Days are getting longer and house plants need to be watered more often, especially those getting good light.

About 99 per cent of the water taken up by plant roots passes out through leaf pores as water vapor. The process is called transpiration.

Transpiration occurs mainly when there is light. During dark hours, leaf pores close, limiting water loss. When light is restored, they open.

Back in December at the beginning light is restored, they open.

Back in December at the beginning of winter there were only about 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. On March 20, the first day of spring, there were more than 12 hours of daylight. On June 21st, the first day of summer, there will be more than 15 hours.

As days lengthen, the soil in pots and other containers occupied by house plants dries out faster and more frequent watering is required.

A good system to follow is to feel the soil regularly and when it starts to feel dry, water the plant. Water until water comes out at the bottom and wait about 20 minutes for excess water to drain. Then empty the saucer.

In the case of a container with no drainage holes, such as a dish garden, applying water when and in the amount that appears to be needed. Wait about 20 minutes and then put the container on its side on the sink so that excess water can escape. If roots stand in water, root rot is almost certain to occur.

Do your foliage house plants look a bit dingy? Perhaps they need a sponge bath. Given at regular intervals it can not only improve their appearance but their healths as well.

It may be surprising how fast grime can accumulate on plant leaves, both indoors and outdoors. If leaf pores become clogged, the process of photosynthesis (food productions) is affected and the plant does not get enough food.

Outdoors, deciduous plants lose their leaves in autumn and get new clean ones in the spring. Heavy rains wash them during the summer months, also those of evergreens. During periods of little rainfall, they look better if the hose is turned on them regularly.

In the home, it is a good idea to clean plant leaves every three or four weeks. Most foreign matter can be removed by wiping the foliage with a sponge or soft cloth.

A small amount of hand soap can be added to the wwater if there are stubborn spots. Don't fold, crease or rub the leaves too hard because they can be easily damaged.

Washing leaves regularly also can help prevent a buildup of insects such as aphids and spider mites. These creatures such juice from the plant and increase rapidly in numbers.

They can't do much damage if you was the leaves every few weeks. Putting the plant under the shower in the bathtub is another way to get rid of insects.

For mealybugs use a Q-Tip (a bit of cotton on the end of a small stick). Dip it in rubbing alcohol and rub them off with it. The alcohol will destroy the insects without harm to the plant. It takes several treatments at weekly intervals to get rid of them.

Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that are coated with a cottony-white covering. They usually are found on the stems, in crotches where stems and leaves join and on the underside of leaves.

The adult mealybug female lays 300 to 400 eggs which hatch in about 10 days. It doesn't take long for the young to become old enough to reproduce.