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Home Improvement / Gardening : ASK THE INDOOR GARDENER : Prayer Plant Is Turning Brown Around Edges

July 03, 1994|JOEL RAPP | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rapp is a Los Angeles free-lance writer who, as "Mr. Mother Earth," has written several best-selling books on indoor gardening

QUESTION: My prayer plant is beginning to turn brown around the edges. No matter how hard I pray, every day more of the leaves have turned dry and crinkly around the tips and edges. What's the problem?

ANSWER: Not enough humidity. All the prayers in the world won't keep your Maranta leuconeura looking fresh from the greenhouse, but regular mistings will definitely help. Any time a plant develops brown tips odds are it's due to a lack of humidity, so the more you can provide, the better.

An inexpensive humidifier in the room where you and your plants spend the most time is the most healthful solution for both you and your plants, but short of that, spray them with a fine mist of water whenever possible, keep your houseplants on trays filled with pebbles and water, which should be replenished regularly as it evaporates up around the plant, and group them if possible so they will gather humidity from each other when they transpire or "breathe."

Can Half-Dead Plants Hurt Others Nearby?

Q: I was over at my mother's house yesterday and I was appalled to see several half-dead plants among her collection of otherwise healthy and thriving specimens. She told me she's had those particular plants for years and just couldn't bear to throw them out as long as there's any life left. Couldn't this be dangerous to her other plants?

A: Not unless the plants are dying from pest infestations which could spread to her other, healthy plants. But your mother's "problem" is not uncommon. Lots of people, including me, become attached to pet plants and struggle to keep them "alive" long after they've ceased to become attractive adjuncts to the indoor garden. My advice: Bite the bullet and discard plants that have outlined their usefulness. The space they take up is better served populated by a lush, healthy specimen. You'll feel badly for a minute or two, but as soon as you put a new plant in, the sadness will pass, I promise.

How to Care for Hindu Rope Plant

Q: I just bought a Hindu rope plant that has curly green and white vines and delicate little pink flowers. How should I take care of it?

A: The Hindu rope plant is a nickname for the succulent Hoya carnosa, also known as the wax plant. Like all succulents and cacti, H. carnosa needs bright sunlight and water only when the soil is bone dry to the touch. The leaves will start to crinkle up if your Hindu rope plant isn't getting enough water.

Indoor Gardenia Gets Buds But No Flowers

Q: I've had a gardenia plant in my atrium for two years now and it still hasn't bloomed. Every year it gets buds, but they always drop off before they open up. Is there any way to grow a gardenia indoors?

A: Yes, but gardenias are very, very temperamental. They require some specific care in order to protect the buds and ensure flowering: Bright light and high humidity are important, but the key to culture is warmth. Cold drafts cause the buds to drop off.

It's also a good idea to give your gardenia plant an outdoor vacation--in the shade--during the warm summer months of July and August. Don't give up. Move your gardenia to a sunnier spot, water it more, give it more humidity and feed it more often. Sooner or later, you'll be rewarded by the deliciously fragrant, waxy white flowers and you'll feel even better than you did the night of your senior prom!

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