indoor gardener must then provide the additional humidity that the plants require.

There are several ways to increase the humidity around houseplants: misting with lukewarm water, placing a tray of water near the plants and grouping plants close together so that their combined transpiration will raise the humidity around them.

Soil quality is vital. Most plants grow well in the packaged commercial soil mixes. Be sure to choose one that is high in organic material and has been sterilized to kill insects, diseases, and weed seeds.

The correct container is also important. The height or diameter of the container should be from ¼ the height or width of the plant. Unglazed clay pots with drainage holes are usually the best types to use because the chances of over-watering are lessened.

The steps in potting a plant are simple, but it is vital to the future of the plant to follow them carefully. A plant needs repotting when a mass of roots develops that presses against the wall of the pot. To remove a plant, hold the root ball with your hand, turn the pot upside down, tap the pot sharply, and the plant will slide out. The job is much easier if the plant was watered thoroughly the night before repotting. Place the plant in a pot ½ to 1 inch larger than the previous pot. Fill the soil in gently around the tender roots.

Of all the factors in the natural environment of a plant, the most difficult to reproduce is the moisture content of the soil. The amount of water a plant needs usually depends on the temperature of the room, the kind of pot, and the size of the plant. Be sure to soak the soil thoroughly so that every particle is wet. Then, when the excess water drains away, the soil will be uniformly damp and the roots can use all of the available space. The best way to determine how much moisture is in the earth is to touch it with your finger. Avoid over-watering - the soil should be slightly dry before the plant is watered again.

There are many easy to grow houseplants - for instance Chinese evergreen, Cast-iron plant, Maidenhair Fern, Birds-Nest-Fern, Sansevieria, Philodendron, Pothos, Spathiphyllum and Zebrina. These are just a few that can be used.

Some of the most dramatic houseplants, however, are the various species of palms. The Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) is a palm that can be used outdoors in the shade, and its shade tolerance also makes it an excellent indoor palm. It's rather slow growing and large specimens can be expensive, but it is a beautiful palm well adapted to indoor conditions. The Pigmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebeleneii) is often used as an indoor palm and unlike its huge relative that produces commercial dates, it is more adapted to home conditions. Fountain Palm (Livistonia chinensis) is a palm that will grow in protected locations outdoors here, and has huge, bright-green fan-type leaves. It would be an excellent plant to use in an atrium. The European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) is quite hardy outdoors going as far north even as central Texas, but it can make an excellent indoor palm as well. With age it tends to form multiple trunks in cluster fashion.

Finally, some of the few good imitations of real plants have been several of the artificial palms. If your thumb isn't the least bit green, or if you need a plant for a dark hallway, these might be permissible.

For more information about houseplants, see: