Originally created 04/24/98

Beware of burning indoor house plants



How many of you have gone to the beach when you were snow white and stayed out in the sun all day without using a good sunscreen? What happened? You got a sunburn, right? Well, plants are like that, too.

When you first take out plants that you have stored indoors over the winter, or seedlings you have rooted inside, treat them as you would your own skin. Reintroduce them to the hot sun slowly, or they, too, will get burned. Most house plants prefer dappled shade under trees. Also, make sure you keep them moist because they dry out faster outside.

You will also need to protect plants from strong winds until new growth is established.

When you move plants outside the leaves aren't the only parts that need attention. Check the roots, too. Repot any root-bound plants in a pot 2 inches larger all around the roots. After you put the plants into a bigger pot with fresh potting mix, fertilize them with one-quarter-strength fertilizer. Check for good drainage and water them thoroughly. Some plants will also need old leaves removed.

Consider putting all of your plants in clay pots if you don't already do so. They allow better air flow, better drainage and just look better.

If you started your seeds inside and are ready to plant them in your flower bed or vegetable garden, break them in gently. Keep them shaded for a day or two until filled out, then give them dappled light and slowly move them into longer and longer sunlight.

Remember to water seedlings more as you give them more light. The whole process should take four to five days for vegetable and about two weeks for ornamentals.

If you managed to save ferns through the winter, they may be thickly thatched with straw. Cut all the straw out, leaving any green leaves. New growth will flush after a week or two under dappled shade if you add a quarter fertilizer and water.

DID YOU KNOW:

-- A tall evergreen hedge north of your home can cut heating bills by 30 percent to 35 percent in windswept regions or by 10 percent in sheltered areas. If your house is exposed to winter winds, consider establishing an evergreen planting for a windbreak this spring.

-- An important principle of garden design is to have your plants in groups large enough to form masses of color or texture. As a rule, five or seven plants set in a grouping to form an irregular shape creates the desired effect.

Sid Mullis is an agent with the University of Georgia Extension Service office in Richmond County.

Garden advice

Can't tell a peony from a petunia? Does your lawn make you yawn? Do you need advice on the best way to get rid of fire ants? Send your home and gardening questions to the experts: University of Georgia Extension Service Agents Clyde Lester and Sid Mullis. Mail your questions to Gardening Advice, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. E-mail questions to uge3245@uga.cc.uga.edu. Selected questions will be answered.