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In the garden: Keeping houseplants alive

Scott Eckert
Special to The Newton Kansan
Houseplants need light and the right amount of water to be successful.

Keeping houseplants alive can be very simple. However, the simplest thing can actually kill them. They are not without issues at times, especially in the winter months in Kansas. Houseplants that don’t look particularly well or normal may have been watered too much.

The following are things to consider when growing houseplants:

Excess water can result from poorly drained soil or over watering.

Excess water reduces oxygen in the soil, which damages fine roots and renders the plant unable to take up water.

Plants exposed to excess moisture show the same symptoms as plants with root rots, crown rots (crown rot from overwatering) or drought stress. The primary symptom of excess moisture is wilting or yellowing of lower and inner leaves. If excess water continues, plants may show other drought symptoms, such as scorch, leaf drop and/ or plant death.

Plants should be watered when needed. Factors influencing plant watering include type of potting media, stage of growth, type of pot (i.e. clay or plastic), humidity and temperature.

As plants use water, the potting mix will dry out and become lighter in weight. Periodically lift the pot for changes in weight and compare to when it was watered. On large containers, insert a stick or a dowel (long enough to reach the bottom of the pot) into the pot. Moist soil will stick to the dowel or discolor it slightly. Water plants thoroughly so that water comes out of the bottom of the pot.

Plants that have dried to the point that the media has pulled away from the sides of the pot may need several applications of water to rehydrate the potting mix.

Pour off any water that collects in saucers under the pots to prevent problems with fungus gnats and other insects.

The No. 1 killer of houseplants can be attributed to water. 

Scott Eckert

— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty. He can be reached at 316-284-6930.