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Posted at: May 13, 2017, 12:47 AM; last updated: May 13, 2017, 12:47 AM (IST)GREEN HOUSE

Shade inside your home

Summer exotic plants demand extra care, or these wouldn’t be called so. Here are some easy ways to keep them green for good

Amarjeet Singh Batth

North India is subject to harsh weather conditions. It witnesses extremities of temperature both during hot and cold weather. Either it doesn’t rain or it just pours. That results in high humidity levels during monsoon and dry weather during peak summer. In this case, the native plants adapt to different weather conditions easily, but the exotic plants demand care. They need to be looked after, else they perish. An experienced gardener always works in advance as he foresees the climatic changes and works accordingly to safeguard plants against extreme weather conditions.  

Exotic plants adorn both interiors and exteriors of the house. Since they are not local, many of us are not familiar with their upkeep. A few steps keep them in good health and form. Aglaonema, asparagus, araucaria heterophylla (Christmas tree), dieffenbachia, ferns , pothos (Money Plant), schefflera, dracaena, syngonium, philodendron are commonly found in the house of those who love plants. These are originally from tropical humid region where they grow and flourish under the canopy of tall trees and get filtered light. Areca, rhapis and many other species of the palm survive extreme weather conditions in north India but that does not mean they shouldn’t be taken care of. 

Every plant’s upkeep is different from the other, but there are a few common steps that should be followed. 

The first step is to bring the plants under the shade. It could be under a tree, canopy, net or even indoors. This will protect them from direct sunlight and give them relief from high temperature. Group them closely to lower water loss and improve humidity levels around them.  

Secondly, keep the soil moist and not wet. Too wet or too dry, both are bad for plants. A good drainage helps plants in all seasons. In summer, there is a tendency to water plants multiple times in a day. Make sure that the pots are moist and not water logged. If mould starts appearing on the surface of pot, it’s due to over watering. Evenings are the best time for irrigation, but in summer, if required watering can also be done early morning. Watering should always be on need basis. As a thumb rule, observe the plant in the morning. If the leaves are drooping, plants need water. A healthy plant will also bloom in time.

In the tropical region, rains are frequent and it washes the dust settled on the leaves and gives a clean look. During extreme summer, dust gathers on the leaves, which further reduces photosynthesis, since they are already not receiving direct sunlight. Remove dust using a moist muslin cloth for indoor plants and spray water mist on those kept outside. Spraying water improves humidity around plants.   

When indoor, plants’ reserve-food capacity is reduced in low or indirect sunlight. Therefore, indoor plants need to be reshuffled and rotated on a regular basis. Accordingly, plants kept in the dark corners should be moved to bright window spots. Do not shift plants under the sun suddenly. It might dry them up. Removal of weeds is essential. Or the nutrients are consumed by weeds. Pruning of plants should be done to remove unwanted foliage to keep the plant in good form. Application of vermicompost, bone dust, oil cakes once in a fortnight is advisable. Be watchful for insect and pest diseases.   

Customise care

Areca and raphis palm gives a rich feel to the interiors. It is moderate drought tolerant. Overwatering and standing water causes the root to rot.

  • Chamaedorea palm is suitable for indoors as it has a moderate height. It doesn’t need too much sun. Regular and mild application of fertilisers is advised round the year. 
  • Aglaonema (Chinese evergreens) is a popular indoor plant and it grows well in indirect sunlight.
  • Schefflera should be kept at a bright spot but in indirect light. In low light, it will grow ‘leggy’ and in strong sunlight, the leaves burn. Leaves turn yellow and fall due to over watering and wrinkled leaves may indicate water deficiency. 
  • Dieffenbachia requires bright but indirect light. Water it in moderation so that soil remains slightly dry to moist.   
  • Garden asparagus requires bright but indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can scorch needles while insufficient light causes yellowing or dropping of its needles. It has three commonly propagated varieties, asparagus springeri, asparagus meteri and asparagus falcatus.
  • The varieties of ferns also need sunlight protection during summer as it causes burning of foliage. They grow well during rainy season, which is the most suitable period for them to flourish. Foliage plants and flowering houseplants are different and require different nutrients as well as different levels of water and sunlight. You can’t treat them all the same way. 

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