Growing Plants In The House

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If you are a pot plant enthusiast you will want to grow pot plants, whether you have a greenhouse or not. It is, of course, much easier to raise and grow plants in a greenhouse than in a dwelling house; nevertheless, with a little equipment, it is possible both to propagate and to grow pot plants successfully in the house.

A standard size seed tray measures 14x8x2 in (36x20x 5 cm). Transparent rigid plastic domes are made to fit over these trays, as a cover, and the best type is 5 in (12.5 cm) in height, with two ventilators in the top, which can be opened and closed. Electric heating bases arc made which are approximately the same size as the tray; by fitting one of these underneath your tray, with a plastic dome on top, you have a miniature heated greenhouse. One of these on a suitable window ledge, which provides bright light, enables you to raise seeds and cuttings at any time of the year, according to the plant you are propagating. The electric heating base is usually rated at about 16 watts, which makes it very economical as it only uses a fraction more than 2Vi units of electricity if it is switched on continuously for a whole week.

The bottom heat provided by these units is very beneficial when raising cuttings as it speeds up the growth and the cuttings root much more quickly. Because the cuttings are totally enclosed under the plastic dome, and the compost is being warmed by the heater, which causes evaporation of water, the atmosphere under the dome is ideal for them, particularly during the period before the roots have developed.

When using a propagator of this type it is better to have the cuttings and seeds in their own containers, which can be placed on the propagator seed tray, rather than filling the propagator seed tray itself with compost. You can use half-size seed trays (two of which will fit into a standard seed tray), plant pots or half-pots. This makes the use of your propagator much more flexible.

One of the main difficulties of growing plants in the house is the dry atmosphere of heated rooms. Some plants are quite tolerant and will survive for long periods of time. These are usually plants which are grown for their foliage, such as the various marantas and dracaenas. Most flowering pot plants steadily deteriorate and can only be regarded as temporary residents of living rooms, unless special provision is made to produce conditions which suit them. This is done by surrounding the plant with a moist atmosphere.

There are different ways of doing this, but they all work on the same principle, which is to provide excess water which will evaporate into the air in the immediate vicinity of the plant, providing a sort of micro-climate of moist air round the plant.

Perhaps the most efficient method is to have several plants together. Using a tray of suitable size, cover the surface with a '/s-in (1.3-cm) layer of small

Plants Suits Planting Pebble Tray
Fig.4 A shallow tray of small pebbles or «one dtippings lying in water to iusi below the level of the pebbles will provide moist air to plants, such as (his Maidenhair Fern, when growing in the dry atmosphere ofi living room.

pebbles, or stone chippings, and fill with water to just below the level of the pebbles. When you stand a group of plants on the tray, this increases the efficiency of this method because the moist air is trapped between the leaves of the plants,

A good method for a single plant is to stand the plant on an inverted clay pot saucer, or something similar, in a bowl, or any suitable container, which has a diameter several inches larger than the plant pot, then fill the bow! with water to just below the level of the inverted saucer so that the plant itself is not actually standing in the water.

There are, of course, other ways of providing the plant with moist air, and it is merely a question of personal choice as to which method you use.

Some people advocate spraying plants with water, using a mist spray, but this is not very efficient. Apart from the obvious drawback that the water which misses the plant will not do your furniture much good, it provides only a very temporary amount of moisture in the air which is insufficient for the plants' requirements. Of course, it you have a group of plants on a tray, misting is then a good idea because it augments the moisture from the tray and, providing you direct the spray towards the centre of the group of plants, you are not likely to wet the surrounds. Never use the spray when the plants are exposed to sunlight as this could cause damage to the leaves.

Another problem to contend with, when growing plants in the house, is the light. All green plants require light for growth and some require more light than others. Except for shade-loving plants the best light is diffused sunlight. Obviously windows facing due south will give the brightest light but, in the summer months, when the sun is shining in a clear sky, this position is far too hot for all plants, even when shaded, except for cacti or similar desert plants.

In late autumn, winter and very early spring, before the days when the sun's rays get too hot, a south-facing window is suitable for many plants, but during the other months of the year it is better to position the plants in windows facing west-south-west to northwest, and east-south-east to north-east, where you will get maximum light with minimum danger of damage from the sun's rays.

Plants which will thrive in the shade can be put in north-facing windows in the mid-spring to mid-autumn months and in east- or west-facing windows in the other months of the year.

All these suggestions are based on the house being in an open situation. If any of the windows are shaded by trees, or by other properties, you would need to use your own judgement. Such shading can, of course, be a considerable advantage; for example, a window facing south-south-west which is shaded by a tree until late in the afternoon, when the sun's rays are no longer harmful to the plant, would be suitable for most species of plants, always providing the tree is far enough away from the window to allow plenty of light into the room.

When using pot plants for decorative purposes in the house, you naturally wish to put them in different places in the room, other than the window-ledges, but, apart from a table near the window, there are few other places where the plant will be receiving sufficient light to meet its minimum requirements for growth. However, if you can provide the plant with suitable artificial light there is no necessity for it to be positioned near the window.

It is possible to purchase special fixtures for housing plants and providing them with suitable artificial light in the form of fluorescent tubes. These vary in size from large cabinets to one plant fixtures. If you are DIY-minded you can design and make your own, but in this event it would be wise to consult a qualified electrician for the electrical part.

The quality of the light is most important and it has been found that the two colours of the spectrum which have the most effect are red and blue/violet. Fluorescent tubes of the type 'daylight' and 'warm white* arc suitable particularly if both are used. Daylight tubes emit a preponderance of blue rays whereas warm white emit a preponderance of red rays; consequently, if you have a two-tube unit and fit one of each you get the best quality of artificial light for the plant, other than using the special 'plant growth' fluorescent tubes which are available but not always easy to obtain. If you are only using a one-tube fixture the best tube to fit is a warm white.

Ideally the fluorescent tubes should be suspended about 12 in {30 cm) above flowering plants and 24 in (60 cm) above foliage plants for the best results, but even if they are two or three times further away from the plants they are still beneficial, particularly when they are augmenting daylight.

In many, if not the majority of, homes, the incandescent electric light bulb is the most widely-used form of illumination, but unfortunately this is not a good source of light for plant growth, because light bulbs radiate too much heat; also the quality of light from a domestic light bulb is not as good. If the bulb is placed too near the plant it will scorch the foliage, whereas if it is placed at a safe distance the quantity of light reaching the plant is insufficient.

On the other hand, in my experience, the presence of wall-lights fitted with two 60-watt bulbs, about 2-2'/t ft (60-75 cm) above a plant, illuminated for five to six hours each night, during the darker months, in conjunction with the amount of daylight it receives each day, is sufficient to keep a flowering plant in good condition for several weeks, while it is blooming, or a foliage plant for several months.

Most people have table lamps, standard lamps or wall-lights in their homes, and these can be used as a source of light for plants, thus making it possible to grow plants away from the windows for periods of time.

Because plants vary in their light requirements, some plants will thrive in places where other plants will rapidly deteriorate, and you have to find out by experiment the best situation for each species of plants. Try the same species of plant in different places in the house until you find the best one for that particular variety of plant.

Flowering pot plants are much more difficult to cultivate successfully in the house than foliage plants, but it is very beneficial if during the summer months they are put outside when not required for house decoration. The plants should be placed in a sheltered situation, where they are exposed to early morning or late afternoon sunlight. Flowering plants such as pelargoniums, fuchsias, lantanas and begonias, in particular, will benefit enormously from this treatment. Winter and spring flowering plants such as azaleas, cyclamen, cinerarias and all the primulas should be kept outside during these months.

Plants which are placed outside in the summer may be exposed to rain, and this should keep the leaves clean; but during a dry spell, or when plants are growing in the house, you should clean the leaves at least once a month, A simple way of doing this is to use a small wad of paper kitchen towelling which has been soaked in water containing a splash of washing-up liquid. Place the palm of the hand under the leaf for support, and wipe the surface ofthe leaf with the wet paper held in the other hand. When all the leaves have been treated in this way, go over them again with a paper wad soaked in clean water. Throughout the whole process keep re-arranging the surface of the wad of paper when it becomes dirty.

This treatment will improve the appearance of your foliage plants, but it will not be so noticeable with the flowering plants, The primary purpose of cleaning the leaves is not to improve the appearance but to remove the layer of dust, which if allowed to grow too thick would impede the light rays, which are essential to the growth ofthe plant.

In conclusion, it should be mentioned that from time to time it is a good idea to examine each plant closely, particularly looking underneath the leaves and at the growing points, to make sure that it is free from pests and diseases.

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  • john macdonald
    What type of pot do primulas flowering plants need?
    8 years ago
  • lloyd
    How to put a plant on a pebble tray?
    8 years ago
  • aki-petter
    What are pebbles that go underneath flowe ing plaantr?
    6 years ago

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