Time to wake up those houseplants

Don't look now: Spring is on its way

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— According to the calendar, spring will arrive in late March. According to Mother Nature, Spring won't arrive in Steamboat until weeks, maybe months later. Though it may be too early to play in the dirt outside, it's the right time to prepare your houseplants for the growing season ahead.

With care, a slightly sick-looking plant can be revived. At the first sign of pest or disease, isolate the plant and treat it immediately. If a plant is too "leggy," cut them back to just above a bud node on the main stem. If a plant looks terribly ill, it should be discarded.

Examine the root ball of your plants. If roots are growing out of the drainage hole or the plant has been in the same pot for three or more seasons with roots growing in a circle around the plant, it is root bound and needs to be repotted.

When selecting a new pot, only increase the size by one inch or your plant will spend all its time developing roots at the expense of foliage growth and flowering. Remove as much old soil as possible to not disturb roots and replace with new soil. It does not matter if you use a clay or plastic pot, but it should have a drainage hole in the bottom. Clay pots are porous and will allow air to reach the roots. However, plants will need more frequent watering in clay pots versus plastic pots.

Outside plants benefit from occasional rainfall and frequent winds to keep their foliage free of dust and dirt. Houseplants deserve the same spa treatment. Try putting them in your shower without the saucer and douse them with a gentle spray. If you don't want to wet the soil, simply cover the top with plastic wrap and spray away.

However, most plants would also benefit from a good soil drenching as that leeches out excess salts that are the result of fertilizing. Just leave the plants in the shower until they quit dripping. However, never wet the leaves of plants with hair as they are damaged by moisture on leaves. African violets are a good example of hairy-leafed plants.

If your plant is too large to move, use a soft cloth and water to wipe both the upper and lower sides of the leaves. If this is too large a task because of the number of leaves, use a feather duster to loosen dust. Never use a leaf shine product as it blocks the pores and inhibits the plant's natural functions.

If you notice traces of white on top of the soil in your houseplants, it is probably because of accumulated salts from fertilizing. If the plant does not need repotting, simply scrape off the top 2-3 inches of soil and replace with new potting soil.

Now that your plants have been spruced up for spring, plan ahead for moving them outside.

Following the light recommendations for each particular plant, gradually move them to sunnier spots in your house to prepare them for the long sunny days of summer.

Louise Poppen is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call the CSU Cooperative Extension office at 879-0825 or e-mail to: gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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