Physiology is the study of the functions of living things. In plants, physiology involves fundamental processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, flowering, sugar storage, and dormancy.
The environment limits plant growth and distribution, as well as the fundamental processes that occur in plants. Different plants have different characteristics. Indoor trees exist in different types and therefore have dissimilar requirements. Varying amounts of light, temperature, humidity and nutrition are needed by indoor trees for performing their physiological processes.
Light has three key characteristics that influence plant development, namely quality, quantity and duration. Light quality is the wavelength reaching the surface of the plant. Different indoor trees require exposure to varying qualities of light. For instance, indoor bonsai trees or tropical bonsai trees need to be placed close to east, south, or west window, and an artificial light will suffice if the room has no windows. The ficus trees, coffee tree and parlor palm needs bright, indirect sunlight, so it is best to keep them near the west or east windows. Dracaena plants require indirect light.
Light quantity is the intensity or concentration of light. Indoor trees can be classified as low-light, medium-light, or high-light plants. Included in the category of low-light plants are dracaena, aspidistra and algoanema. These plants need to be greater than five feet away from the light source. Medium-light plants require being within five feet from the light source. The lady palm or raphis palm belongs to this category. High-light plants need to be close to the light source. Ficus trees fall in this category.
Light duration is the length of time of a plant's exposure to light. For example, citrus trees need to be put under direct sunlight for four to six hours daily.
Temperature is also a factor that affects the plant's growth and productivity. Photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration all increase with increasing temperature. Low temperatures increase the capability to store sugar and lessen energy use. Dormancy is also affected by temperature. Dormancy is broken with the presence of warmth after a period of low temperature.
Indoor trees also require varying amounts of humidity or water. Bonsai trees need to be placed in trays with gravel and water since they tend to dry out quickly. The same goes for ficus and citrus trees. Dracaena trees need high humidity. Soil moisture need to be maintained in coffee tree and citrus trees, while dracaena and ficus trees need to be allowed to dry after watering. Fishtail palm needs to be watered weekly.
There are also different fertilizer requirements for indoor trees. Ficus trees need to be fed monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Dracaena plants require monthly feeding of half-strength indoor plant fertilizer while citrus trees require feeding of blooming-plant fertilizer for every three to four weeks. The striped dracaena and coffee tree needs application of slow-release fertilizer every spring.
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