All That Glitters

Trendy or not painting plants is a surefire way to kill them. Plants have pores (stomatal pore) that are located mostly on the surface of leaves. These pores are how plants gain access to carbon dioxide to carry out the process of photosynthesis. They are tiny and typically not visible with the use of a microscope.

(credit a: modification of work by Louisa Howard, Rippel Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College; credit b: modification of work by June Kwak, University of Maryland; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

When we paint the surface of the plant we block the ability for the plant to exchange gasses with the atmosphere. When this happens the plant is no longer able to gain access to convert carbon dioxide into sugars.

Something else happens when we paint plants is the blocking of sunlight. Plants unlike animals make their own food. Now some marketing campaigns have lead us to believe that by adding fertilizers to water we are feeding plants. Which is a flat out lie. Plants make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. But in order for this pathway to happen plants need access to light.

Instead of painting plants for the holidays consider painting the pots. It is a fun interactive and safe for the plants.

Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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