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If your plants aren't happy, it may be due to one of these reasons. Check out these common mistakes gardeners make when raising plant babies.
We know the feeling. You see a picture of a plant, fall in love, buy it, and get it delivered. Then you place it, and for some reason, it's not doing so well after a couple of weeks in its new home! Ugh! That's no fun and makes you feel out of sorts with the plant. You begin mumbling to yourself, "What kind of plant parent am I? Can't even take care of a little plant!?"
Ok, let's go through the process of elimination and help you access what your problem might be. Once you know, you can restart the engine as a new and improved plant parenting aficionado. Here we go...
1. Not Accessing Your Lighting Conditions
Lighting plays a big part in the plant's success rate! Bright indirect light to medium light is a must-have for most plants. Dark corners aren't going to give your plants what they need to photosynthesize for food and growth. If you're not familiar with the direction your windows are facing, get a compass app out on your phone and stand in front of each window. The lighting will change through the seasons as the amount of light that enters the rooms will increase after the winter solstice and decrease after the summer solstice as the angle of the direct sunlight changes. The sun moves north in the spring and south in the fall. The sun is lower in the sky in the winter, which gives more light inside your home. Thus, you may have to do a window shift change to get the best exposure during each season. If you have a plant that requires the brightest light and is not available, you may turn to artificial illumination in the winter to maintain its vigor.
A gadget you can get (and we highly recommend) is our 3 in 1 plant meter. It has a gauge on it to measure the footcandles. You can use this at different times of the day and season to determine whether you need to add artificial light or move your plants to a brighter window.
2. Not Accessing the Maintenance Level for your Plant
Some people are more on the go than others and want a plant to perform on its own. We say, buy a faux plant then. The live ones need some love. But seriously, there are some lower-maintenance plants that you can nurture for the world-traveler-at-heart. But be realistic with yourself. Are you a "go, see, doer" or a "home-body." Are you going to be around to talk to it, water it, fertilize it and pay attention to it or only give it a second glance?
We recommend studying the plant's needs first and evaluating how much time you will devote to its nurturing before buying one. It's like buying a puppy. You will have to commit to its nurturing and giving it some attention!
3. Over attention (overwatering)
Hands up. Who has killed a plant from over loving it? Yes, there are a guilty few of us out there. And that's where the handy-dandy 3 in 1 plant meter is helpful. Switch the toggle to moisture, stick the probes into the soil, and take the reading before you drown its poor little roots again. Some plants don't like that much soggy soil, so be aware of your plant's needs by reading the care cards we send with each plant.
Back off in the winter months when the plants are in dormancy from watering. Beginners tend to stick with the regular spring and summer routine without really checking the soil moisture needs, and it can backfire on you. Overwatering can create root rot and fungus gnats, neither of which you want to deal with, and often ends up a trashed plant.If you tend to be an over waterer, then pick out plants that love the same. But be sure to follow the instructions on proper drainage for your containers. Taking them to the sink and letting them fully drain before replacing them in cachet pots with no drainage is a must-do.
4. Ignoring Your Plant (Underwatering)
We get it. You have places to go and things to do. But you want to bring the garden inside and enjoy them while you're at home. If you tend to underwater your plants, then stick with the succulent varieties that can take more neglect and still survive. That doesn't mean to ignore them entirely, but they are more forgiving than a new Peacock plant would be!
If you want to keep a lush garden, we forgetful ones set the alarm on the phone to help remind us of the plant chores we've committed to, and that allows those green beauties to last longer.
5. The Humidity is Too Low
While we're slapping lotion on our skin in the winter, we tend to forget that plants like it too, and their leaves can dry even if they are well watered—most plants like the humidity levels between 45%-55%. Using a hygrometer can help monitor the humidity around your plants. If you have a fish tank, they will love the moisture created by it. If not, consider buying a good-sized humidifier for its birthday and add a pebble tray underneath the container to keep the humidity in the air favorable for its optimum conditions.
6. Forgetting to Fertilize
Plants need a diet of fertilizer too, just like we take vitamins and eat nourishing food, they are dependent on us feeding them. Using an excellent all-purpose fertilizer can get you started. Get our Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro liquid plant food that is a 9-3-6 mix and apply according to the directions on your plant card. If you want to get more specialized for some of your plants, other fertilizers are made, especially flowering plants like African violets, succulents, or Fiddle Leaf Figs.
Again, on this plant chore, set your digital reminder on your phone to remind you. Before long, your plants will be sprouting new leaves, and the color in their cheeks (leaves) will brighten!
7. Repotting with the Wrong Soil or Too Soon
Plants are native to different parts of the world with varying soil conditions—some like the desert soil and others like moist, humus soil rich in organic matter. Since our indoor plants don't have the outdoors to thrive in, we need to make their home as close to their natural environment as possible. That's why the various soil mixtures are essential. For instance, succulents and cacti, palms, orchids, and African violets all have their mixes specified to their environmental needs as found in their natural habitat. If you're a newbie plant owner, you may not know this yet. Using a regular potting mix like our Sungro Black Gold is suitable for most plants but check out your plant likes before repotting.
Another mistake newbie plant parents make is repotting too soon after buying the plant. Let it rest awhile and get acclimated to its new environment before you move around its roots. The added stress may cause it to lose leaves in protest.
8. Not Providing Drainage
Many of our customers have written in wondering why their plants are failing. After a few questions, we discover that they haven't been following our watering directions. Every plant needs drainage, so don't forget to lift the grower pot out of the cachet pot (with no drainage) when watering. Their plant's poor little roots are drowning in the pool of water that's accumulated. We recommend following the plant care card for watering and be sure to let it drain in the sink before replacing it into the cachet pot.
9. Being on Guard for Plants Under Stress (Pests)
Stress causes a plant to weaken, and some pests seem to zero in on that stress and come-a-runnin' to "clean up the mess" as nature would have it. That's why it's a good idea to have a weekly routine to check out your plants, checking that your plant's conditions are all stable. At that time, you can look under its leaves and soil for any unwanted visitors. If you do run into a critter or two, it's best to have some Neem oil on hand. It's a natural plant-based substance that's an excellent all-around pest control that is also a fungicide.
10. Your Planting Pot is Too Big or Too Small
Sometimes new plant owners think they're supposed to repot the plant in a bigger pot when it arrives to give it plenty of wiggle room for its toes (roots) to grow. Not the case. It is better for the plant first to let it acclimate to its new environment. And believe it or not, some plants like to be a little root bound, so check out our repotting information regarding your plant. For instance, the ZZ plant may look crowded in its pot since its rhizome is a swollen stem, but it won't need transplanting until you start seeing roots growing out of the drainage holes.
When it is time to replant in a bigger pot, don't go larger than 2 inches wider. If you think you're doing yourself a favor and giving it lots of room to grow, it can harm it. If you plant in a bigger pot than it needs, it takes longer for the soil to dry and can lead to root rot because the roots stay moist for too long. For more information about repotting your plant baby, check out our blog on repotting indoor plants.
Now you're better equipped to raise that plant like you, a long-time expert. We applaud your efforts! Just remember, we have all had the pains of losing a plant for one of the reasons above. Just dust your gloves off and try, try again!
Sending plant love from one gardener to another!
Written by: Debbie Neese