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Rx for plants
Master Gardeners' House Plant Clinic
On Thursday, Martinsville-Henry County Master Gardeners held a plant care clinic, and several people came seeking advice. Odell Moran (second from right) gave this Peace Lily to the Church of Christ in Collinsville, where it stays in front of the pulpit. Its leaves are small, and many are turning brown at the edges and tips. The scorches on the edges of the leaves probably are from exposure to the air from the building’s heating and cooling system, which seems especially likely considering the scorches are worse on one side than the other. The brown at the tips probably is fluoride toxicity. Municipal water has fluoride and chlorine, which are bad for plants, particularly peace lilies. That problem can be avoided by watering with rain water or by leaving tap water intended for plants to set overnight. A peace lily needs 8 to 12 hours of indirect sunlight and should be fertilized once a month. The Master Gardeners looking over the plant are (from left) Betty Hudson, Don Deaton and (right) Carol Deaton. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Sometimes people ruin plants by giving them too much love.
“The number one killer of plants is overwatering,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent Melanie Barrow. She was giving plant advice along with Martinsville-Henry County Master Gardeners at the organization’s free houseplant clinic Thursday at the Henry County Administration Building.
Plants should be watered about once a week, said Master Gardeners. Succulents don’t need as much water as tropical plants.
Water should be poured right into the dirt, not on the leaves or stems of the plant, Barrow said. To avoid harming the plants with fluoride and chlorine found in tap water, “use water that has been sitting overnight,” she added. “Leave it in a gallon jug in the closet with the top off.”
Barrow said plants should be kept away from drafts.
When roots start to grow along the inside of pots or foliage seems big for the pot, repot a plant to a container two inches larger than the current pot, she said. Wash old pots with a 10 percent bleach solution to get rid of fungus.
In a clay pot, soluble salts start to build up on the outside (that’s the whitish or yellowish chalky layer). Get it off by scrubbing the pot with white vinegar and a toothbrush.
Here in pictures are several of the problems Master Gardeners diagnosed.
To learn more, Master Gardener Cliff Rood recommends the book “What’s Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?)” by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. “It has real-life photographs of samples you would recognize in the real world,” he said.
Master Gardeners man phones from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Monday and Thursday at the Virginia Cooperative Extension office to answer questions. They can be reached at 634-4650.
See more photographs and explanations in the Feb. 10 edition of the Bulletin.