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Ailing indoor plants — 2

Help! I have problems with my house plants. Some are wilting, some have brown tips and others just won't grow!


Burnt tipsAll of this is telling you, 'Hey, I need water.' That burning on the tips shows the soil is bone dry. It needs watering. Those tips can just be picked off or cut off, and any dead branches at the bottom will pull off really easily.

This plant is covered in dust, so the plant can't breathe that well. The container is also a little small, so it should be potted on. It's even tried to send up a little pup here. What that's saying is, 'I'm under stress. I've got to build myself up.'

Small container, dusty leaves and dead branchesIt's not insurmountable. Slow-release fertiliser will help.

A ficus would do well here because you get good air movement through your front door, so you shouldn't get leaf drop. And if you do ever, you'll know you've been a little light on the watering.

This a maidenhair fern, and I don't think it's doing terribly well. It's too hot. That's why there's poor leaf colour and why it's been dying back. Again, more regular watering. But I wouldn't persevere with it, I'd put it out in the garden.

Reiger begoniaWhat you're much better off with is something like a Reiger begonia. They're easy to look after. Keep them touch damp. Just touch it, and if the soil stays on your fingertip, you know it's got enough moisture. If it falls away, it's time to water it.

A shady bathroom that doesn't get a lot of wind movement through it, that's where you could grow a maidenhair very successfully. They don't like being shifted around, so when you've got a plant growing well, don't shift it. Put a saucer underneath and keep the water in that all the time. Then you should get all this new growth.

PhilodendronAnd when you boil your eggs in the morning keep the water and water it with that when it's cold. It adds calcium to the plant, which it loves. Even cold tea is quite useful, so you can save money on expensive fertilisers. It's an easy way of recycling.

Your philodendron is better outdoors. It's a very large-leafed plant. Philodendrons don't like the heat coming off your TV either. That's why you get that elongation in the stems.

If you want some bulk greenery in the corner, I think a spathiphyllum (peace lily) would be ideal. They're very easy plants and they flower for months.

Ornamental pepper Again, keep touch damp. It's a good indicator plant, too. When the leaves wilt, it's saying, 'Hey, give me a drink.'

For the kitchen ornamental peppers are ideal. They will fruit and flower for six to eight months of the year, but in the middle of winter, the fruit will shrivel a bit. Then you can repot them. And like us, they need fresh food.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: June 27, 2005