Indoor plants are a vibrant source of beauty in your home’s otherwise inanimate landscape. And keeping them healthy and happy is a quiet source of joy for many people. But the opposite is also true: Struggling houseplants not only drag down your space’s appearance, but they also bring us down too. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping your indoor plants healthy and happy — aside from reading about their basic care — here are some common pitfalls we all face when it comes to caring for our plants.
#1: Watering Too Little
Most of us have a hard time remembering when to water our plants. Some house plants, especially hardier ones, can hang on for a long time, even when their watering needs aren’t being met. This does however stress them out, will stunt growth, and can eventually do them in. Pick a day of the week that’s “watering day” and make it a habit to go around the house with a watering can. Always check the soil and, according to each plant’s needs specific water preferences, water the ones that need it.
#2: Watering Too Much
There is such a thing as giving your plants a little too much attention, especially when it comes to water. Become familiar with each plant’s unique requirements and only water when needed. Some plants, for instance, shouldn’t be watered until soil is totally dry to the touch (or even until the first two-four inches of soil are dry). Others, like ferns, want to be evenly moist, all the time. A watering meter can help you judge the condition of the soil.
Root rot is related to over-watering. This occurs when the plant is watered too much, doesn’t drain properly, and they wind up sitting in water, damaging the roots. Make sure your plants’ pots have a hole in the bottom, or add a drainage layer to the bottom of your pot before adding your soil.
#3: Forgetting to Fertilize
Many houseplants survive on the nutrients already present in their soil. But why have surviving houseplants, when you can have thriving ones? In general, you should fertilize during the plant’s growing season (usually spring and summer) and taper off, or cease altogether, during the dormant winter months. Once again, check your plant’s specific needs, including how often to fertilize and what kind of fertilizer to use. It’s possible to over-feed your plant or “burn” it with the wrong type of fertilizer.
#4: Neglecting Your Plants’ Hygiene
No plant is truly an “indoor” plant, although many do just fine indoors. As plant owners, though, we can’t forget to give them what they naturally get when they are outdoors — getting their leaves “cleaned” by wind and rain. Dusting our plant’s leaves help them better soak up sunlight and prevents pest infestations. Clean out dead foliage in order to not only keep your plants looking their best, but, again, to discourage pests.
#5: Poor Plant Placement
Personal preference and design dreams shouldn’t dictate where you place your plants (as tempting as that might be). If you want your existing plants to thrive, their needs must come first. Put them in the wrong location, and they can either become scraggly and pale without enough light, or suffer from scorched leaves if they get too much. Some suffer when by a drafty cold window. If you have an empty spot at home, begging for a plant, find the right one for that particular place. Or, if a particular plant variety strikes your fancy, make sure you choose the right spot when you bring it home.