Indoor gardeners sometimes choose plants for beautiful color, shapeliness, abundant flowers or other qualities without considering whether the environment in their homes is suitable for successful growth.
Careful evalution of available light (both duration and quality) is necessary, as well as attention to other factors involved in care of plants.
Two questions indicating an impulsive choice of plants recently arrived in the mail.
A reader in Alexandria asked for help with her Dracaena marginata, which is turning brown and losing leaves after only six weeks in her bedroom. She asks: What is wrong? What is the best locale? When should it be fed or watered?
A reader in Silver Spring, while on vacation, bought a large Asparagus sprengerl in a hanging basket. After the first week at home it slowly shed needles and continue to turn yellow day by day although she mists it regularly and waters it as need is indicated by a moisture meter. What is wrong? How can she save it?
Dracaena marginata, like the other houseplant, goes through a period of adjustment when removed from a greenhouse or garden center to your home.It is considered a durable houseplant in low light situations, but it will grow best in filtered sunlight. Low light may be supplemented by incandescent lights or a spotlight at leaf level.
Dracaenas like warm temperatures - 60 to 70 degrees at night and warmer in the daytime. They need moist soil at all times, but the pot should not be allowed to stand in water. If the soil dries entirely, the leaves will lose color and sometimes turn brown at the tips and even fall off. Overfeeding and drafts also cause brown leaftips.
Dracaena marginata tends to drop its lower leaves. A home's dry air (in contrast to the humid atmosphere of the greenhouse) accentuates dropping of foliage. Because it drops lower leaves, it grows with a long thin woody trunk. The plant should be turned often so that it will grow erect as it is inclined to lean toward the source of light.
Your Dracaena will rest from October to March, requiring less water during this period, and, under ordinary conditions, no fertilizer. During the summer growing season, use a general purpose houseplant fertilizer, following directions on the container.
The Asparagus sprengerl purchased at a greenhouse had been growing under the best possible conditions to produce an elegant, large hanging basket plant. Removed to a home, it was immediately subjected to radical changes in light and humidity, as well as to temperature and air circulation differences.
Asparagus sprengerl is very sensitive to low humidity. Misting is inadequate to keep it green. As a hanging plant, it is subject to circulation, which reduces humidity, and it lacks the benefit derived from closed association with other plants, which provide a concentration of moisture in the air from which all benefit.
A large plant can be placed on a pedestal with a pebble tray or saucer. Water kept on the pebbles will evaporate to increase humidity in the immediately surrounding area.
The soil should be kept moist. A large sprengerl may need water two or three times a week when in active growth. When you water, pour tepid water on the soil until it drains from the bottom of the pot; pour off the excess after 15 or 20 minutes. Water again only when your moisture meter reads in low range.
Cut off yellowed stalks at soil level for good grooming. By February or March your plant may be denuded, but at that time new garden spears will begin to appear and you can begin fetilizing and increase watering to restore the plant to its natural beauty.
Indoor gardening questions may be sent to Jane Steffey, at The Weekly, The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20071. Please include your address and telephone number.