Plants Need These Four Things
At the most basic level, most plants need these things to survive:
1. Soil to sink or anchor their roots
2. Light to fuel growth processes
3. Water to sustain life
Provide these items in the right way, and growth will flourish -- and you can say you know how to grow a plant.
Every plant needs a place for its roots. Some plants sink their roots into soil. Examples include woody ornaments, annuals, shade trees, and vegetables. Other plants are called epiphytes; these varieties don't need soil to grow. They anchor their roots onto tree trunks or branches. Examples include many orchids, bromeliads, and ferns.
For plants with roots in soil, it's important to provide the right kind of soil.
When choosing plants for indoor or outdoor settings, research the plant to see what kind of soil the plant needs. If your outdoor soil isn't ideal, you can change it by adding different types of amendments, which alter the soil's consistency, draining pattern, and fertility.
As you consider how to grow a plant, remember that providing the right soil can make or break your success. If soil isn't ideal, growth will be poor and the plant could even die.
Plants need light to survive. While plants may grow in dark conditions, growth will be long, lanky, and colorless -- and the plant eventually will die. Plants need sunlight to generate the energy they use to grow. The simple equation for plant growth is: sunlight + carbon dioxide + water = growth
Just as soil requirements vary, different plants thrive in varying amounts of light. As you select plants to grow indoors or out, you'll come across terms such as full sun, part sun, part shade, full shade, low light, or bright indirect light. These terms describe the amount of light a plant needs for best growth. What do those terms mean?
For Outdoor Plants
Full sun: Plants should receive at least 5-6 hours of sun per day.
Part sun: Plants need 3-4 hours of sun per day, preferably in morning or early afternoon, not during the hottest parts of the day.
Part shade: Plants thrive with 3-4 hours of sun per day and require shade during the afternoon, when sun is hottest.
Full shade: Plants need fewer than 3 hours of direct sun per day. Filtered sunlight or light shade is necessary for the rest of the day.
Statistics report that 75 percent of all plant deaths are due to improper watering. Unfortunately, watering plants doesn't follow a simple formula, such as watering every three days. What makes watering so tricky?
Young plants have roots located closer to the soil surface, so they dry out more quickly and need water more frequently.
Different soil types hold water more efficiently than others. Sandy soils let water percolate away quickly; soils rich in organic matter hold moisture near roots.
Shadier gardens or houseplants in lower light conditions need less water than plants in sunny spots.
The secret to successful watering is to check the soil with your fingers. With young plants, if soil is dry to the touch about 1 inch deep, water them. For established, mature plants, don't water until soil is dry to the touch 4-6 inches deep. An easy way to tell if potted plants need water is to lift the pot. Dry soil is lightweight; wet soil is heavier.
How much water is enough? A light spray on the soil surface doesn't provide enough water to soak soil.
Newly planted plants: Before planting, wet the root ball. After planting, make sure soil is moistened to the level of the base of the roots.
Established plants: Check soil 4-6 inches deep. If it's dry, water deeply.
Plants in pots (indoors or out): Water until you see water starting to trickle through drainage holes. Don't allow plants to sit in water overnight.
The best time of day to water is early morning, especially with outdoor plants. Watering during midday means water may evaporate before it soaks into soil. Late-day watering can make plants more susceptible to fungal disease. Another trick to limiting disease is avoiding wetting foliage. If possible, deliver water directly to soil. Outdoors, that means using drip irrigation or soaker hoses.
A good start to a healthy plant is fertilization. Use an organic fertilizer when you first install your plant such as Milorganite. This is the only time you will ever be able to fertilize the root ball. After a few months look for a fertilizer that is specific blend for your plant. Follow the directions on the label.
If you follow these instructions you are well on your way to having a happy and healthy landscape!