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Happy National Houseplant Appreciation Day!

Be kind to your houseplants today. This peace lily works hard, helping the indoor environment. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Be kind to your indoor green companions

It’s time to dust the ficus and show the peace lily some love. Why? It’s National Houseplant Appreciation Day.

Often ignored as part of the décor, indoor greenery does so much for us while asking little in return. The foliage helps clean the air, filtering out pollutants and carbon dioxide while adding a little extra oxygen. In addition, houseplants contribute a little moisture and extra humidity to our indoor air, creating a more comfortable environment (for them and us).

Besides helping indoor air quality, houseplants also have a therapeutic quality. We enjoy being around plants. They make us smile. They improve attitudes in both office and at home.

Mother-in-law's tongue is an old-
fashioned favorite that's happy
This day of recognition is credited to the Gardener’s Network ( ), which has been publishing an online gardening e-zine for nearly 20 years. It’s an idea that’s quickly catching on with special sales and events at nurseries. Green Acres Nursery, for example, is celebrating with a Houseplant-palooza sale.

National Houseplant Appreciation Day comes after the holiday hustle, when we finally have a chance to look around and notice our green companions.

This is how this commemoration started, according to the Garden Network:

“By the 10th of January, the holidays are a distant, happy memory. We have put the decorations away. Now, our houses all look kinda plain, and drab inside. As you look around the house, something catches your eye. It's over there, in the corner of the room. It's still green, but it sure looks dry. And, it’s drooping a bit. Why, it's a houseplant! Funny, but with all of the holiday hubabuloo, you've all but forgotten your plants.

“Well aren't your houseplants lucky that the 10th of January has arrived!? Today is THE day to get back to tending to, and loving each and every plant in your home. It's also a day to appreciate just how special and important houseplants are to you. As gardeners we need to have our hands in some dirt. Caring for them gives us that opportunity. After all, it's a long way to spring, when we can get out into the garden again.”

In California, we can still go outside and play in the dirt (or mud). But it’s a lot more comfortable indoors, playing with our houseplants.

How to mark Houseplant Appreciation Day?

* Start by checking soil moisture. Make sure your houseplants are well watered.

* Snip off dead foliage and show your plants some TLC.

* Dust the leaves; that helps the foliage function better.

* If possible, put your plants in the shower and give them a gentle indoor rain. That washes off dirt and grime that may have accumulated.

* Start some cuttings from your houseplants and share with friends.

* Get some more houseplants. The selection has never been better as more people discover the joy of indoor gardening. Find a new favorite or rediscover an old-time charmer.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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