Growing Concerns: While staying home, show your plants some LTC

Now we are spending more time at home, it’s a great opportunity to give our house plants some attention.

This time of year is when most plants have gone somewhat dormant. There is not a lot of bright light or warmth to cause the plants to grow rapidly, so they sit quietly and conserve energy till it’s time to put on a big show again.

I always like to take some time to go through my house plant by plant and give each one a bit of a spa day.

I start by inspecting each plant in a brightly lit area for any hiding insects or diseases. Things such as scale or aphids are often found this time of year. Look closely where branches meet and at the underside of leaves where insects often hide. If you notice a sticky, shiny substance on furniture or floors, this means you have aphids and they are dropping honeydew (their version of waste).

Just to be sure, I’ll spray the plant down with insecticidal soap to kill any hidden pests. To speed this process, I put the plant in a plastic bag, spray really well and close the bag for about two hours. This keeps the insects from moving on to something else and helps make sure they die.

Next, I’ll cut the plant back by removing about a third of its growth and any dead or dying branches or stems. Then I’ll put them into the sink or shower and give them a really good bath, rinsing the leaves and trying to get as much of their undersides. This will remove lots of dust particles and open up the pores on the leaves again. Be careful when you do this to drain all extra water from the plant’s pot. If the pot has no drain holes, you may have to tip the plant on its side to let excess water run off.

I like to leave the plant sit for 30 to 40 minutes, then take a pair of old sport socks, put one on each hand and wipe down each leaf to remove any dust and leftover insect spray.

When that’s done, I’ll return the plant to its home. Remember to give your plants a quarter-turn every month so they will not grow to one side reaching for the light.

Starting next month, begin to fertilize your plants again. I prefer to use powdered fertilizer that you mix with water; this time of year, I use it at half-strength.

Since we are to stay home for the next few weeks, how about giving your plants a great boost and bring some peace to yourself at the same time?

Growing Concerns is produced by Parkway Gardens. Send your gardening questions to Homes, c/o The London Free Press, 210 Dundas St., Suite 201, London, Ont., N6A 5J3.

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