Failure to water properly is the cause of many if not most failures with plants in the home; keeping the soil too wet is the usual error. Placing the plants in too dark a location also is responsible for the loss of many of them, Likewise, too much fertilizer.

If the soil is kept too wet there is not going to be enough air for the roots and the plant will gradually degenerate. When the soil surface feels dry, water with room-temperature water until it comes out through drainage holes at the bottom. Wait 15 or 20 minutes for excess water to drain and empty the saucer. Do not allow the pot to atand in deep water longer than an hour.

If a pot has no drainage holes, it is hard to know how much water to apply. In general, a pot that holds 1 quart of soil will prbably require a half pint of water to mosten al the soil but not cause accumulation of water at the bottom.

Small planters or dish gardens rarely have drainage, but because the soil in these is usually rather shallow, it dries relatively quickly. The plant can be watered and a few minutes later turned on its side so the excess will drain out. If there is no excess, apply a little more, This way you can find out how much to apply each time.

If the soil is watered too often, such as every other day, it is considered overwatering, but if only a small quantity of water is applied, the soil mass may be moist on top but dusty dry down where the roots are. There is more harm done by keeping the soil too wet than lettingi it get too dry.

Most foliage plants should grow naturally in reduced light; some require more light than others. Plants with blooms and those with blooms and fruits such as minature oranges require good light in order to produce enough food.

No hard and fast rules can be given because there is no simple, easy way to determine the light intensity.

Plants that will usually survive in low-light areas (8 feet or more from a window), no direct light and in dull hallways include Chinese evergreen (Alaonema commutatum ), Cast-iron (Aspidistra elatior ), Jade (Crassula argentia ), English ivy (Hedera helix ) and Shake (Sansevieria ).

Plants that require good light (within 4 feet of large, south, east or west windows) include Zebra (Aphalandra squarrosa ), Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria excelsa ), Croton (Codiaeum variegatum ), Ti Plant (Cordyline terminalis ) and African violet (Saintpaula ionantha ).