How not to kill your plants in 3 easy steps
Choosing a house plant is not that different from making sure you go home with the correct pet. You have to be compatible with your new plant.
Are you a lover or more of the benign neglect type? Some people just really want to care for the plant all the time. That can translate into problems for some plants but not others. The more leave-it alone types will kill certain water needing plants in a few days others not.
When you go shopping consider the conditions you have for the new plant.
- How much light is there?
- Do you have trouble keeping on track with water?
- How much space you have for the new one?
- Will it live near a window or inside a place with no natural light?
These answers matter quite a bit. Let’s just say hypothetically you are successful with this plant, how large do you want it to grow? Will you have space for it? A couple of things to think about. Lastly, don’t bring a plant home that is poisonous to your pets. Plants don’t come with warning labels, check the list here.
Once you have your new friend home resist the impulse to repot it. Someday maybe but while you are shocking it by bringing it to your home don’t add to the problem by damaging or disturbing the roots.
Buy a decorative container that is big enough to slip the plant into for the time being. Again, when you are successful, and the plant has doubled or tripled in size, the roots are coming out of the drain holes then repot it. Here is everything you need to know about repotting your plants from some very smart people.
Water, water, water.
I’d say this is the reason the majority of people who come into Gaia Flowers with a dead plant story. Usually, it is the plant was getting too much water.
One of the fun things about most plants is they look the same over watered and under-watered. Fun, right?
When plants have insufficient water they droop, everyone knows that. They may drop leaves and have some other symptoms. Overwatering causes the roots to essentially go to sleep or die which prevents the right amount of water from getting to the shoot.
Also, over time if the amount of water isn’t enough to straight kill the plant it will be wet enough to encourage a bacterial or fungus infection (root rot) in the plant which blocks the vascular system that causes the plant to droop which send the signal to your brain the plant needs more water and BANG, you are back at the plant store the following weekend to tell your dead plant story.
Avoid this situation by first reading up on the plant when you get home. For instance, without water, a Drecaena can outlast a spathphyllum by weeks. The spath will be composted before a marginata or massangeana looks bad. But you’ll kill that marg or corn plant in a week by overwatering it. The roots can’t handle the extra moisture. So, you may have been “killing it” in a good way with your pothos but if you water your string of pearls plant like that it’ll die fast. So, read up on it.
The other really important suggestion is to keep a regular watering schedule. The plant will actually get accustomed to it provided you are giving it the right amount.
Pick a day of the week, your laundry day, or other household tasks that will help you keep on track. Careful observation of the plant is important. Your finger is an import tool to judge the moisture content of the soil. Do it regularly to get to know the plant.
Another trick is to pick your plant up. When you get the plant home observe how heavy it feels. This is assuming the shop where you got it from has it watered correctly. Now, how many days does it take until it feels light, lighter? You’ll observe how long it takes to dry out. Then you will have the “feel” for when it will be ready to be watered again.
Shiny not so bright light.
It is possible to grow plants in low light. A good interiorscape technician taking care of plants with no natural light can keep a plant living indefinitely. But that plant won’t be a ficus tree.
So, again selecting the right plant for the spot is so important. If you have a corner in your bathroom, typically rooms with low light, pick the right one and don’t forget about it. Leave the room light as much as you can.
And manage expectations. The plant may die there but how long can it make it? (Think floral arrangement but longer.) Will you have to rotate it out of the bathroom to another location to let it get stronger?
When you bring the new plant home keep in mind your addition may have as recently as the previous week been living the life in a climate-controlled greenhouse. It may take a few days or weeks to settle into its new home.
Be observant and patient. Less light = less water. With low light, the plant is going to be growing slowly. Its roots will metabolize more slowly than if it was in strong light, so dial back the water.
I realize I spent a lot of time on watering for the reasons as stated above. First priority is selecting the best plant for the situation, then learning its water needs, then observing it carefully. In future blogs, I will address pest control (you should do it), fertilizing (maybe, maybe not) and any other questions you want to be answered. Just jot them down in the comments below. Or come by the flower shop.