Plant Care 101
With just a little attention to appropriate lighting, watering, and temperature, your plant will be a beautiful reminder of the person who gave it to you for many months to come. Remember when you are caring for a plant in your home or office, to move it to a sink or water safe area. Water the plant and allow excess water to run out the bottom of the pot into a sink, bucket or saucer. Prune leaves or blossoms that are past their prime and do not allow dropped leaves or debris to collect on top of the soil inside the pot to decrease the chance of pests or diseases. To make your plant shine, wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth and then return the plant to its pot and then to its setting.
Choose your plant from the following list for detailed instructions on keeping it looking its best!
A healthy African violet will bloom for nine months and then rest for three. Despite their delicate appearance, they are not difficult to care for. Keep their soil moist to dry and allow it to dry out between watering to encourage blooming. Because water can damage their leaves, always water them from the bottom by placing the container in a tray of water. Allow the plant to absorb the water for about 30 minutes. Place your African violet in moderate to bright, indirect light, and avoid exposing them to sudden temperature changes. Pinch off wilted blossoms and leaves to encourage blooming, and fertilize monthly or when the plant is actively growing new leaves and buds.
Areca palms are generally hardy plants and prefer medium to bright light. Keep their soil moist but not soggy. If you allow the soil to become too dry, areca palms wilt dramatically, but it's easy to revive them with just a little water (though some of their fronds may turn yellow). Trim back palm fronds that become damaged or turn brown.
Azaleas prefer cool, well-lit spots (out of direct sunlight) with temperatures between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the soil frequently, and keep it moist but not soggy; never allow it to dry out completely. Allow new growth to develop, and regularly remove any dead flowers. When it's finished flowering, you can replant your azalea in a larger container or move it outdoors, as long as there's no risk of frost. Some cultivated varieties of azaleas are designed for inside use only. Others are "hardy" varieties that can be planted in the garden in warmer climates. Be sure to ask your florist what type of azaleas they carry.
Native to Central and South America, bromeliads are a large family of plants – all with a similar rosette of stiff leaves and some kind of bright central flower spike or colored leaf area. They're tough, easy-going plants, preferring bright, indirect light or direct sun. Keep their soil moist to dry, and pour the water in the center of the plant where the leaves join together, allowing it to drain into the soil. Avoid letting the plant sit in water. If you live in a hard water area, use rainwater or distilled water whenever possible, as bromeliads are very sensitive to salts, which may cause their leaves to turn brown at the tips.
CACTI & SUCCULENT
Hardy cacti and other succulent plants are accustomed to desert conditions and prefer bright, indirect light or direct sun. Water them thoroughly and evenly, allowing them to dry out completely in between watering's. If the soil becomes too hard and causes water to run off, place the pot in water just to cover the soil, and allow it to soak for about 30 minutes
The Christmas cactus, with flowers ranging in color from yellow, salmon, pink, fuchsia and white (or combinations of those colors), isn't just for the holidays – it can be grown indoors throughout the year. While it adapts to low light, it will produce more abundant blooms if you place it in a sunny spot. In the summer, you can move it outdoors, but keep it in a shady or semi-shady location, since too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. When it's time to bring it back indoors in the fall, do so gradually to allow it to adjust. Since it relies on shortened daylight in the fall to induce budding, help it along by placing it in a room that receives no additional evening light. Once buds begin to appear again, bring it back into the living room or kitchen.
Chrysanthemums like bright light, place them near an open window to encourage their buds to open (but avoid allowing them to be exposed to direct sunlight once in bloom, as that can burn their flowers). While they're in-bloom, water them every two days or so – even at the risk of over watering, since wilting will shorten their life. When not in bloom, keep their soil moderately moist, watering thoroughly only when the soil surface feels dry to the touch.
Characterized by heart-shaped leaves and blossoms that fly over the leaves like miniature colorful birds, cyclamen plants are sensitive to over watering and under watering. Keeping the soil moist (not wet) to the touch is the trick to having them last long in a home or office setting. Allowing the plant to dry out will prevent unopened buds from opening and maturing. Spent blossoms should be removed immediately to make space for new buds to open and unfurl. Cyclamens prefer cooler temperatures 55 to 65 degrees F and diffused bright light.
As trumpets of spring, pots of daffodils like moist soil and cool temperatures with high light sources. Placing the plants in low light once they are blooming can cause "stem topple" where the stems that emerge from the bulbs become askew instead of being parallel in the container. Using a series of bamboo stakes and some twine or raffia - the stems and foliage can be corralled within the dimensions of the pot. Depending on their stage of openness, daffodils can last from 5 to 12 days.
Dieffenbachias are popular plants because they thrive so well indoors and handle a wide range of light conditions, though they do best when you place them in bright, indirect light. In the winter, make sure they receive more light. Water your dieffenbachia thoroughly, allowing the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry out in between watering's. Allowing the plant to become bone dry will cause it to wilt.
Easter lilies prefer moist soil and diffused light. As the blossoms open, you may want to remove the yellow anthers with a tissue to prevent the white blossom from discoloring and the pollen from damaging clothing or home surfaces. As flowers pass their prime, they can be removed to keep the plant looking healthy and to make room for new buds to open.
While your ficus plant is adjusting to its new home, it may drop a noticeable amount of leaves. This is normal, and with proper care, it will begin to thrive again in no time. Just pick up the fallen leaves, remove the yellow ones still on the plant, and cut off dead and dry twigs. This will help the light penetrate to the inside foliage and promote new growth. Be careful not to over water your ficus. Feel the soil with your finger tip, and if it feels dry to the touch one inch below the surface, it's time to water it – but if the soil feels moist, hold off for a day or two. Keep in mind that your ficus will need less water during the winter. When your ficus is new, mist it daily as well. To provide proper humidity and prevent the roots from standing in water, place the planter on a plant tray or saucer filled with gravel. Display your ficus in a bright spot with indirect light, away from drafts and large windows that change temperature throughout the day. Use plant fertilizer monthly throughout the growing season, but not during the winter months.
Kept indoors, gardenia plants like well-ventilated spots that get at least five hours of sunlight a day, but if you move your plant outdoors in the summer, be sure to keep it in a shady area. To keep its soil moist but not soggy, soak it thoroughly until you see water running out of the drainage holes, but don't allow the container to stand in water.
Hyacinths thrive in bright locations, and do best when their soil is kept moist but not soggy. Water yours thoroughly and then place it in a sink (or outside if the weather is mild) to allow the water to drain completely. The stems of these bulb flowers can be supported with decorative bamboo stakes and raffia ties to prevent the weight of the flower from causing the stems to topple in the pots. When your hyacinth is finished blooming, you can replant the “forced” bulbs in your garden in the fall. They will take a few years to fully recycle and bloom abundantly.
Place your hydrangea in a sunny, bright spot that receives indirect light, and keep its soil moist by watering it thoroughly and allowing excess water to drain. In the fall, allow it to rest and lose its leaves by placing it in a cool, dark location (a basement or cellar) without water. In January, bring it out again to a spot with plenty of light, and it should bloom in time for spring.
Although ivy can survive in a range of temperatures, it's more vulnerable in the winter with dry air from heating. To make sure it gets enough moisture, set the planter on a tray or saucer filled with pebbles and water. Display your ivy in a bright spot with indirect sunlight. In the summer, you can move it outdoors to a protected area, but make sure it's out of direct sunlight, which can burn its leaves.
Known for their bright small flowers in abundant clusters atop waxy leaves, kalanchoe plants are among the longest lasting blooming plants you can have in your home or office. Keep the soil moist, but not overly saturated. Do not allow the pot to sit in a pool of water. Pinch off blooms as they pass their prime. These plants could last 3 to 4 weeks depending on the room's temperature. Sensitive to cold temperatures, storage below 40 degrees F could cause foliage to become soft and damaged.
Despite their elegant, graceful appearance, orchids aren't difficult to care for, and by following a few simple guidelines, many varieties will bloom for you again next year. Keep your orchid in a well-ventilated spot with partial shade, away from radiators, air conditioning, and strong drafts. To help maintain the right level of humidity, set the planter in a tray of pebbles and water so that the pot sits out of the water. This prevents the roots from rotting, and allows the moisture to circulate. Orchids gain their water from the relative humidity in the atmosphere, they do not absorb water in a traditional way from the roots and soil. For stability, orchids are often potted with the roots in a growing media that should not be overly wet. Orchids require a period of dormancy during the winter in order to bloom again in the spring, so allow it to rest in a sunny spot, and don't water it at all during this time. When its blooms are gone, cut the spike an inch above the foliage, leaving the old canes in place.
Even though we associate poinsettias with the mid-winter holidays, they're actually a tropical plant and need to be kept away from drafts and cold. Too chilly temperatures can cause their colorful leaves (called bracts) to drop. Keep the soil of your poinsettia moist and allow it to dry out only slightly in between watering's. Encourage new blooms by pinching off spent blossoms and adding plant fertilizer when it's actively growing new buds or leaves. Poinsettias can also be cut from the plant and used as cut flowers. When you cut a stem, a milky-white sap flows from the cut end. Place the stem in water immediately to allow it to hydrate before mixing it with other flowers.
Native to the jungles of tropical America, your philodendron prefers medium, indirect light and it will do best in a bright spot with indirect sunlight. (If its new leaves develop smaller and farther apart, it's a sign that it's receiving too little light.) Many types exist including large split-leaf varieties, and the distinctive ruffled-edge philodendron xanadu. Keep its soil evenly moist, but allow it to dry out in between waterings. In the winter months, when growth slows, keep it slightly drier. Over watering will cause the leaves to turn yellow, while under watering will cause them to turn brown and fall off. Philodendrons tolerate the natural levels of humidity found in most homes, but because of their tropical origin, they respond particularly well to high humidity, so mist them regularly to promote lush growth and shiny foliage. Dust their leaves with a damp cloth and feed them houseplant fertilizer in the spring and mid summer.
Your new schefflera plant may thin out a bit and loose some leaves as it adjusts to its new home. This is normal, and with proper care, it will begin to thrive again in no time. Although it adapts to a wide variety of light levels, the schefflera arboricola prefers medium to higher light, which keeps it full and more compact. If your plant does stretch out, don't be afraid to prune it – it can handle even an occasionally radical pruning and come back strong. Scheffleras don't like to sit in water, but do best when their soil is kept moist. If its leaves begin to turn black and drop off, it's a sign that the soil has stayed too moist. On the other hand, if you notice that the tips of the plant begin to wrinkle, you've allowed it to get too dry. Wipe its leaves-both the tops and undersides-with a damp cloth to remove dust and prevent spider mites.
With dark green leaves that can be more than a foot long, the spathiphyllum plant produces hood-shaped white blooms, and in some cases, can grow up to 4 feet tall (although many varieties are developed to be compact). These plants can wilt easily, so it's important to keep the soil moist, providing good drainage and emptying excess water from trays or saucers to prevent their roots from rotting. Display them in a spot with bright, indirect light. Low light slows their blooming cycle, and too much direct sunlight may cause burn spots on their leaves. Wipe their leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust.