Plant life: Dry air makes life rough for tropical plants - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Plant life: Dry air makes life rough for tropical plants

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Posted: Saturday, January 6, 2007 5:41 am | Updated: 7:05 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Dry air creates problems with growing tropical houseplants even though it’s fine for desert plants. Anthirium, philodendron, schefflera and other leafy types are adapted to humid regions of the world, but they struggle in the dry desert air.

We have to keep in mind that initially they are grown in the moist air inside greenhouses.

Extra watering will not correct the low humidity problem and makes the problem worse. If the air is dry, the leaves lose water faster than it can be replaced from the roots. Root rot can occur if the roots are kept too wet, then leaves get even less water from the roots to replace moisture lost to the air.

Even on a good day, the air inside our homes is still dry. Dry air is one of several reasons why plants develop brown tips. As leaves dry the tips turn brown. Next the margins of the leaves turn brown and finally the lower leaves become yellow and drop.

Some plants are sensitive to fluoride and chlorine in tap water. Spider plants, Ti plants and Spathiphyllum are most commonly affected by fluoride and develop brown leaf tips Excess salts from fertilizer and water also cause leaf tips to brown. Occasionally, accumulated salts need to be leached out of the soil. To do this, apply large amounts of water repeatedly, to dissolve the salts and wash them out the bottom of the pot.

Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Pots should always have drainage holes to

allow excess water to escape. Moisture meters can be an effective tool in determining when your plants need water. Just make sure you push the probe down toward the bottom of the pot. If the soil there is still wet, wait to water. Position plants away from hot air vents, and in the coolest rooms of the house where the air won’t be as dry.

When light is adequate, place plants in the kitchen or bathrooms. Moisture from baths, showers and cooking will increase the humidity for short periods of time.

Use a humidifier to keep the air in a room or a section of the house moist. Or set your plants on oversized gravel-filled plates to allow the moisture that evaporates off the gravel to flow up around the leaves. Keep water in the plate at all times, filling it up to just below the bottom of the pot.

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