You are NOT a plant killer!

December 6, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

I’m going to give you all a pep talk about houseplants!

First of all, nobody is born a “plant killer” or has a “black thumb.” Like children, plants have different needs from each other and each one’s needs need to be taken into consideration. However, unlike children, plants rarely need extensive and costly psychotherapy to survive into adulthood.

1. When you see a plant in a store, it has been born and raised in a greenhouse under optimum conditions. The plant grower’s main goal is to make the plant look pretty on the store shelves so that you will buy it. The grower’s responsibility stops the second the plant is sold to a store, so what happens to the plant beyond that is not his concern. This is why many plants you find for sale are not meant to grow in a regular house without extra grow lights and constant misting etc. (I’m looking at you primroses that the Star Market has every spring!). If you see a pretty flower in the grocery store, there is a 97% chance it will die in your house.

2. When you bring a plant home, it will most likely be in some sort of state of shock. It has just gone from a greenhouse where it got the exact amount of light, heat, and humidity it needs to your house (with probably a short stint in a store where it was in shock already), which most likely doesn’t have the same conditions. ALSO, there’s a good chance that the pot it has been living in is too small (I know some plant freaks who immediately re-pot all plants when they bring them home). This already has your plant at a disadvantage.

3. Remember that plants need 4 things: light, water, soil, humidity/non humidity. The plant should have some kind of tag saying what its light/water requirements are, but a lot of times there is no such thing, so you may have to look up its needs online or in a book. If the plant doesn’t even come with an identifying marker, there are lots of apps, books, and websites out there that can help you identify plants.

3a. LIGHT: High-light plants (i.e., cacti) like a south facing window. It is important to know which direction your windows face. Are there trees or overhangs outside the window that block the light? Do you close curtains during the day, blocking light? If so, then high-light plants are probably not for you. Remember, the farther you get from a window, the weaker the sun is, so even 2 feet back from a window will change the light coming in from “full sun” to “medium/partial sun”

3b. WATER: most plants do not need a lot of water. Overwatering is a more common plant killer than underwatering. A good rule of thumb for plants is to water them once a week, but depending on a plant’s needs, and how much sun it gets, it may need more or less. Most plants are happier in a pot with holes in the bottom to provide drainage. If water is left to collect in the bottom of a pot, it may get root rot, and all plants hate that.

3c. SOIL: congratulations, most plants come with this already! However, soil needs can vary with the the water needs of a plant. Cacti. and plants that don’t like a lot of water prefer a sandy soil that drains well. African violets are prissy and like their own special soil. Most plants will do just fine in basic potting soil you can find in the store, but double check to make sure you don’t have one that likes drier/moister soil.

3d. HUMIDITY: Some plants like high humidity. If this is the case, they will want to be misted, or live in a pebble tray (fill a tray or dish with pebbles, put water in it, put the pot on top of the tray–the evaporating water will provide extra humidity). Some plants (e.g., cacti) hate humidity, and an environment that is too humid will make then turn mushy. Bathrooms are also good places for plants that like high humidity, but make sure they are getting enough light.

4. Other things that can kill plants are bugs (there are numerous bugs that love to feast on plants, and chances are they came home from the greenhouse with them already). Getting rid of bugs is a whole other chapter, and there is a ton of information out there about it. You don’t need chemicals or other harmful things to get rid of bugs in most cases–don’t let this deter you. Another thing that can hurt plants is people/pets smacking into them. Try not to put plants in high-traffic areas where they are likely to get bumped into.

5. If this sounds scary, don’t worry– there are tons of houseplants out there that don’t require special anything. You too can be a plant person, you just need the right plants!

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