Some people have no outside area for potted plants so must grow them inside. The inside environment offers many more challenges for good plant health. The low humidity caused by A/C and heat is fine for succulents but causes a real strain for some of the tropical types. The availability of good light can also be a problem. I would stick to the most reliable types for interior use. Be very careful about new plants introduced into the house. Put them in a separate room for a month or so to observe for any plant pests or diseases. You can then include them with your other houseplants if healthy. The worst interior pests include scale, mealybugs and spider mites. The best time to propagate any plant is during the growing season _ April-August. Repot most houseplants by the second year to a larger pot because the original soil gets exhausted. Apply the same care for this plant as your other houseplants. Don’t overwater, use a liquid fertilizer monthly between March and October and watch for brown tips on the leaves, which may indicate excessive salt buildup. As new leaves develop on stem tips, the oldest ones die off. The plant can support only a certain number of leaves depending on its health and vigor. If the newer leaves closer to the end of the stems are in trouble then you have a problem. Consider flushing the soil with water to leach out excess salt and repot every two years Q. My variegated ivy has scale and I have tried to kill it with warm water. I have Schultz Instant insect spray. Should I try this on the ivy? Should I propagate it? A. Ivy is hard to grow here. Dexol Systemic Houseplant granules should control the scale. I would propagate only a clean part of the plant. Isolate the ivy from your other houseplants. Spider mites can also attack ivy. If they appear, take your plant outside in a shady location such as a screen porch and hose it down with a strong jet of water to wash away the mites. 

Q. Can you tell me what is attacking my Swedish ivy and gardenia? Q. My pothos has some yellow leaves but most of the plant continues to look good. Is this a seasonal event? Q. The leaves from my spider plant fall off every six months or so. Why? Q. What can I do to stop my peace lily (spathiphyllum) from browning? A. The answer to all four questions is the same. No leaves are permanent and the lower leaves of all plants will drop off as new ones grow. In Florida, leaf drop occurs in the spring, but some leaves may drop at any time. If the top leaves are browning, the plant could be getting too much sunlight. Brown tips on the leaves can be a signal that you are overwatering or have soluble salt problems. Q. Could you explain why my African violet leaves have brown edges? I love the plants and want them to be healthy again. A. African violets can be a bit fussy. Keep water off the leaves. Salt buildup from long-term fertilizer use can cause brown edges on the leaves. Lower leaves resting on the edge of the pot also will often have brown edges. You may flush the salt from the soil by watering carefully from the top, keeping water off the leaves. Pour water, three times the volume of the pot, through the soil and let it drain out thoroughly. For example, if you had a 1-gallon pot, pour 3 gallons of water through the soil to flush away the salt buildup. Sometimes cyclamen mites can be a problem indoors, but they are microscopic and hard to see. 

Q. My African violets do not bloom. They get strong indirect light and I feed the plant with violet food. Would they be better in a clay pot? How do I propagate them? A. African violets should be placed a few feet from a window but not in direct sunlight. A 15-30-15 liquid fertilizer applied monthly or fish emulsion every second month will help blooming. A well-drained plastic pot is preferable to a clay pot. Water can be applied when the top layer of soil feels dry. Keep water off the leaves. A dish with stones and water below the stones will help to keep humidity up around the plant. Propagation is time consuming but effective. Take a leaf from the oldest outside ring of foliage and cut it off as close to the main stem as possible. Recut the stalk to 2 inches in length. A rooting hormone on the base of the leaf will hasten rooting. Fill a clear plastic shoe or sweater storage box half full with vermiculite and add enough water to moisten the vermiculite. Insert the stems in the vermiculite but do not have the leaves touch it. Punch some holes in the lid and put the container in bright indirect light. Once roots have formed on the stem it can be transplanted to a small pot and grown on as a regular plant. Small leaves should soon appear and will continue to grow with good care. Q. My Chinese evergreen is growing well, but the flowers turn yellow and die before they open. What is wrong? A. Chinese evergreens have small flowers similar to peace lily. They are not considered important. The foliage with its pretty patterns and colors is the main feature of these plants. Q. What is wrong with my jade plant? The leaves are rotting and have a black crust on them. A. Your jade plant has been overwatered and may not be salvageable. Try to propagate new cuttings if it still has healthy branches. Plant in an unglazed clay pot using well-drained African violet or cactus soil mix. They should root well and establish in about two months or less. You could try to repot the old plant if is not too far gone. Jade plant does not grow much during the shorter days of winter. Wiping the leaves with alcohol will help control possible mealybug or scale. Jade plants will flower after many years. The plant has white-star like blooms during the spring and summer in drier climates like Southern California. 

Q. Do dracaena and ti plants make good houseplants? A. Dracaenas _ corn plants and the marginata types _ are generally fairly easy to take care of. Their care is similar to dieffenbachia. They are very subject to root rot and can not tolerate excessive water. A clay pot is best for dracaena culture. Avoid scale by using a systemic houseplant insecticide for control. These plants would do better on an outside porch or in the ground if you want to avoid the extra work involved. Both dracaenas can reach 15 feet in height in the ground so place then where there is sufficient vertical room for proper development. Q. My corn plant, which is planted near a staircase, has brown leaves on the edges. I cut off the brown leaf edges every few weeks. A. Replant your corn plant away from the staircase where it can grow to its proper size. Use it outdoors under trees or along a fence line. Corn plants like some shade. In its old location, substitute the dwarf Dracaena thalioides, which grows only to 3 feet and tolerates dark conditions better. Old bottom leaves will drop as new growth starts, so expect some brown leaves. All plants have them now and then. Q. How can I get my potted amaryllis to bloom again? A. Do not try to force amaryllis; the bulbs get exhausted and results are spotty. We are fortunate in that amaryllis will bloom and grow naturally outside with little care. Plant in a sunny, well-drained area with the top quarter of the bulb above ground. Do not cut off any leaves; they are next year’s energy source for blooms. Expect flowers in April-May. Q. Can I prune a tall dieffenbachia in a large pot? A. Cut your dieffenbachia off at any height just above a leaf and replant the top in another pot. Remove the lower leaves before you insert the top in the soil. The original plant will resprout and may develop several stems where it was cut. Dieffenbachia is a good interior plant that eventually can reach 5 feet or more in height. It is a leggy grower. It loses old leaves on the bottom and adds new leaves on the top. As long as the top and bottom leaves stay in balance (a bottom leaf is lost _ a top leaf replaces it), then I would not worry about the plant. Keep dieffenbachia on the dry side. Water it thoroughly until water comes out the bottom of the pot then let it alone until the soil is dry to the touch, then water again. Dieffenbachia likes strong indirect light in a west or south window in front of a sheer curtain. 

Q. My planter is in a dark area. I don’t want to use a spotlight on it. What can I grow there? A. You can try snake plant, either the tall green or variegated forms, or the dwarf Hahn’s sansevieria. The old-fashioned Victorian favorite, cast iron plant, may also work. If these don’t work, try silk plants. Q. Are there any houseplants that produce flowers? A. Corn plants, other members of the dracaena group and snake plant produce fragrant flowers after a long period of time. All foliage plants produce flowers, but most of them are not particularly noticeable. Q. Why is my ficus dropping leaves all over the place? A. Ficus trees often drop leaves excessively in interior situations. They are very sensitive to changes in humidity and light. Locating the tree by your patio door is good, as ficus needs a lot of light for good growth. I suspect low humidity levels in your dwelling with the air conditioner on. Ficus often drop leaves when humidity is lowered. Try locating your tree outside on your patio where humidity will be high and you can still enjoy your tree. It will do much better in an outside environment. Q. Can I bring my aralia indoors? A. Ming aralias can be grown as a houseplant but are quite temperamental about watering schedules and very subject to spider mites. Ming aralias like humidity, but want to be kept on the dry side. Air conditioning is also a strain on the plant. I would plant it outside and enjoy it. Locate the plant so it gets morning sun if possible. If you leave it in the pot, make sure that it doesn’t dry out excessively. Q. My fern fronds are turning brown and dropping off. I think they are dying. How can I save them? A. Ferns are difficult indoors, as they need high humidity and good watering to do well. A bright bathroom or kitchen are the best choices for those conditions inside. Better yet, if you have a shady balcony or screened porch, the fern should do well. Some ferns develop their fruiting bodies (spore cases) at the ends of the leaves on the undersides, which may give a brown cast to the plant. Spider mites, scales, whiteflys or other sucking insects could be attacking the foliage. Ferns are extremely sensitive to pesticides and burn easily. Safer’s Insecticidal Soap controls many of the sucking insects that bother ferns. If the fern is in a pot, you could dip the foliage in a soapy solution at the kitchen sink. Use Ivory liquid soap, about 2 teaspoons per gallon of water, and turn the fern upside-down, holding the rootball in the pot. Dip the top of the fern in the soapy water to the rootball several times for good coverage. Let the fern sit for five minutes or so and then rinse it off. You also can prune off affected fronds. Q. What is causing my hoya to have a sticky residue? A. Your hoya probably has a sucking insect such as scale or mealybug feeding on it. Dexol’s systemic houseplant granules will control the insects. Q. My interior palms are getting spots on the leaves and brown tips. What is it and how can it be prevented? A. Palms can be a little difficult in interior settings. The brown spots are fungal leaf spots. Try to water in the mornings so the leaves can dry off during the day. Night watering can promote spotting. Foliage should be rinsed off periodically to minimize dust buildup and insects. Brown tips usually indicate a salt buildup in the plant’s pot. 

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