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Sat, March 23

The fresh, organic smells of plants fill the post-Christmas void

Because of changes resulting from the Iron Springs Road development, one of the majestic cottonwood trees at the garden center was in the wrong location. It was necessary to cut it down; and, thanks to a creek that had run through the property years ago, these cottonwoods had grown to super size. Removing one of these giants would be no easy task.

I had heard very good reports about the pros at Kenco Tree Service, so I decided to try them. Wow, did they do a good job. They dropped the tree, chipped the roots, cleaned up, were on budget, and all within the time they had predicted. That's just the kind of service I want to see from a hired contractor. Way to go, Kenco.

Please don't call me for Kenco's phone number; it's in the book. Look for it in the Yellow Pages under "trees."

Because of our store, my wife and I "do" Christmas year-round. We buy our holiday merchandise in March; it begins arriving in July; and, starting in October we convert our garden center to a Christmas decorations shop. Then, of course, just before Dec. 25, we decorate our home. Then, as in most post-holiday houses, when Christmas is over, after the tree is taken down and all the ornaments put away, there seems to be an empty feeling to our living room. To help fill that void, I bring home houseplants.

Indoor plants are soothing because of their visual impact. They add life to a room that is closed in and stuffy on cold wintry days. Physically beneficial, houseplants are natural air filters capable of removing up to 70 percent of indoor air pollutants. They're so effective that environmental scientists recommend having one plant per 100 square feet in our homes and offices.

Houseplants absorb large quantities of airborne formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene. The plants most effective at removing these air contaminants are spider plants, mums, snake plants, English ivy, scheffleras, spider plants, philodendrons, ficuses and dracaenas. All are common houseplants, readily available in sizes to fit every budget.

Light is the key to great-looking houseplants. A brightly colored Arizona room or foyer will grow rich green plants, but the limited light of most bathrooms or hallways calls for plants requiring less light. The cast iron plant, philodendron, pothos, Chinese evergreen and English ivy are attractive low-light plants.

Customers often ask me which houseplant food is best. I find it doesn't matter which plant food is used, but that it's the consistency in application that matters. Just find a food that you like to use and use it regularly. My number-one selling plant food is by Shultz, the little green bottle with an eyedropper attached to the cap. Supplementing with fish emulsion in the middle of the month when plants are actively growing will help satisfy those really hungry plants like ferns or those that bloom.

The secret to stunning houseplants that beam with healthy good looks is "Plant Shine." It's like hair spray for plants, and almost as easy to apply. It keeps plants looking as though they have just come through a cleansing, nourishing shower.

Houseplants like to be root bound in their containers. Remember, these are tropical plants that naturally grow in thick jungle layers. When they finally become difficult to water because so many roots have filled the container it's time to transplant. I recommend graduating to a container the next size bigger. Most important is to use a good quality potting soil. The soil alone can turn a 'brown thumb' into an exceptional houseplant gardener that is proud to show off 'green thumb' results.

Many indoor gardeners add soil polymers to the soil mix. These super-absorbent clear crystals hold 200 times their weight in water and significantly reduce the frequency of watering potted plants. Traveling gardeners find these crystals really handy for peace of mind while away from their indoor gardens.

Houseplants thrive with a minimum of effort. The benefits you'll derive from keeping houseplants in your home are well worth that effort. The results are an esthetically pleasing environment and a healthier, happier you.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

Ken Lain is the owner of Watters Home and Garden Center and is an Arizona Certified Nursery Professional and Master Gardener.


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