Plant an indoor tree

When you make a tree a part of your home, you treat it as a member of the household. You are concerned with its welfare, its food, its environment.

The quality of its growth is up to you.

Where you put the indoor tree depends to a large extent on the kind of tree you buy. You must select the right tree for the amount of light it will get. Light is the lifeline of the indoor tree; it enlarges or limits its possibilities.

There are some trees, of course, that can grow at quite low light levels while others require bright light, or even sun. Most indoor foliage trees are grown in Florida where they get strong sunlight. When forced to grow under lower light levels, many of them fail.

Watering is the second most important part of keeping indoor trees alive. It is also the most misunderstood. Overwatering, in fact, is the biggest killer of indoor plants. An indoor tree in a 10-inch pot should only be watered about every two weeks and then with a full quart of water.

Repotting is another phase of indoor tree care. When you bring the tree home and there is nothing but roots in the soil, then is the time to repot.

All trees like to be somewhat root-bound. But when a tree is repotted, don't be afraid to prune the roots. This will not put the plant into shock, as so many think. Root pruning causes good lateral growth, both in the top of the plant as well as the roots.

Indoor trees usually come potted in a professional potting mix made from peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, tree bark, and formulated nutrients. It is lightweight for handling and shipping and retains moisture. Use a similar commercial mix when repotting.

To fertilize, use a slow product, such as Osmocote, which is a complete plant food that breaks down gradually, usually over a period of several months. If this type of fertilizer is used, mark the date applied on a calendar because reapplication too soon can burn the root system.

If there is a chance of fertilizer overdose, use water solubles which are available at garden centers. These also can be used on foliage-fed trees. Fill a sprayer or mister with a solution of diluted fertilizer and spray the plants. Nutrients are quickly absorbed in the leaves and into the plant's growing mechanism.

Cleanliness is important. Plant leaves must be clean because the pores clog up and the leaves cannot breathe. Cleaning gives tree owners an opportunity to inspect their plants under foliage, along the back seams of leaves, and at the nodes and where the branches meet. These are the places where insects often lodge.

Another cleaning method is to use diluted milk applied with a paper towel and then wiped off. It gives the leaves a very nice shine.

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