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Archive for September, 2012

PLANTS ON BALCONIES

We all got a note in our “Alert” this week requesting that we be very careful when watering our balcony plants.  It appears the excess water drips (or flows) down on our neighbors below, soiling their patios and windows.  It also leaves streaks on the side of the building.  It IS an issue here at Horizon House.  Not everyone has a balcony (for instance, we don’t have one), so this doesn’t apply to all of the residents, but for those who are affected…listen up!

All of the pots placed on your balcony should have a tray beneath them.  That will help the plants absorb moisture a bit longer.  It will also make it obvious to you when you have watered enough.  If water appears in the tray, STOP watering!  If you have huge pots, and no trays, buy some trays that will fit and I’ll bet someone from Building Services could be convinced to help you get them under the plants.

Sometimes you can find a tray large enough to hold a number of plants.  There are ways to have those trays help you keep your plants watered when you are away.  At the same time, they will prevent those offending drips and water flows from leaving your own balcony.  Here are a few ideas you might think about.

First, get a tray that is NOT porous.   If it’s porous, it defeats the purpose.   If you want a clay tray or saucer, find one that has enamel on the interior.  The enamel will stop the water from going through, and you’ll still see only the clay exterior.  You can also get plastic or metal trays.  AGAIN, NO holes in the bottom of those trays!  Holes surely don’t hold water!

Try to find saucers or trays that are at least a few inches deep.  That way you can apply some of the suggestions I’ll make here.

  • Put sand, perlite or vermiculite in the tray and set the plants into that.  This product will hold onto the water so the plants can take it up as they need it.  It will become a kind of self watering system.  What’s particularly nice about using perlite or vermiculite is that it is extremely light weight.  On our balconies that would be a good thing!
  • There is also a product called “Capillary Mats”.  They can be placed under the pots and will water the plants as they require.  You just either water the plants directly, or put the water right onto the mats.  When you first begin to use it, it would make sense to water the plants until they are suitably moist.  After that, you can just water the mat!
  • You can also put pebbles in the tray.  That will stop the water from flowing off the balcony, but may not do much for watering the plant.  That kind of a set-up works well indoors where a plant needs moist air.  Outside, humidity is not that necessary and the aforementioned techniques will take care of that anyway.

So, there a a few ideas.  I hope you’ll put them to use!  Happy Gardening!

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I had a question about watering container plants out on the window patios here at Horizon House.  The specific question was about how MUCH to water.  That’s a very important point.  Plants, unless they are water garden plants, do NOT like to be in standing water.  They also can’t tolerate being entirely dried out.  (Most all of these “rules” apply to indoor plants as well.)

Think back to when you were a kid, making mud pies.  You made them while the soil was pretty wet, so you could form them into patties.  Then  you put them in the sun to dry out, before serving them to your dolls with tea in the afternoon.  Once these mud pies were dry, they were almost like rock, they were so totally devoid of any moisture.  They would crumble, or if the dirt held together quite well, you could always throw them at your brother (or that annoying sister).

Now think of the delicate roots attached to the bottom of the stems of your plants.  How do you think they would do living in one of those baked, dried out patties?  They would be totally dehydrated, break and dry out, offering NO support to the plant above.  So the plant would die.  This is what you need to avoid.

At the same time, if you plopped the soil in a bucket of water, you would not be able to make a mud pie at all.  The roots from that aforementioned plant would be swimming.  Know what happens to your onions or potatoes if you leave them in a wet plastic bag in the “fridge?  They ROT!  That would also be a no-no for your plants.  They will rot as well.

So, the idea is to get to a happy medium.  Some plants prefer a damp environment; others prefer to dry out before getting a drink.  The only way you’ll find out which is which is to pay attention to the little information tag that comes with your plant.  If that is missing, google it, and you’ll find out quickly.  If you’re not sure about what it’s name is, try one of these websites.  You’ll have to do a lot of “browsing”, but you’ll eventually find it.

Houseplant411

Better Homes and Gardens

Dave’s Garden

Now here are the “rules” for watering.

  • IF the plants and pots are small enough to lift easily, they can be put into the sink with standing water for about 20 minutes.  They will soak up all the water they need and just leave the rest.  You can do a few plants at a time.  When the time is up, drain the water from the sink and let the plants just stand there and drain as well.
  • IF the plants are too large to lift, stick your index finger into the soil up to the first knuckle.  If the tip of your finger senses that there is damp soil, pass on the watering.  If it is dry, water the plant.  You need to water it thoroughly so all of the roots benefit from their drink.  As soon as the water begins to drain from the bottom of the pot, STOP!
  • IF you have waited too long before watering, the soil may be too dry to absorb the water you give it, and it will run around the edge of the pot and drain immediately from the bottom.  If that should happen, be sure to water gently and slowly CLOSE to the stem.  That should help.
  • Try to water in the morning to avoid various molds from forming.  The sun will dry out the very top layer of moisture during the day, precluding that mold formation.
  • Remember to water the SOIL and not the leaves!  On occasion, most plants love a shower.  That is fine, but to do it every time is not necessary.  The reason is that particularly with outdoor plants, the droplets of water act as magnifiers and the sun will burn the leaves, OR if they remain wet…will encourage mold.
  • Try not to let that soil dry out completely.  It will make it hard to water, and it will kill off tender roots, and eventually, your plant.

I hope that helped!  Happy Gardening!

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The Bamboo Palm is the next plant on our list for NASA’s “Air Purifying Plants for Homes and Offices”.  We’ve already talked about the Areca Palm and the Lady Palm, so let’s go on to the Bamboo Palm!

This wonderful plant, Chamaedorea seifrizii, will grow indoors to about 4-6 feet.  It is also known as the Reed Palm, should you come across that label.

You can purchase one from a garden center or if you have a friend who has one, beg for a piece with some roots attached, and put it in a pot filled with potting soil.

Since this palm grows in the jungle (it’s natural habitat) it will flourish in partial shade.  If it’s put in direct sunlight it will NOT do well.  It is often grown in a corner where it is “sheltered” and has room to grow. It should be watered when it gets dry.  They love showers!  If it’s small enough, you can put it in the sink and give it a shower with the sprayer.  “In the sink” is also a great way to keep it watered.  Just plunge the pot into a few inches of standing water and let it sit there soaking up water for about 20 minutes.  At the end of that time, you can drain the sink and let the plant drain a bit for 10 minutes or so before putting it back in it’s permanent location.  Or if you’re going to the grocery store or other errand, just put it in the sink and forget about it until you get back.  It will not take more water than it wants.  You just want to be sure it gets enough to begin with, and is allowed to drain.

Should the leaves turn brown, they can be cut off right at the base.  Check out this website on the Chamaedorea seifrizii to read some more about it’s care.

There is one caution about this palm.  Occasionally it produces little berries.  These berries are extremely toxic.  If they appear, it would be good to remove them before they get into trouble with children or pets!

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