It's time to turn attention to care of the indoors garden

By , Special to the Christian Science Monitor

Now that the garden no longer provides the blossoms and wonder of their easy growth outdoors, it's time to turn indoors. Indoors plants are more of a challenge, to be sure. Windowsill plants have problems which are unknown to plants grown outdoors. The extent to which you grow plants inside the home depends mostly on the available space and an adequate environment for the plants themselves.

If you have sunny windows and don't keep the temperature of the house too high, the potential success of indoor gardening is unlimited.

There are two schools of houseplant gardeners, the collector-growers and the growers-for-inside-decor. If you are the former, you may live in a miscellaneous indoor forest, but one that brings you joy. If the latter, you use plants with restraint to achieve a decorative effect.

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Plants can be grown in pots and arranged artistically on windowsills or in hanging baskets or they can be put on a plant stand hear a window. Further, they can be grown in decorator planters which can be moved around so as to accent a room for a particular occasion.

Placing pots inside containers has an advantage. If a plant looks weak and its leaves are turning yellow or dropping, it can be removed easily from its location.

If you do not use a container, then you should set the pots in a small tray on which some pebbles have been put. Very often this will take care of the dryness in the air which is usually not a problem outdoors.

Along with your pet dog, cat, or bird plants need to be fed and watered properly and at regular intervals. They require light and air. However, this does not mean that a plant should be babied. On the other hand, it should not be thought of as a piece of furniture either.

A plant is a living thing. It breathes in and exhales air; it takes water and food; and it responds to the treatment it receives.

Knowing the light and temperature requirements of an individual plnt will often prevent many disappointments. Attempting to grow cyclamens, for example, in the present-day living room is futile because the air temperature is too high. Cyclamens need a low 50- to55-degree temperature.

Camellias drop their buds when the temperature is too high; and so do gardenias. However, gardenians also drop their buds when the temperature is too low.

Fifty and 60 years ago our grandmothers grew bloom-laden geraniums in the cool kitchens of the day. Today, geraniums suffer and the lower leaves drop off.

Poinsettias will not flower when the length of day exceeds 12 hours. This means that when it gets dark outside in the fall, it also must be dark in the room where poinsettias are growing. A bedroom is a good place to grow poinsettias because it generally remains dark longer than any other room in the house.

This fact also is true of kalanchoes, Christmas cactuses, and chrysanthemums.

While the length of day affects flowering and growth, so does the intensity of the light. African violets will not flower when the light intensity falls below 500 foot-candles, nor will they flower when it exceeds 1,300 foot-candles.

African violets do not require a very high light intensity. Gloxinias are similar in this respect. While they flower at high light intensities, the blossoms become few and small and the rate of growth decreases when the light intensity exceeds 4,000 foot-candles. Begonias, too, dislike light, but they thrive in stronger light than gloxinias or African violets.

On the other hand, geraniums, cactuses, gardenias, coleus, and amaryllis are members of a group which demands full sunlight.

Once you've selected a plant, its environment considered -- including heat and light -- it is a relatively easy job to keep the plant in good condition. Watering is again dependent upon the individual plant. However, some rules apply to all plants.

It is important to remember, for example, that watering should be done regularly. A plant is just as sensitive to the proper timing for water as an animal.

Generally speaking, water should be reduced somewhat during the winter months unless you see that the soil around the plant is particularly dry. If you have plants in large pots, they do not require water as often as those in smaller pots.

Water for all plants should be at room temperature.

Be careful not to overwater your plants. Also remember that blooming plants require more water than do green foliage plants. Do not water as much on cloudy or dull days, especially if your plants have poor drainage. If you do, you may cause the plants to lose their foliage.

Here is a checklist for plant problems:

* Wilted leaves -- too much or too little water or too small a pot.

* Falling leaves -- too much water.

* Thin and spindly plants -- too little light.

* All leaves drop off suddenly -- cold air, gas injury, or lack of water.

* Plant gets too tall for room -- you're doing something right.

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