* New houseplants may drop lower leaves to acclimate to lower light conditions. Because of the delicate light/water balance, you can assist this acclimation by not watering very often during the first several weeks.

* Give houseplants only small amounts of fertilizer every month or two. Fertilize even less often in winter.

* Keep plants away from vents and drafts, either hot or cold, and off windowsills in winter.

* Before purchasing a plant, determine light level of space it will occupy by placing object there. Note total time sun shines on object.

* If the plant you would like to purchase would get inadequate light there, extension agent Bob Stewart says, "You can be sneaky. Buy two hanging baskets of grape ivy. Put one in right light condition, one where it looks better. Rotate them every two weeks."

* To remove dust from leaves, clean them with 2 teaspoons of a mild dishwashing detergent in a gallon of water.

* Periodically, leaves may be washed in shower with cool, gentle spray. Cover tub drain with piece of mesh wire.

* Before an extended absence, do not soak plant. Arrange for someone to water it, or, if bathroom gets sunlight, set pots on saucers in tub filled with small amount of water. Water should not touch plant. Close door to contain humidity.