Natural (Chemical-Free) Ways to Keep Your Houseplants Healthy

Keeping plants healthy indoors requires a slightly different knack than does keeping houseplants outdoors.

As potted plants that receive all of their light through windows, indoor plants sometimes take a little TLC.

Here are seven tips for keeping them healthy (naturally) as well as natural ways to deal with insects and fungus.

1. Spread a bit of compost over the top of your houseplants' soil to fertilize. As you water your plants, the compost will work its way deeper into the soil.

2. Make sure you allow the soil to dry out between watering. Because they are in pots, houseplants are prone to over-watering. If your plant is overwatered, its roots can actually start to rot and you'll see yellow leaves on the plant.

3. When you do water, do so thoroughly. Water should actually come out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. The best kind of water is rainwater, but you can also use filtered water  or the water from a dehumidifer. If all you have is tap water, let it sit overnight in an open container before using it to water your plants.

4. Aerate the houseplant's soil by ever-so-gently poking and stirring it. If you don't loosen the soil through aeration, the soil will get compacted and will actually be more prone to root rot.

5. Re-pot your houseplants periodically. As a plant's roots grow, it is going to need successively larger containers. It will also need fresh soil every so often.( With some species, you can trim the roots instead of moving them to larger pots.)

6. Make sure your plants are getting enough light. South or east-facing windows are going to let in the most light. Turn your plants if you see them slanting toward the light source. If you don't have enough natural light, invest in a grow light. Hang it over the plants and keep it on for 8 to 12 hours a day.

7. If you move your houseplants outdoors during warm weather and then back inside when it gets cold, be very gradual about the process. As the weather cools, start by putting the plants indoors only at night. Then, put them inside for a few hours each day, increasing the time the plants are indoors every few days. As warmer weather comes on, start by moving plants outdoors during the day for a few hours at a time.

Some Common Houseplant Problems And How to Solve Them Naturally

1. Bugs. Here are some natural ways to keep insects from destroying your houseplants.

* Bay leaves are an effective bug repellent. Break up a few bay leaves and sprinkle them over the top of your houseplant's soil. Or lay bay leaves around the base of the pot.

* Neem oil is a natural insecticide. You can buy a concentrated form of neem and add it to water, or buy a commercial neem-based insecticide.

* Soap insecticide is very effective, especially against white fly and aphids. Use one teaspoon of natural liquid soap to one quart of water, mix, and spray on plants. Make sure to get under the leaves as well. If the problem is very bad, cover the pot with your hands and turn the plant upside-down into a pan of soapy water. This will dip all the foliage into the solution.

2. Fungus can be controlled by the above-mentioned neem oil. You can also use a tablespoon or two of vinegar to one gallon of water to make a fungicide.

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