Houseplants can really add to our indoor décor. And for those of us living where winter is cold, they are a great way to get our gardening fix when it’s too cold to work outside. Some houseplants can also be beneficial as they can help to clean our indoor environment. (If you missed my article on this, you can check it out here.)
Gardening websites and social media posts would have us believe that growing houseplants is easy. While this can be true, for some people that’s not the case. I’ve had several friends who bemoan their experiences and claim that they just can’t grow houseplants. The truth is that yellow, brown or dropping leaves, insects, fungus, and general bad health can plague anyone’s houseplants. Fortunately, most houseplant problems can be traced back to a few easy to solve causes.
Below are 5 ways to cure your houseplant woes and enjoy the beauty that healthy thriving plants can add to your home.
1. Right Plant Right Spot
I can't stress enough how important it is to put your plant in a spot where it gets the right amount of light. For some plants that can be lots of bright sunlight. If they don't receive enough light, they will struggle to grow and be spindly. For others, like this Cast Iron Plant, low light is best.
Plants that get too much sunlight can show browning at the tips of the leaves.
While it’s tempting to buy the plant that you think will look the best in a given spot, it’s really important to be sure that the plant you choose will thrive in that spot.
So before you buy, it’s important to decide where you want to put a plant or plants and then observe how much sun that spot receives. Then buy the plant that will work for that spot. How will you know? Most plants have labels indicating how much light the plant requires. (The tags should also let you know the optimal temperature for the plant and watering and feeding requirements.) If you've already purchased your plant, do a quick bit of research to find out the amount of light it needs and then move it to a spot that fits.
2. To Water or Not To Water
The thing that kills most houseplants is overwatering or underwatering. Both can cause leaves to turn yellow and drop. Each plant is different in how much water it needs. For example, succulents benefit from letting the soil dry out completely between waterings.
Other houseplants should be watered when the top layer of soil dries out. Be sure to check what each plant needs and water accordingly. It’s also important that the pots are well drained and that plants roots do not sit in water. If the roots sit in too much water they will begin to rot and, of course, that’s not a good thing.
3. Too Much of a Good Thing
While many of us appreciate our warm homes in the winter, our heating systems can be a detriment to our houseplants as they can cause the air to be very dry.
In addition, putting plants too close to heating registers can dry them out very quickly, so keep houseplants away from heat sources.
Some plants like this Boston Fern, benefit from misting as they can absorb additional moisture through the leaves.
Others like this African Violet will show leaf damage from misting but do benefit from humidity.
The easiest way to provide this is to put a layer of pebbles in a tray with a small bit of water. Be sure that the base of the pot does not sit in the water.
The easiest way to provide humidity for plants like African violets and orchids is to put a layer of pebbles in a tray with a small bit of water. Be sure that the base of the pot does not sit in the water as this can cause the roots to become water-logged and start to rot.
4. I Need More Room
As your plants grow, so do their root systems. Eventually they will become pot bound and need to be moved to a new pot. How do you know? If your plant takes up all of the water you give it and then wilts a short time later it’s probably pot bound.
To move the plant to a new pot, remove it from its current pot and put it in a new pot using potting soil. If the roots are circling, tease them gently so that they are pointing down before putting them in their new soil.
Be sure to use potting soil, not garden soil - which is meant for outdoors and is too heavy for indoor plants). For African Violets use soil labeled specifically for them.
Your plant will now be able to push its roots out into the new soil and grow bigger and healthier.
5. Pesky Pests
Plants that are under stressors such as too little sunlight or too much water can be susceptible to pests such as insects, mites, and fungus.
When purchasing new plants be sure to get them from a reputable garden center or greenhouse and quarantine them from your other plants when you get them home until you are sure they are pest-free.
The best way to avoid these pests is for plants to be getting the right amount of sunlight and water. Do not crowd plants and make sure that all plants have the right amount of air circulation.
If you find that your plant has pests, remove all affected dying leaves and do not compost. Quarantine the plant away from your other plants as much as possible. If you suspect mite and insects, you can get rid of them by wiping the leaves with a damp cloth. Treat leaves with insecticidal soap or Neem oil.
Neem oil sprayed on the leaves is great for getting rid of fungus and controlling most fungal and insect pests.
Following these tips should help you to keep your houseplants happy and healthy.
Do you have houseplants in your home or are you about to add a few to brighten your indoors?
Comment below and let us know about your houseplant successes. Or ailments and how you solved them.