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Tropical plants not only add exotic beauty and a touch of spring to our homes and offices, they also make useful—and natural—central air cleaning machines. These plants work to purify the air of pollutants and toxins, while increasing humidity and supplying valuable oxygen throughout the day while they are photosynthesizing.
An average house of 540 square metres requires 15 plants to keep its air filtered properly. As plants do consume some oxygen at nighttime, when they are respiring, it is recommended not to overdo their placement in a room where a sick person is confined.
Taking care of indoor plants is a fun and nurturing process. After making sure that light and temperature levels are correct, regular watering, feeding and cleaning, plus monitoring for pests and disease, and the odd potting up are all that’s required. Watering is often the biggest concern for tropicals. A good rule is to allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Let the water saturate the soil completely to decrease any fertilizer salt buildup. A twice-yearly hosing down will keep leaf surfaces clean, promoting growth and allowing the plant to circulate air more freely. Simply take the plant outside on a warm spring or fall day (in a shady area) and rinse with a shower spray from the garden hose. Gently wipe using a clean soft cloth and allow plant to dry completely before returning inside. Potting up is generally done once every year. You’ll know you need to repot when the roots have filled the pot; watering becomes difficult or the plant continually falls over. Once potted up, water the plant well and use a liquid bone meal to encourage good root development. In order to develop roots, luscious leaves and colourful flowers, all houseplants need to be fed regularly. For an all-purpose organic feed use a liquid fertilizer, such as kelp or fish, every two months, with an additional supplement of liquid bone meal up to twice per year. Insects can often be a problem with houseplants, particularly in winter when the air is dry. To control scale insects, simply rub the scales with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Soft-bodied insects like aphids and whiteflies can be safely treated with an insecticidal soap. Beneficial insects are an excellent way to control fungus gnats or spider mites. With all products be sure to follow the directions closely.