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Over-watering is the greatest cause of plant problems. Too much water literally drowns the roots by closing off the oxygen supply in the soil. First sign of trouble is yellowing of the lower leaves.

A simple way to find out if a plant needs watering is to poke a finger about an inch into the soil. If it is damp, no water is needed. For more accurate measurement, use a water gauge or meter.

Container drainage affects moisture retention. All pots, regardless of material, should be “crocked” or have small pieces of clay or gravel over the drainage hole. Crocking allows excess moisture to escape without losing the soil and permits watering from the bottom of the pot.


Prepared planting mixtures usually consist of vermiculite, peat moss and fertilizer plus small amounts of sterile soil. They also are free of diseases and weed seeds and hold moisture well. For add-on sales, promote vermiculite, peat moss, ground limestone, 5-10-5 fertilizer and 0-20-0 (high phosphate) fertilizer.


Heat and humidity do much to shape plant growth and vitality. Too much heat causes soft, weak plant development.

Touch the leaf surface; if it feels hot, move the plant further away from light.

Humidity prevents plants from drying out too fast. Generally 40 to 60 percent relative humidity is adequate. Most tropical plants like high humidity; humidifiers and misting help keep them happy.


Pots – The most important factors in selecting the correct pot are size, drainage and construction.

Clay pots are porous, allowing air and moisture to pass through. Plastic is lighter and more colorful, but depends entirely on drainage holes to relieve excess moisture.

Plants must be transplanted to bigger pots as they grow. Re-potting is indicated when roots creep up to the top of the soil. Other indications in a seemingly healthy plant are shedding of lower leaves and new leaves failing to develop normally.

Terrariums are another form of potting, but require special attention; plants must be small, compatible and inclined to a moist environment.

More information on pots and potting can be found in houseplant books.

Plant Food – There are a number of prepared fertilizers in liquid, granular or time-release tablet form for indoor plants. Urge customers to read the directions carefully and follow them explicitly. The old saying, “If one drop is good, two will be even better”, does not hold true in gardening.

The amount and frequency of fertilizing depends on light, water, soil and level of plant growth. Many houseplant books have specific plant feeding instructions.

Pest Control – Most common houseplant pests are red spiders, aphids, scale, gnats and mealy bugs. There are commercial sprays to get rid of these pests. Be sure to follow instructions carefully.

For best results, spray tips of plant shoots, underside of leaves and junction of leaf and stem.

Grow Lights – Plants depend on good light for growth, but they can’t always get it year round. Sunlight, of course, is the best light source, but proper artificial light is a good supplement.

Grow lights can be fitted into bookshelves, into hanging planters, etc., providing light heretofore unavailable.

To determine exactly how much light a plant needs, consider the amount of light it gets in its natural surroundings and then simulate it.

Lights should be placed 2′ to 6′ above the plant and left on about 16 hours per day. In order for the plant to maintain its natural shape, light should be evenly distributed from above.

Grow light systems are available, or you may choose to make your own, using a pair of 40-watt fluorescent bulbs.

Plant Hardware – To help display indoor plants, hooks and brackets are available in a wide variety of styles, sizes and finishes, including vinyl-coated, rustproof items.

In recent years, brackets in decorator colors, wood and brass have expanded the offering. Besides being decorative, many plant hardware items include special features such as rotating hooks or swivel brackets, allowing you to take the best possible care of plants.

Hangers, in macrame, plastic or metal chain designs, and vinyl-coated stands suitable for outdoor use are good suggestions for add-on sales. These items can be matched to most home decors.

EARLY SPRING (late Feb., early March, before green starts to show)
Dormant Spraying: Pests overwinter on shrubs, trees, and other woody plants. A dormant spray stops many damaging insects before they have a chance to develop and infest new growth. Scale, insects, mites, aphids, leaf curl, anthracnose, mealy bugs, hibernating caterpillars and various insect eggs. Slide Pump Sprayer: High-pressure sprayer provides long-range spray to reach tops of 25-ft. trees. Can also be used for low-growing plants.
Compression Sprayer: For lower growing trees, shrubs, bushes and woody plants.
Power Sprayer: Ideal for big jobs such as many fruit trees or plantings. Either gasoline or electrically driven, power sprayers can reach high into 25 to 30 ft. trees.
Vegetable And Flower Gardens: Insects: Keeping your garden clean will help prevent insect problems. Remove all weeds and dead plants. Check plants regularly for insect damage. Apply spray as needed. Aphids, leafhoppers, Colorado potato beetles, lace bugs, thrips, cut worms, mites and many other pests. Compression Sprayer: Versatile; provides precise application and proper control. For small gardens: a 1 1/2- to 2-gal. size is recommended. For average to large gardens: a 3- or 4-gal. size is best.
Plant Disease: Disease-causing organisms overwinter in garden refuse. Remove all weeds and dead plants and begin a regular spraying program. Spray susceptible plants before there is evidence of damage. Repeat every week or 10 days. White powdery mildew, wilt, rust, and other leaf and stem disease organisms. Dusters: When a dust is preferred or recommended, apply dust in a uniform cloud or small puff where needed.
Roses: Check roses carefully, looking for a black spot on the upper surface of the leaf. Remove and burn any infected leaves, and begin a regular spray program, continuing until Summer. Black spot, mildew, etc. Power Sprayer or Knapsack Sprayer: For very large gardens.
Outdoor Areas: Eliminate mosquito breeding places (garbage, standing water, weed patches, etc.) Then, spray resting places (flowers, shrubs, dense foliage, etc.) Mosquitoes Compression Sprayer: Offers a controlled, precise spray. No drenching or waste.
Power Sprayer: Good for a very large yard and a lot of spraying.
LAWN PESTS: Insects: Your lawn may be troubled by two types of insects. The first lives in the soil damaging the grass root, while the second attacks from above the ground. You can correct insect problems with a spray program and proper care of your lawn. Sod, webworms, grub, lawn chinch bugs Compression Sprayer: Provides a precise, on-target non-drift spray good for soil and lawn pests. Adjust the sprayer for a coarse drenching spray, one that penetrates the ground. Then sprinkle the lawn thoroughly. The size of the sprayer will depend on the size of the yard.
Weeds: This time of year, many weeds are noticeable, while others are simply regrouping for the attack next spring. Both types can be eliminated now with a spray program. Crabgrass (grassy weeds), dandelions (broadleaf weeds)
Lawn Disease: Lawns that are shaded, watered at night, watered too frequently, or tend to remain wet for long periods are most likely to have disease problems. A spray program will help stop the spread. Fungi, powdery mildew
Foundation Spraying: Spray the foundation around you house, especially in the fall. Crawling insects are less likely to cross this pesticide barrier. Spray just to the point of runoff and spray all the way around the house. Also spray a 2″ to 4″ band of soil alongside the foundation. Ants, centipedes, spiders, crickets and water bugs Compression Sprayer: This applicator, with its control features, places the spray exactly where it should be in just the right amount.
Houseplants: Insects: If you find the signs of insect attack, you need to apply the proper spray material. Aphids, cyclamen mites, mealy bugs, millipedes, scales, spider mites, white flies. Small Compression Sprayer: A lightweight polyethylene compression sprayer with a capacity of around 1/2-gal. is ideal for houseplants.
Source: H.D. Hudson Mfg. Co.
High-Density Polyethylene Highly resistant to pesticides, acids such as used in sanitizing solutions, alcohols and petroleum naphthas. Moderate resistance to softening by concentrated oils such as diesel and heavy aromatic solvents used in metal cleaning and cement-curing compounds. Cannot rust
Stainless Steel Completely resistant to commonly used pesticides. Excellent resistance to solutions used in cleaning and maintenance. Can be corroded by extended contact with solutions containing chlorine such as sanitizers. Retains resistance if dented. Will not rust
Epoxy-Coated Galvanized Steel Epoxy coat is completely resistant to all commonly used pesticides and most chemicals used in spray applications. Combined with the zinc coating of galvanized steel, it provides double resistance to corrosion. Will not rust unless both epoxy and zinc coating are broken, exposing underlying steel.
Galvanized Steel Not attacked by commonly used pesticides. Not recommended for strong acid solutions such as hydrochloric or phosphoric acids used for cleaning or sanitizing. Will not rust unless zinc coating is broken, exposing underlying steel.
Epoxy-Coated Plain Rolled Steel If coat fractures, peels or chips, the bare, unprotected rolled steel underneath will corrode or rust rapidly. Plain rolled steel is not rust-resistant. Possible to rust even when epoxy-coated. Rusts rapidly if epoxy coat is fractured… even if only tiny area exposed.
Source: HD Hudson Mfg. Co.
African Violet Good Heavy Medium
Asparagus Fern Medium Medium Medium
Cactus Good Medium Medium
Dieffenbachia Medium Medium Medium
Ivy Good Medium Cool
Jerusalem Cherry Good Medium Medium
Philodendron Low Moderate Warm
Poinsettia Good Heavy Medium
Rubber Plant Medium Moderate Warm
Sanservieria Low Moderate Medium
Schefflera Medium Moderate Warm
Spider Plant Medium Medium Medium
Succulents Good Moderate Warm
Wandering Jew Medium Medium Medium
(Chart courtesy of Duro-Lite Lamps Inc., Fair Lawn, N.J.)
Begonia Low Medium Medium
Carnation Good Medium Warm
Coleus Low Heavy Medium
Forget-Me-Not Good Heavy Medium
Impatiens Good Heavy Warm
Marigold Good Medium Medium
Nasturtium Medium Moderate Medium
Pansy Good Heavy Medium
Petunia Good Medium Cool
Snapdragon Medium Medium Medium
Zinnia Medium Moderate Medium
(Chart adapted from Basic Container Gardening Guide, Northrup King Seeds, Minneapolis)

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.