Bringing House Plants Home From The Nursery

By the time the young plants arrive in your home they have already survived many perils. Raised in a large greenhouse or in a nursery, with thousands of others, they have had to adapt to the ‘averaged’ conditions which enable several types to be housed together.

bringing house plants home

Individual attention and cosseting have not been their lot, yet they have managed to survive. They have been exposed to draughts and chills when the doors of their great glass house have been opened. There have been regular dowsings with strange and unpleasant chemicals; the fact that these prevent attacks by pests or diseases does not make them any more attractive to the plants than curative medicine to a sick child. However, despite their discomforts, the young plants do survive and thrive.

When they reach saleable size and condition, they are placed in trays – usually 24 pots to a tray – and then in bushel boxes which allow stacking. A bumpy ride through noxious traffic fumes to the Flower Market follows. There, for a time, the plants will remain on shelves in much darker, colder surroundings than the greenhouse that they recently left. The more tender ones will be shielded in thick tubes of newspaper. Others, desperate for humidity, will have polythene bags placed over them. It is crude consideration, but it works; the plants survive and, in time, are transferred from the market to a florist’s shop, where it is much darker than it was in the greenhouse, and colder too. The atmosphere is humid, which suits some plants – others are obliged to put up with it, and they do. As the product of millions of years of evolution and adaptation, their species have already survived centuries of climatic changes and the weather’s vagaries. They do not succumb easily to adversity; if it is temporary they usually manage to survive.

Not only do the plants survive, they even retain their saleable good looks! Life is tough for them, but then it always has been. As with all living things, their strongest instinct is survival, and they’ve become rather good at it. Man has eliminated many of the hard knocks which Nature would have imposed, but he has replaced them with others of his own contriving.

Sometimes the florist will put the hardier plants on the pavement outside the shop, where they may suffer sun and traffic heat, dust and fumes from the road, returning later to the cool, moist air inside the shop, which becomes dark and chill as night arrives.

The real troubles begin when one of the plants is bought and taken into a human home as a sort of vegetable pet. The plant is pretty and has cost money, so that it must be cared for, and it usually suffers death by kindness. If a tenth of the well-meaning trouble lavished upon indoor plants was devoted to learning about their nature and their needs, the casualty rate would be halved overnight.

A popular phrase in our technological age is `When all else fails – read the instructions’. We have become so conditioned to modern marvels that we usually get away with this conduct in our haste to `see it go’. With plants, however, it does not work! If you leave the instructions on how to tend them until last, then you need not bother – the plants will be dead. You must acquire the information first, and not in a press button fashion. Intelligent thought has to be applied and that is why success is so rewarding. A well-grown plant is an achievement of which you can feel justifiably proud.

Creating Natural Conditions For Your Plants

If you had been born in sunny, humid Malaya, for example, and had later emigrated to a colder clime you would adapt to it if possible. You would not sit in the hot room of a Turkish bath under television arc lights. Conditions there would certainly be humid and bright, but they would also debilitate you and even kill you. So it is with plants. If you try even partly to approach the conditions that the plant would regard as ideal, it will do its best to meet you halfway. It really does want to live and will try very hard to do so.

To grow indoor plants successfully does not require a professional knowledge of botany. What you do need are green fingers. There is an air of mystique about the tag which those possessed of green fingers foster by basking modestly in the praise of their less gifted friends. It is all a gigantic confidence trick. Green fingers are available almost within minutes to all who care to develop them. You simply have to identify with your plants. If they need a drink, the soil will tell you so by its dryness. Using tepid water to restore it to the correct condition is possessing green fingers – but if you merely glance at your watch, decide arbitrarily that it is watering time and drench the poor plant with a pint of icy water, whether it wants it or not, you have probably killed or waterlogged it and it is not your fingers that are green!

If you are told vaguely to ‘feed occasionally’ you will quite rightly wonder what it means. Occasionally during the day, the week or the month? An alternative would be to give a positive instruction like ‘feed once weekly’. But that is not necessarily good advice, either. If the climate, real or artificial, is such that it promotes vigorous growth, you will know that from the plant’s appearance. If the plant is consuming energy, then it will need food to replace it. During periods when it is less active, and using its food more slowly, the plant will require little or no feeding. Similar reasoning is necessary for watering and all the other necessities of life which you provide.

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