Houseplants Losing Leaves?One day they look nice, the next day they don’t. Why do houseplants have to be so fickle?
Hot Springs, Ark. –One day they look nice, the next day they don’t. Why do houseplants have to be so fickle? They’re not fickle, they’re just responding to lower light levels as days get shorter and light intensity declines. The result: Growth stops and leaves are dropped when necessary.
To recoup, you can try adding supplemental lighting or just wait until longer days and higher light levels allow the plants to recover. Just don’t compensate by adding extra fertilizer or water. Houseplants are not heavy feeders and do not require a lot of fertilizer for maintenance. However, they are grown in artificial potting mixes that have almost no nutrients. So if you expect to see them continue to grow, they must receive occasional fertilization. Keep in mind that poor growth can be caused by a number of factors – low light, wrong temperature, wrong watering regime, etc. – and adding extra fertilizer in an attempt to force the plant to grow will be completely ineffective if the cause of poor growth is not a lack of nutrition.
Plants respond best to fertilization in late winter and spring as growing conditions are improving. During the fall and winter when light is low and conditions are less ideal, reduce or withhold fertilization completely to force the plant into a kind of rest period.
The easiest to use houseplant fertilizer products are the highly soluble fertilizer salts that are dissolved in water. These are convenient, easy to use and give good results, provided they are applied according to recommendations. Most manufacturers recommend fertilizing once every two weeks, but monthly feeding is usually adequate. In the wintertime, fertilization should be curtailed.
Excess water can drown roots, making winter watering critical. Only water when the soil is dry one half inch deep in the pot (eventually you can learn to judge whether a plant needs water just by weight).
Still looking thin in the spring? Cut it back so it can put out new, thicker growth. You should also take the plant out of the pot in the spring to check to see if its root bound. If it is, transfer it to a larger pot.
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By Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
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