Plants can add visual interest to a home’s decor and remove damaging contaminates from the air.
Caring for houseplants can also alleviate stress — unless you routinely find yourself killing and tossing out expensive greenery. Luckily, most indoor plant problems can easily be corrected.
If, however, you’re intent on committing plant homicide, simply pursue these tips — guaranteed to slay all but the toughest of houseplants:
Overwatering, which leads to root rot, is the No. 1 killer of houseplants.
Close observation and good judgment are crucial to ensure proper watering. For example, plants in shallow containers may need daily watering, while those in large, deep pots can often go several weeks between waterings. Succulents and cacti require more sporadic drinks than African violets, ferns and other moist-soil plants.
A good way to know when to water? Stick your finger into the soil; don’t water unless it is completely dry. And, when you do water, thoroughly wet the soil. To reduce the possibility of water-logged soil and prevent dissolved salts in the water from being drawn back into the soil, empty the drainage water from the catch basin after every watering.
Place a houseplant near a heat source — such as a radiator or heat duct — and you’ll cook it in no time.
It’s true that most houseplants are tropical and thrive in warm weather climates, but exposing them to direct heat will quickly dry out foliage.
Keep it in the dark
Some houseplants can survive on artificial light alone — but they are the exception. Nearly all plants need some amount of natural light.
Do some research about your specific houseplant to learn what kind and how much light your plant needs. “Sunny exposure” means finding a spot that gets sun for most of the day, such as a south-facing window. “Partly sunny exposure” means the plant will likely do well in a spot that gets sun only in the morning or afternoon.
Plants that are not getting as much light as they need may turn a paler color. It’s likely new growth will be spindly and leaning toward whatever light is available; leaves may cup upward or fall off.
Use a pot that’s too tiny
Ever wear tight shoes or pants that were a size too small? It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but that’s just what you’re doing when you leave a plant in a pot it has outgrown. A “pot bound” plant’s roots have no way to stretch out, so they are forced to circle inside the pot. Eventually roots will become so intertwined that water, nutrients and oxygen will have a hard time getting through.
The only way to know for sure if a plant is root-bound is to look at the roots, which means you’ll need to remove the plant from its pot. If your plant is root-bound, you can replant it in a bigger pot, prune the plant’s roots and replant it in the same container or divide the plant.
Use the wrong soil
Garden soil works great for outdoor gardening under natural conditions. Indoors, however, it’s another story. After just a month or two, you’ll discover that garden soil in an indoor pot will become rock hard; this is the result of poor drainage and the lack of aeration.
Most houseplants thrive in potting soils that contain sand or perlite (to improve aeration) and clay or organic matter (to help retain water). Many commercial potting soils are available, or you can mix your own.