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Frequently asked questions

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question I am a plant murderer. Please help me to grow something green, indoors, all year long. I am especially interested in growing from seeds. Let me know what you can do to help me. [JP 2/10/00 by e-mail]
answer I gave up raising plants from seeds years ago. Often they turn out flimsy. I prefer to clone plants from clippings of twigs or leaves. Cloning works very well with ficus, many cacti, African violets, and ivies. Try it with any plant you like and it will probably work. Put the clipping in water and wait until it has grown roots. Then, transfer it to the hydroculture planter.

I keep most of my plants in hydroculture, and they all look beautiful. The system is so much easier since the water gauge tells you exactly when to water and when to leave the plant alone.

Other plants, such as peace lilies, anthuriums, dieffenbachia, and some cacti, I buy in the store, carefully clean the roots as described in Raising your own plant. After anthuriums or peace lilies are grown, you can divide them into sister plants.

question I found some white spots on my plants, sometimes even the roots have these white spots. I suspect they are fungus. Can I use a fungicide that is meant for soil in plants? Can I pour the fungicide (diluted with water) into the planter? [CT 6/20/00 by e-mail]
answer You can use any treatment that works with regular plants. However, since hydroculture is a closed system, one has to be careful with chemicals that accumulate inside the flower pot and cannot be broken down by the root system or by the microorganisms that live on the roots. Therefore, if apply a fungicide, you should regularly wash the clay pebbles. How to do this, is described in the chapter Taking care of your plant.

The same is true for insecticides. Instead of insecticides, you can use so called "system protection" agents that are taken up by the roots and make the plants less desirable for insects. They work pretty well as a kind of preventive medicine - making it less likely that a plant gets infected - but they are not so effective when a plant is already sick.

question I would like to germinate seedlings. But I do not want to use soil. Can I use rockwool instead? [CT 6/29/00 by e-mail]
answer Yes, you can use rookwool for seedlings. However, don't wait too long to transplant the plant from the rockwool to LECA. Pull most of the wool off to allow the roots to make good contact with the substrate. Otherwise, rockwool and clay pebbles do happily coexist!
question I am fixing to go on a longer business trip. Should I bring the African violet on my desk home so that my wife can water it or should I ask a friend in the office to do this. [DB 10/29/00 by e-mail]
answer For a short trip, I wouldn't do anything, except for watering the plant shortly before you go. If you're going to be away for more than two weeks, water up to or even slightly above the maximum mark. African violets tolerate that very well, provided that they have a chance to dry out afterwards. You may want to move your plant to shady location (bright light and heat increase water consumption). For anything longer than a month, just ask your friend to take care of it - it's no rocket science.
question I would like to use a more decorative pot then the plastic outer pots that you are offering. How would I do that? Would I still need a plastic pot and just set it inside another pot or would any water-tight pot do? Also, do herbs well in hydroculture? Is there a special fertilizer that you need or is it the same as for house plants? [BS 6/1/01 by e-mail]
answer Any water-tight pot will do - you only need to buy the insert and the water gauge. Herbs do very well in hydroculture, provided that they get plenty of light. The resin-based fertilizer works with them too, but, if you harvest your herbs frequently, you may have to supplement it with a liquid fertilizer or replace the resin more often.
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