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Palms







The number of palms adapted to house culture is very limited but they comprise the most elegant of the decorative plants. Although popular now, they would be much more widely used if their culture were better understood. Mistakes made in handling palms are serious in results, for they produce for the most part only two or three new leaves in a year, and so any injury shows for a long time; it is not soon replaced by new growth and forgotten, as with many of the more rapid growing house plants. Nevertheless, if the few cultural requirements of palms are carefully attended to, they are as easily grown as any plants and yield a solid and lasting satisfaction. The house palms, as I have said, grow very slowly. It is not only useless, but dangerous, to try to force them into unnatural growth. Palms do best when restricted as to root room. When your plant comes from the florist, do not get impatient after a month or so and think that a larger pot would make it grow faster. Repotting once a year while palms are growing, and not so frequently as that after they are in eight-or ten-inch pots, will be sufficient. The best time for repotting is late spring--May or June. Use a pot only one size larger than that in which the palm has been growing. Remove carefully, do not disturb the roots, and put into the new pot carefully, ramming the new earth in firmly about the old ball with a thin piece of wood (see directions for repotting, page 40). The soil for palms need not contain as much humus (leaf-mould or peat) as that for most other house plants. Good rich garden loam, with sharp sand added, and bone meal worked through it, will be right. Be sure the drainage is perfect. Crock the pots carefully (facing page 41). If any of the crocking from the old pot comes out with the ball of earth, remove it as carefully as possible and fill in the space with soil. After potting, keep shaded for several days. While palms require plenty of water, no plants are more fatally injured by overwatering. Above all must care be taken never to let water accumulate in saucers or jardinieres in which the pots are standing. Water will soak up through a pot as well as down through it, and water-saturated soil will quickly become sour. When you do water, water thoroughly and then see that the pots are kept where they can drain out, and do not water again until they show a tendency to get too dry. Much water will cause the leaves to turn brown. In this case change the treatment at once. (The looks of the leaves can be somewhat improved by cutting them to shape with a pair of scissors.) The amount of water required is much greater in summer than in winter, when the plants are practically at rest. Direct sunlight is not desirable for palms, but they should have plenty of light. Do not stick them away in a dark corner or an inner room and expect them to do well. They will stand such a situation several days without injury, but should be brought back to the light as soon as possible. They do well in north windows, providing the temperature of the room is high enough. Remember, however, that pots kept in a shady place will dry out much less quickly than those in the light or sunlight. If they are to be kept permanently where the sun does not strike, it is a good thing to add charcoal to the soil, as this aids greatly in keeping it from getting sour. Give plenty of air. The more the better, so long as a proper temperature is kept up, as that counteracts the effect of the more or less poisonous atmosphere of living-rooms kept closed during winter. Beware of drafts blowing across the plants, but provide plenty of fresh air. In the spring as soon as it warms up outdoors--say after the apple blossoms fall--plunge the palms outside, in a sheltered position, where they can be given plenty of water. At this time, if they are not repotted, bone meal should be worked into the surface of the soil and a liquid manure of bone meal given once a month or so during the growing season. Both during winter and summer, shower the leaves frequently, with as forceful a stream as possible, to prevent scale and mealy-bug getting a start. (For treatment see page 135.) Keep the leaves and stems clean by wiping off every once in a while with a soft cloth and soapy warm water, syringing with clean water afterwards.





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