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10 tips on how to get the most out of plant `pets'.

LIKE a pet, a houseplant is for life, and you need a proper understanding of its personality. Learn its likes and dislikes.

ALWAYS note care instructions on labels, and keep in a safe place for future reference. Underneath the pot is a good idea.

NEARLY all houseplants dislike direct sunlight. The exception are cacti, which will survive in the hottest, driest places.

TRY to maintain an even temperature. This is especially important during the growing season.

HUMIDITY is also important, and - generally - plants with thin leaves need the most. Humidity can be increased by grouping plants together, placing them on a tray covered with moist gravel or spraying regularly with tepid water.

NEVER locate plants in a draughty area or anywhere else where they might be exposed to extremes of temperature, such as on a radiator cover, near a fire or boiler, or on a chilly window sill.

OVER-WATERING is one of the most common causes of poor health. A dry crust on the compost need not be a sign that it needs watering. Push a finger in up to the first knuckle. Spongy is good, crumbly is bad, soggy is worse.

FEEDING plants is essential to long-term care, but only during the growing or flowering season. Buy a liquid houseplant fertiliser and follow the instructions carefully. Never overfeed.

LEAVES should be cleaned once every four to six weeks. Tough leaves can be wiped with a damp cloth or sponge. Less robust leaves should be sprayed with tepid water and lightly brushed when dry.

RE-POT when the roots begin to extend from the pot base. Don't swamp the plant in a new pot which is clearly too big, and always use a special houseplant compost. Never use garden soil.

DAVID ALLSOP
COPYRIGHT 1999 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Allsop, David
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 22, 1999
Words:291
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