It’s when an organism adjusts to a change in its environment in order to survive. When dealing with INDOOR FOLIAGE
PLANTS this becomes most apparent to anyone whom recently purchased one !
Most indoor house plants sold in the northeastern US are grown in shade houses in Florida. A land of abundant sunshine,
warmth and humidity. When placed in interior spaces the three main issues they have to deal with is reduced light intensity
and day length, and a lower humidity – we are assuming most our homes are warm!
How the plant handles the new light environment depends on the species itself. Some plants like Bucida (common names – bullet tree, black olive tree, ox horn, Gregory wood & Antigua whitewood ) will drop almost
all their leaves and then start over again by sprouting new ones in a few weeks. Most however loose about 30% of
the older leaves and adapt all their new leaves to the new conditions as these are pushed out ( this can be very upsetting for a new plant owner ). Some lose none at all.
Ficus ‘Benjamina’ – 6″ Pot – Walmart.com – Walmart.com
- Ficus benjamina – looking happy and healthy at the store
Older leaves are sometimes unable to change and adapt to the new conditions – as they developed in brighter light. It’s a
tough pass or fail test – they either function at some capacity or if unable, they are dropped by the plant.
The older the leaf or the less light it gets compared to others on the plant, the higher the chance it will be dropped. Those in the center of
a shrub that get the least amount of light usually go first.
New leaves will adapt to lower lighting by becoming thinner, wider and longer. As a result they can also be floppier or
weaker. Petioles (they attach the leaf to the stem) become longer as well, and the inter-node (the space between 2 leaves)
becomes longer or stretched out. These are all adaptations to lower light. The end result is a plant that is stretched out or
“fluffier” than when you got it.
In the Ficus lyrata below, the smaller leaf compact plant was sun grown while the other grew its leaves inside in lower light
and these leaves have become wider, thinner and floppier.
ficus lyrats – Bing
Low humidity is usually always has the same symptoms – brown or dead leaf tips.
This is exacerbated when using tap water – as this contains chlorine and fluorine and both these cause the same brown tips. Photosynthesis drops dramatically in lower light and so does the need for water.
Leaf coloration will also change due to loss of pigment (which acts as a sun block in nature) and the addition of more
chloroplasts (the green organelles that manufacture sugar) in the cells to compensate for the lower light.
Variegated plants will become greener and those with bright colored leaves will get paler and greener as well.
If any insects traveled along with the plant their populations may increase. The lack of other predators in indoor spaces and the absence of wind with a lower humidity all benefit the insect over the plant.
How complex !!! ( Call Plant Specialists ! )
What can you do ? ( see above )
-Here are some tips.
Make sure you have adequate light for the plant.
If needed, supplement with artificial lights – in winter the plant would enjoy a longer day with these. Put the lights on a timer and set them to go on and off at the same time every day or the plant can get confused!( I know that feeling )
Learn how to water the plant you purchased. One rule of thumb is to water it with enough water to completely and evenly wet the entire mass of soil. After an hour or so from watering, there should be no standing water in the saucer. Water again only when the soil begins to dry out – usually once a week for most tropical plants – more in cooler and darker areas.
Cacti and succulents – even in full sun – about once a month or longer between watering.
To succeed you must learn about the plant you are choosing – find out what it likes or prefers in nature.
Indoor gardening is all about mimicking the same conditions found in that plants natural environment.
This Blog written by Peter Morris our resident Horticulturalist.