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Temperatures and houseplants

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The last time I recall temperature  being an issue with houseplants was back in the oil-embargoed, recessionary 1970s. But with heating fuel costing much more this winter and families cutting back on expenses across the  board, it looks as though indoor plants are going to have some cooler days -- and nights -- ahead. Is this good or bad?

It depends on how low you plan to set the thermostat and what kinds of houseplants you're growing. The range is 70 to 80 degrees F. during the day and 60 to 68 degrees F. at night, says the Texas Master Gardener Handbook.

But most houseplants are adaptable. Although they may not be happy at 55 degrees F., they'll survive. Others suffer damage when they are forced to shiver.

But other indoor plants -- cyclamen and florist azaleas, for example, both popular at holiday time -- actually need to be in a chilly room (45 to 55 degrees F.) and fade quickly if they aren't.

And did you know that one of the main reasons orchids grown as houseplants fail to flower is that they require a 10-degree F. drop between daytime and nighttime temperatures?

Actually, cacti like cool winter temps, too, because they generally don't bloom in spring if they've been forced to grow year-round. For that reason, many growers keep cactus plants in a sunny spot where it's 43 to 53 degrees F at night from the end of October until early March.

There are three things to watch out with temperatures and houseplants, particularly if you turn your thermostat way back this year:

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