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Hooray for Longer Days: Is Spring Far Behind?

Have you noticed how the days are getting longer? What a welcome thing that is. Everyone seems to be a bit more upbeat, especially after the long stretches of dark, sunless days we have had. All it takes is a little sun to make everyone feel just a little bit better. Plants notice this change also. Soon the forsythias will be blooming, dandelions will be poking their heads out of the grass and it will be time to start planning another gardening season.

Houseplants also sense the change in seasons. Have you noticed new growth on some of your houseplants? That means they know spring is on its way and they are getting ready for another season. What better way to get them off to a good start than treating them to a little pre-spring care? Here are some suggestions to get your plants off to a fresh start.

It's amazing how much dust accumulates on things over the winter. You've dusted the furniture all winter, now it's time to dust off the plants. Plants appreciate a quick wipe down with a soft, damp cloth. In terms of what this means to the plant, clean leaves photosynthesize better. The more a plant can photosynthesize the more food it can produce and the better it can grow. Use a clean rag from plant to plant to help prevent the possibility of spreading any potential pest or disease. This is also a good time to check under the leaves and along the stems for common pests such as mites or mealybug. Catching them early prevents major infestations later. If you should find any, insecticidal soap applied as per label directions is a safe way to deal with them. Some leaves may have developed calcium deposits from misting. These are easily wiped away using a vinegar and water solution made from 1 part vinegar to 9 parts water. If you have plants with hairy or fuzzy leaves use a soft dry brush to clean them and not a damp cloth.

Once you have dusted off your plants look at them for overall shape or damaged foliage. Prune out damaged or poorly growing stems and basically "shape" the plant. Cut stems back to a branch angle or where a leaf joins the stem. This will bring the plant back into bounds and will also encourage new growth to form at the cut. You might think the plant looks a little thin after you get done pruning but you'll be surprised at how this grooming will improve the appearance of the plant, because you are doing it when active growth resumes, all of your efforts will be rewarded fairly quickly with a better shaped plant.

If you have leaves that are mostly yellow and declining, remove them. If the margins or tips are brown and crispy, carefully trim them off to clean up the plant.

Spring is also a good time to start fertilizing. Over the winter indoor plants don't do much growing. They are basically in a holding pattern and don't need a lot of fertilization, with the arrival of spring they start to resume growth and now is the time to provide some nutrients to support this growth. There are many easy-to-use liquid fertilizers made for indoor plants. Mix and apply them as per label directions.

Your watering practices may also have to be adjusted as the plant starts its growth cycle. Water as needed, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering. There is no set time schedule or set amount of water to use. It all depends on the type of plant and where it is located in the house. Correct watering is one of the most important but often one of the most important but often one of the most misunderstood parts of plant maintenance. This is why horticulture is an art and a science. While there is a lot of science about the relationship of water and plants it is an art to know when and how much water to apply. This is totally up to you, the owner and grower of the plant. The best moisture meter is still your index finger and a little old school common sense.

With these few simple tasks your indoor plants are now ready for another season of providing you with green, leafy joy.

Mark March 7th & 8th on your calendar. The Tinley Park Spring Home and Garden Show is set to return to the Tinley Park Convention Center. Admittance is free! If you're planning any type of home improvement project this year, this is the place for you. There will be numerous vendors of products and services to talk to about your project. One booth you will want to stop by and visit is Ted's Greenhouse. We will have a wide assortment of plants to satisfy any hortiholic. Stop by and say hi. We would love to chat with you.

Also, if you are a reader of our weekly blog, bring a copy of our latest edition to the booth. In exchange we will give you a free plant of Danielle Weeping Fig while supplies last (one plant per person per copy). It's our way of saying thanks for being a loyal reader and customer.

See you at the show!

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