Few of us are instinctive seamstresses or handymen, and none of us would even think about trying to sew a dress or put a wardrobe together without an instruction manual or pattern to follow. Why, then, do so many of us blithely buy plants assuming that as long as we water them regularly they will thrive under our ministrations? The following list highlights the most common reasons for house plants to die off – read through and see if any of these ring a bell!
Overwatering is far and away the most common reason for house plants to die off. Even if the soil at the top of the pot is dry, there may be a layer of water under the surface, around the roots. If this water cannot drain away or evaporate it will slowly ‘suffocate’ the plant, starting with the fine hair-like roots that do most of the actual nutrient and water gathering, but moving onto the sturdier bigger roots. Ensure your pot has good drainage holes and use a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to allow excess water to run through. Read up on your particular plant to find out exactly how much water it should be given – you will probably find that it needs much less than it has been given!
Some people know that plants can become pot bound. This means that the roots have spread as far as possible within the pot and growth and health are affected as the roots spiral around, twisting in on themselves in search of fresh soil. While regularly changing the plant to a bigger pot is an excellent idea this is not enough. If you simply take your plant – often with the roots forming the exact shape and dimensions of the old pot – and pop it into a bigger pot, the outer roots will be able to grow outward. However, the inner roots, complete with the old ‘used’ soil remain in an almost solid block. This mass, known as the root ball, remains tightly wound and, as the plant tries to grow and expand, simply becomes even more constricted and hardened.
When repotting your plant, gently loosen and remove as much of the old soil as you can from in between the main roots. Then, carefully prune off any surplus roots, aiming to remove broken or damaged roots, those that are determinedly bound for the centre of the root ball, and any that are excessively twisted. While this may be a shock to the plant, it will serve the plant well in the future, freeing up all the roots to do their job of helping the plant to grow strong and beautiful.
Take great care of the roots of the plant, rather than worrying about the parts of the plant that you can see. In short, love the roots of your plant – they make the shiny leaves and pretty flowers!
Using the right soil is a must. There are different types of soil, from loam, clay and sand which refer to the amount of water that can be held in the soil, to compost, top soil and peat which refers to where the soil is found and how useful it can be for plants. There is also an alternative to soil in the form of a clay balls planting system. Different plants require different types of soil, so always try to find out which your plant needs before you go ahead and get gardening! If your local soil is nutritionally poor you will need to make use of a good proprietary plant food or compost to ensure your plant thrives.
Plants need light to live. The whole process of photosynthesis relies on the plant having plentiful access to good quality light. Trying to grow plants in an area that does not receive very much sunshine is difficult, if not impossible, without the aid of special plant lamps – essentially sun lamps for plants! There are a few types of plants that will grow fairly well without a lot of access to the sun, so perhaps opt for those if your home is quite gloomy or sheltered. To boost your plants and give them a treat every now and then, even if you do have a UV plant lamp, pop them out on the window sill or door step whenever the sun is shining so they can soak up some rays.
Choose ‘easy’ plants!
If you are not confident in your gardening skills or your ‘black thumb’ has already seen off more plants than you care to remember, do not be afraid to take the easy option and choose plants that grow well in less-than optimal conditions and thrive with either a little bit of neglect or too much attention! The confidence you gain from seeing these hardy plants thriving under your care will allow you to try your hand at trickier plants later on, and you will see those thumbs of yours turning green instead! Some easy-going and tough plants that look good in any home include graceful spider plants, attractive English ivy and Peperomia. Please note, the latter is not good if you have pets as it is poisonous to cats and dogs. Dieffenbachia is another beautiful and hardy plant that is perfect for inexperienced beginners as is the somewhat sinisterly named but lovely Snake Plant.
A little bit of planning and research will stand you, and your newly acquired plants in good stead as you understand what it is that your plant needs to grow well. Soon you will have flourishing plants all over your home and you will be the ones your friends turn to when their latest plant starts wilting and drooping sadly!
Author C McDonald. I am a keen gardener who is fed up with seeing the plants inside my house wither and die. It was time to learn how to take care of them effectively. Being a keen blogger it felt right to write about some tips and tricks and share these.