Have you started to think your thumb’s more brown – or perhaps black – than green? Before you give up on growing houseplants altogether, let’s see if you’re making any of the following mistakes that could be preventing plants from thriving, or even surviving, in your home.
Buying low-quality plants
Get this one wrong, and the rest of the tips on this list won’t much matter. You’re probably not off to a great start if you’re purchasing your plants from a grocery or big-box store instead of a nursery/ garden center or florist. Regardless of where you shop, give plants a once over before buying. Inspect leaves for discolouration (yellowing, black spots), damage (holes, wilting), and pests (especially on undersides). Check soil, too: it should be moist (not bone-dry or soaking wet) and free of mold, pests, and foul odour.
Plant roots need water, but they also need air in order to breathe. If its container doesn’t allow excess water to escape, your plant will sit in stagnant water, and its drowning roots will eventually rot. You can still use those decorative pots without holes – just doublepot using a plastic insert with holes. Your pots do have holes? Great! Add some drainage material (rocks, pot shards) to their bottoms. Avoid pots with permanently attached saucers, and be sure to empty out saucers that are detachable.
The wrong soil
If you’re using dirt from outdoors, you could be introducing pests, fungus, or weeds to your indoor plants. Garden soil isn’t suitable for many houseplants, either, because it’s too dense to allow for adequate drainage or aeration. For the best chance of success with your houseplants, use potting soil. It provides the right texture and nutrients for plants growing in small, confined spaces. You can buy it from your local nursery/ garden center or make your own – just be sure whatever you buy or make is designed for your plants’ specific needs.
Are you just sticking your plants wherever they fill empty space in your home, giving little thought as to whether their specific needs will be met? Like us, plants don’t like a chilly draft, nor do they like living near artificial heat sources like fireplaces or space heaters. Consistent temperatures are key. Also, like us, plants can get burnt if exposed to too much direct sunlight. On the other hand, given too little light, plants can grow thin and weak as they try to reach towards it.
We tend to think plants are like us in that the more water they drink, the better. But not enough water is actually less harmful than too much water, which is the quickest way to kill plants. It is easy to diagnose a dehydrated plant, with shrivelled, wilted leaves being obvious signs. Overwatering, however, causes root rot, which is less obvious and often fatal. Plants like to dry between thorough soakings, like they do in nature. Poke a finger about an inch into the soil – if it’s moist, watering can wait.