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INDOOR plants are beneficial, purifying stale air indoors. Although it should be safe to presume that all plants are capable of removing toxins from the air, recent studies have shown that indoor plants are more efficient in filtering out toxins than others. Philodendrons were found to be the most efficient in the removal of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and benzene from the atmosphere. As a rule of thumb, allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living area. The more vigorous the plant, the more air it can filter. Keep in mind that plants will not do much to alleviate tobacco smoke. Philodendrons are among the easiest to grow as indoor plants. They need very little maintenance, are grown for their foliage, which comes in a variety of sizes and shades of green. Philodendrons require only very low intensity light and hence can be grown in any room. The plants can be grown either in a pot or in hanging baskets. To grow them in pots, allow them to grow to the desired size and trim back any new growth and runners.
There are about 200 species of Philodendron in the aroid family Araceae. Theses tropical herbs are indigenous to tropical America. Although Philodendrons are distinctly vine-like, a number of species and cultivars have leaves spaced so close together that the stem is not visible until some of the lower leaves abscise or fall off. Snipping off and rooting runners, or suckers can propogate the plant. The cuttings can be placed directly in moist soil. Make sure not to let the soil go dry. Well drained, potting soil which contains a lot of rich organic matter is ideal. Apply liquid fertilizer once every two or three weeks.
It is advisable to keep them in open shade at weekly intervals. The leaves should be cleaned once a month with a damp sponge or cloth. Mist the plants every few days during dry conditions. Philodendrons are susceptible to being attacked by aphids, mealy bugs, scale and spider mites. Wash the leaves with lukewarm soapy water. If infestation is severe, spray with Malathion one teaspoon/litre or one per cent neem oil with a few drops of soap solution. Excess watering causes root-rot and a build-up of brown spots on the leaves.
Text and picture by P.G. RAJENDRAN
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