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Your Winter Garden: Watering house plants the right way

Plus, how much light does your plant need?

By Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist in Horticulture

Now that it's early March, we've still got piles of snow on the ground in Minnesota. That means our efforts to garden inside will continue for a little while longer!

If your window sills are filled with plants, you know it's easy to run into trouble with these greenery, by not providing enough light or too much light, with pests, diseases and/or a lack of water or too much water.

Keep your plants un-stressed

The trick is to keep your plant happy and un-stressed.  You can do that by giving your  plants the right amount of water.  In this video, Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn has some tips and reminders for those of you with an indoor green thumb, plus she'll show you how to prevent leaf spot diseases with a simple watering tip.

Too much light may not be a good thing

As the sun grows stronger in the windows of your home, particularly those south-facing windows, be careful with your tender house plants. You may think they welcome the spring-time sun as much as we do, but high intensity light can.  Plants exposed to too much light may become scorched, bleached and limp. Review these tips from Extension Educator David Whiting.

In order to grow houseplants successfully, you need to know the light requirements of specific plants, and how to evaluate light levels. Here are three factors to consider when you evaluate light:
  1. LIGHT INTENSITY refers to the brightness of light.
  2. LIGHT DURATION refers to the number of hours of light per 24-hour period.
  3. LIGHT QUALITY refers to the wavelength or color of light. Plants use basically two colors, red and blue. Sunlight supplies both of these.
In choosing an indoor plant, evaluate the light level in the place the plant will live; then select a plant whose light requirements match what you have to offer.: 
  • Generally, a LOW LIGHT area receives no direct light; for example, a north window exposure in the winter. 
  • MEDIUM LIGHT areas are well-lit areas in the home; for example, areas facing east windows, or several feet from a west window. 
  • HIGH LIGHT areas are brightly lit locations, generally facing south or southwest. 

 Some plants that do well in LOW LIGHT are Aglaonema (Ag-lay-oh-née-ma), Aspidistra (As-pih-dís-tra), Dracaena (dra-SAY-na), Pothos, Philodendron, and Sansevieria (san-se-vi-ee'-ri-ah). 
Some plants that do well in MEDIUM LIGHT are ferns, begonias, Schefflera, ficus, peperomia, and African Violets. 
Some plants that do well in HIGH LIGHT are cacti and succulents, citrus, hibiscus, ficus trees, and velvet plants.

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