Houseplants: everything in moderation

By Jessica

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Q: I just bought a few houseplants for my new apartment. I’m not much of a green thumb, and I made a New Year’s resolution to keep them alive this year! Any general rules for keeping houseplants healthy? One of them is a majesty palm.

A: With houseplants, like human beings, the adage "everything in moderation" rings true, so keep moderation in mind when tending to your plants.

Watering: A plant's root system can only absorb so much water, so make sure not to over or under water. Overwatering will prevent oxygen from reaching the roots, and not enough water will stress the roots. Water schedules vary with different kinds of plants, so check with a local nursery on how much, and when, your plants need water.

Sunlight: Likewise, there is only so much sunlight a houseplant requires for photosynthesis; too much light will wither or burn the leaves. Very few plants like direct sunlight, so placement near a window, not directly on a windowsill, is usually best.

Temperature: Raising (or lowering) temperatures to an extreme will kill any plant. Even plant food at a very high concentration will burn tender root hairs when taken up.

Lastly, with your palm, you’re going to want to keep the soil acidic. You can do this by adding sphagnum peat moss or aluminum sulfate (available in garden centers and nurseries) to the soil. However I will say that these types of palms don’t make the best houseplants, and tend not to live indoors longer than a year.

- Answer from Anna, a teacher and biologist on JustAnswer

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