Hints for Healthy Houseplants

Now is a good time for a thorough inspection of your houseplants. We tell you what to look for, and how to solve problems while they're still solvable.
Living Light
Hanging Plants in Window

Winter is an ideal time to give your houseplants a thorough inspection, checking for pests, diseases, and any other problems that prevent them from looking their best. Lackluster leaves and a scarcity of blooms could be a sign that the growing conditions are not optimum.

Don't underestimate the value of the right amount of light for plants. Although a plant may not show the effect of too little light right away, in time it will deteriorate.

Plants are often classified as needing low, medium, or high light. As a guide, figure low light to be that from a north window, medium from an east or west window, and high from a south window. Another way to judge exposure is by the shadow cast by the plant. If it is barely discernible, the light is low; when the shadow is present but indistinct, the light is medium; when the shadow is sharp, the light is bright. Choose plant types according to the light conditions you can give them.

It is also possible to give too much light to a plant, resulting in compacted growth and burned foliage. If this happens, move the plant farther from the window or put a sheer curtain on the window.

Windowsill plants tend to lean toward the source of light. To keep houseplants shapely, give their pots a quarter turn every time you water.

Raise Humidity

Misting Orchid

Most plants, with the exception of cacti and succulents, like high humidity. Misting is a way to raise humidity, but you'll need to do it several times a day to be effective.

Dusting African violet

Another way to raise humidity around plants is to group them together on a tray of wet gravel. Put enough gravel in the tray so the pots will not sit directly in water.


Periodic grooming keeps houseplants, such as these miniature African violets, looking good. As flowers fade, clip them off to direct the plant's energy toward growth and flower production, not toward the production of seeds. Pinch the growing tips of foliage houseplants to encourage dense, bushy growth. For a shapely plant, prune off any wayward or misshapen stems.


Often, heat or dry conditions can cause plant foliage tips to turn brown and dry out. If this occurs, use scissors to cut off the browned tips at an angle.


Fronds of Boston ferns can turn brown. Use scissors to clip off brown fronds at the base. Yellow or brown foliage on other plants also should be removed.

Continued on page 2:  Pest Control