Trowel, Bulb Sprayers, Twine
Since most house plants are kept in relatively small pots, the most convenient trowel you can get is one that is less than 3″ at the top of the blade. They are inexpensive and easily available.
Bulb sprayers come in varying sizes and are used to wet the foliage of most plants. For house plants you should buy the smallest kind. A substitute for the sprayer, usable though not quite so efficient, is the atomizer such as the ones sold to spray perfume or medicine.
Every home gardener should have a ball of light twine at hand for use in tying up climbing plants and in tying back the unruly plant.
Watering Can, Thermometer, Dibble
Watering cans come in every shape and size imaginable, but without doubt the best kind available on the market today is the type with the long thin spout which is pictured here. It is particularly useful in watering around the base of plants whose foliage should not be wetted, such as the African Violet or Saintpaulia.
A good indoor thermometer while not essential is helpful in letting you know just what the temperature is at the location of the plants, and how much of a change they have to endure at night.
For the gardener who plans to start plants from seed, the dibble is an instrument designed to punch a hole in the earth when transplanting seedlings. A dibble, or dibber as it is sometimes called, is a luxury rather than a necessity, and is only really useful if you are going to do a great deal of planting. In any case, a sharp pencil will do the trick in nine cases out of ten.
Cultivator, Knife, and Pots
A cultivator is a miniature rake which is used in scratching fertilizer and plant food into the soil.
A sharp knife is an essential tool for many of the chores required in the home garden. A pocket knife will do the trick very well.
As we have already said, house plant pots come in every size and shape imaginable. Basically they can be broken down into two groups: the unglazed red clay pots
which are the cheapest and most plentiful of any single type of container made, and glazed decorative plant holders. These pots are made in standard shapes and sizes ranging from 2 inches in diameter to 8 inches and above. The advantages of the common red clay flowerpot over all other kinds are several: 1) they are inexpensive; 2) they are plentiful and easy to find in any size; 3) their sides are slightly porous, enough so to benefit the soil by allowing it to rid itself of excess moisture through the sides, and to breathe.”
Clay Pots, Glazed Pots, Metal Pots
All red clay pots have a drainage hole at the bottom to let out excess water or to act as an inlet for moisture with those plants which are bottom-watered. The disadvantage with these containers is that many people find them so plain as to be ugly. Because they are so readily available, and because at first you will probably buy all your plants in adequate pots, there is no need to stock up on extra pots until it comes time for you to do some repotting (see Chapter 6) or until you are ready to try your hand at propagation (see Chapter 7). At that time you should be able to choose the pots you need without wasteful overbuying. There are no standards for the size and shape of decorative glazed pots.
You can buy them in the same size and shape as clay pots, but they also are made in oblong or upright shapes, or made to look like animals, tree trunks or what have you. They are usually more expensive, and often don’t have a drainage hole in the bottom, but otherwise are just as good for growing plants as the old-fashioned red clay type.
Copper, and other varieties of metal pots, are also on the market, but these are almost entirely decorative, and are used to house (and disguise) the pot in which the plant is actually grown.
Boxes and Pans
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, one perfectly good container for your house plants is an old baking pan. A good-sized pan of this kind will hold quite a number of plants, and, painted a lively color, will not disgrace your living room in the least. Not everyone has an old baking pan to spare so there are a good many metal and wood window boxes and plant pans for sale. These vary in size, but to be worthwhile should measure at least 6″ x 6″ x 24″, big enough to hold four or five pots and with sides high enough to cover the sides of the pots. In the chapter that follows this one, Keeping Plants Healthy, the best methods for setting out pots in boxes and pans is discussed in detail.