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Indoor Plants Over Winter
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Indoor Plants Over Winter
by Dr. Oneida Cramer
T?is the season of freeze warnings and bringing in the summer tropical plants to tuck behind the seasonal holiday foliage and the interior year-round houseplants.
?Normally, the plants that are brought in are not used to decorate the house,? said Bob Wilson, manager of the outdoor store for Nicholson-Hardee. Most people consider them kind of a hassle. But they want to keep the plants alive.
?They?ll hide them in the garage during the holidays,? said John Allen in the indoor store at Nicholson-Hardee. ?Then they put them in sunny windows.? Here in Dallas, depending on the winter, tropical plants can sometimes spend 90% of the winter outside. Nevertheless, most people tend to trash the plants and buy new ones the next season. In fact, unless the plant has sentimental value so the owner wants to save it, plants are generally discarded when they look bad
?Most people are willing to start over with new plants, something that?s healthier, and looks good,? said Jill Zeagler, greenhouse manager at North Haven Gardens. ?I still sell quite a few palms and ficus trees?probably more palms than trees. There is something about the leafy tropical look that people like. ?I think that the ficus trees have a bad reputation cause when you move them they do lose their leaves and they have a tendency to shed. I think that kind of scares some people away from them. Of course, they do leaf back out.?
?You find that people will change out plants every six months or once a year,? Allen said. Consequently, plants sales are going up for everything each year. But orchids, by far are the most popular blooming plant year round. Gene Boswell, owner of Orchid Gardens since 1977 has watched the price of orchids go from a wholesale price of $50 to $100 in the 70?s to being able to sell orchids at $25 to $30 retail today. Although orchids tend to sell better in the spring from February to May, they are a popular gift item. And much of their popularity comes from their long lasting blooms?from two to three months?and from their easy maintenance.
There are about 30,000 to 40,000 species of orchids growing world wide from under ice, on rocks, trees and in the ground, according to Boswell. They can live in rugged areas in high altitudes, in sand dunes of Brazil, pretty much everywhere. Only in Hawaii, have all the orchids been brought in. Boswell recommends watering home orchids once a week and allowing the plants to dry out well between watering. Alternatively, Zeagler recommends watering twice a month and placing the container on a tray of pebbles and water.
One of the best sellers at North Haven Gardens is the Phalaenopsis, which has a 4-inch diameter flower that looks somewhat like a butterfly and more commonly comes in white or purple, according to Zeagler.
?The idea that people value life to bring plants into the environment is very important,? said John Ubelaker, chair of Biological Sciences at Southern Methodist University. ?Plants on the inside of homes provide a really important aspect to the environment of the house?not only aesthetic by having some other sorts of living things in the environment. Plants also play an important role in their contributions cleaning the air. There have been some studies that particularly Boston ferns are very important in reducing pollutants from the air and refreshing the air within the space.?
Theoretically, air is already pretty well balanced with regard to the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, according to Ubelaker, and having plants indoors will not alter the level of these gases. However, the bamboo palm, spider plant, flowering mums, Peace lily and Mother-in-laws-tongue, were shown most effective in removing benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from a sealed chamber during a 24-hour period, according to an ongoing study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.
Each plant needs its own growing space for proper air circulation and evaporation, which helps prevent infestation from disease and insects, according to Jill Zeagler, greenhouse manager at North Haven Gardens. Because the European baskets (a popular gift item) are made up of several plants in the same pot, they should be allowed to dry out between watering?in this case?drier is better. But for best growth, plants should eventually be separated.
?When plants have been outside for the summer and you?re bringing them inside, one ought to expect that there will be a really important kind of physiological change within the plant. It?s adapted to the sunlight. When you move it into your house, you?ll change that requirement. And plants are very sensitive to those kinds of issues. So, plants might expect to lose leaves and re-grow those leaves at a later time period?adapted to the conditions they find in the home.?
A favorite plant brought inside is the plumeria, better known for its blossoms in the Hawaiian lei, according to Wilson. But, the plumeria is, in fact, a blooming tropical small tree or shrub that people cherish for years. Other varieties brought indoors are the sago palm, the hibiscus, and bougainvillea?all sizable plants requiring a sunny window or, even better, a garage with a window.
?It?s cooler, so they go dormant,? said Wilson. ?They don?t really grow. Probably one of the biggest mistakes in moving in plants is to cut them way back. You want to cut your plants back as little as possible when moving them in. When you take them back out in the spring, that?s when you do a serious cutback? Pruning stimulates plants to grow. ?And if you prune them hard, and you put them in a place where they can?t really grow, sometimes it kills them. So, I just tell people to cut them back as little as possible, what you need to fit the space.?
A different scenario is the pruning of year-round indoor plants.
?A lot of people are afraid to prune (indoor) plants,? said Zeagler. That?s something you can do to keep it maintained into the area that you originally intended. If you?ve got a branch growing out into an area you don?t want?even indoor plants?you just trim it off. I think a lot of people think if they cut it, they?re going to kill it. But it?s aesthetic as well as good for the plant.?
Dr. Oneida Cramer
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