A true-false quiz to help you learn about houseplants

Are you new to gardening? Are you having trouble convincing your houseplants to stay in shape? Are you tired of losing your plants because you don't know how to satisfy them?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, it's time you unearthed some more facts about raising plants and adjusted your gardening habits accordingly.

to help you test your awareness of the green facts of life, take the following quiz and answer "true" or "false" to the given statements. Then, fill in the gaps in your knowledge by checking below for the right ansers.

Grab a pencil and here we go:

1. Less than 10 percent of all houseplant fatalities are due to pest invasions.

2. Water fuzzy-leaved plants, such as African violets, with warm water and all others with tepid water.

3. Don't leave potted plants sitting in water longer than 10 minutes.

4. Most houseplants should be watered less frequently in winter than in summer.

5. Plants growing in shady locations require less water and food than those growing in brightly lit ones.

6. The degree of fleshiness of a plant's leaves and stems tells of its water needs.

7. The soil mixture favored by most houseplants consists of equal parts garden loam, peat moss, and sharp (coarse) sand.

8. Always sterilize outdoor soil before using it indoors.

9. If a plant pot lacks drainage holes, don't plant in it.

10. Don't feed dormant or sickly plants.

11. To increase humidity, grow your houseplants grouped atop pebble-and-water- filled trays.

12. Don't use your household scissors to cut plants.

13. Mistletoe, poinsettia, caladium, dumbcane, and crown-of-thorns are poisonous.

14. Orchids can be cultivated in the average home.

15. The texture of fern leaves (fronds), which vary from delicately lacy to tough and leathery, is a clue to their temperament.

16. Citrus fruit plants that are grown from seed will not fruit indoors.

17. You shouldn't grow roses in your kitchen.

18. English ivy can be grown indoors or out and in either sun or shade.

19. Once a bromeliad flowers, it is finished.

20. Desert cacti require the least care of all houseplants.

Surprisingly, perhaps, all of the above are true statements. Here's why:

1. Most plant problems are due to improper care and culture, such as too much or too little water, light, food, heat, humidity, or drainage. Never assume the presence of pests and spray with a commercial pesticide before examining a faltering plant and checking on its growing conditions. It could be pests, but most likely it is you who's at fault.

2. Very cold water damages all plants. However, fuzzy-leaved plants are especially sensitive and develop ugly blemishes on their leaves unless watered with war water. Other plants need lukewarm water. Otherwise, they develop cream-colored rings on their leaves.

3. If left lingering in water beyond 10 minutes, plant roots will drown. Always empty out saucers after you water.

4. There are two major reasons for reducing your watering schedule during winter. First, as temperatures fall, the rate of evaporation decreases. And two, most houseplants cease growing during the winter months and thereby require less sustenance.

5. Since plants grown in shady locations develop more slowly than brethren located in brighter exposures, they consume less food and water.

6. The fleshier a plant's foliage, the greater the amount of water it can keep in store. Therefore, fleshy plants, such as cacti and other succulents, need infrequent watering, while thin-leaved species -- Chinese evergreen, coleus , ferns, velvet plants, and the like -- require more frequent sips.

7. This is an excellent mixture for most houseplants. It drains well, allows air to reach plant roots, and is nourishing to boot. You'll seldom go wrong using it.

8. To avoid infesting your indoor plants with the many insects and pests lurking outside, bake outdoor soil in your oven at 350 degrees F. for an hour. (It is also wise to add equal part of humus and coarse sand to it.)

9. Drainage holes allow excess water to seep out. When they are absent, the water collects and drowns the roots.

10. feeding sickly or dormant plants is akin to destroying them because, since plant cells can't use food when they cease developing, the excess acumulates and burns the roots.

11. As the water evaporates the moisture in the air surrounding the plants increases. Also, when plants are grouped they benefit from the moisture each gives out, a process known as transparation. Do, however, keep the water level below the top row of pebbles.

12. Scissors pinch plants stems. Use a sharp blade instead and always cut on a slant.

13. These plants are toxic if ingested, although they're not fatal in small quantities. Don't grow them around young children or plant-munching pets.

14. Orchids are tough, long-lasting plants. Some, such as lady-slipper and moth orchids, will even bloom when grown in indirect light and in conditions that are suitable for African violets and ferns.

15. The finer the weave, the more demanding and difficult the fern. For example, while lacy-leaved ferns, such as maidenhair and davallia, are finicky and hard to grow in the average home, the coarse-leaved ones -- Boston, holly, and staghorn -- are easily cultivated in most interiors.

16. For fruit-bearing plants buy citrus fruits that were grown from stem cuttings.

17. Roses abhor gas fumes and temperatures above 75 degrees F. When exposed to either condition they refuse to bloom.

18. As long as temperature are cool, below 75 degrees, and the atmosphere and soil are moist, English ivy adapts to variations in light. Anything but prolonged direct noontime sunshine in summer will be tolerated.

19. Bloom signals the end for bromeliads. But to compensate for this youthful demise, the flowers of most bromeliads last for many months, and before the plants themselves expire, they produce small replicas of themselves that can be rooted and severed from mom in six to eight weeks.

20. Cacti are minimum-maintenance plants which are happy in the hot, dry, desertlike environment of centrally heated homes. They are ideal for lazy and forgetful plant lovers, since, except for bright light, they require less of everything -- watering, feeding, pruning, and transplanting -- than do other plants.

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