In recent years, the indoor plant revolution has swept over the nation. It was accelerated hugely over lockdown. Stuck indoors, we took to ways of adding sprigs of greenery to otherwise bare rooms; adding pockets of life and beauty to the small spaces we inhabited every day.
Now, many proclaim to be experts at indoor plant care. Yet, despite this, hundreds complain that despite their most tender efforts - their houseplants simply aren’t thriving. In fact, many plants are dying in their hanging baskets, shrivelling in their pots.
Stuck for an answer? Look no further. Here are 9 common houseplant mistakes you can avoid to ensure that your indoor plant care regime is faultless, and your beloved botanicals stay healthy and alive. We also consider repotting mistakes and what you can do to avoid them!
There is a common misconception that all plants require frequent watering. Some species like Lily of the Valley are more high maintenance and will wilt within a day or two without moisture. However, many indoor plants only require watering once a week, and some require even less than this. Indoor palms, for example, can often go for long spells without water, and some even prefer this!
Feeling the soil in your plant pots every three days is a good rule of thumb to ensure you’re not overwatering. If the soil is bone dry, it’s time to grab your watering can. If the soil is already moist, then adding more water could result in rotting the plants’ roots, especially in winter when the temperature drops.
Alternatively, if your plant is from a humid environment, instead of excessively watering it you should try some leaf-misting or self-watering tools, using a mister bottle or a self-watering spike.
2. Issues with soil
Many of us hugely underestimate the importance of soil in the process of indoor plant care. Some soils completely lack the nutrients, texture and composition to sufficiently house our beloved indoor plants.
Our first suggestion is that you do research specific to your plant to ascertain the best soil conditions. Don’t fall victim to repotting mistakes such as potting your plant in unsuitable soil or putting too little soil in the pot!
Additionally, you should invest in some organic plant food and add 1 drop per week to enrich your plant soil.
3. Issues with light
Too much or too little light can be the kiss of death for indoor plants. Placing your indoor plants in direct sunlight, especially on scorching summer days, can have a very negative effect on more sensitive species and their leaves. Additionally, failing to give plants enough light exposure results in a lack of photosynthesis and can lead to disease and death.
As is a theme in this blog, the more research you can do on each specific species of plant, the better your chances at tailoring conditions to ensure optimum indoor plant care. Find out what each plant needs, and if this requires a bit of bi-yearly pot moving, then welcome the opportunity to create new plant displays in rooms that benefit from a change of scenery.
Plants are living creatures and they (like us) need space and growth to thrive. Placing too many plants in the same trays, or putting countless different species in the same plant stand can have a suffocating effect.
Repotting mistakes often include squeezing too many plants into the same pot in an attempt to create a “full” display.
Give your plants a chance to breathe, and resist the urge to get so “hygge” that you cram your mantelpiece with greenery and drown all the inhabitants.
5. Buying without labels
Increasingly we are learning that “labelling” human beings is detrimental to well-being and self-acceptance. The same is not true for houseplants. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to trot down to a plant stand and buy a plant that is pretty but has no label, name or care instructions.
One size does not fit all when it comes to indoor plant care. Understanding exactly what plant you are purchasing and being able to tailor its maintenance routine accordingly is key. Know the plant, ask the seller about its background, diseases it might be prone to, any tips they have, find out as much as you can to give your purchase the best chance of survival.
6. Failing to upgrade pots
Use the correct plant pot. Too small a pot will result in root overcrowding and too large a pot will cause moisture pooling which may rot the roots.
If your plant seems to have outgrown its current dwelling, you will need to purchase a new container that is 1 or 2 inches wider than the previous one.
Use the opportunity to freshen up the soil, adding some extra nutrients to the plants’ new home.
7. Applying the ‘Green Thumb’ myth
The green thumb myth essentially says that some people are born with a natural gift when it comes to botany and plant care or a “green thumb,” whilst others are unblessed and will kill anything green they touch.
The truth is, most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes, especially when we start out on our indoor plant care journey.
The trick is not to let a few sickly or dying plants put you off completely. Equally, don’t assume you’re God and your plants are infallible. Sometimes plants die through no fault of our own, and sometimes we just need to learn lessons through trial and error.
Keep reading, researching, learning and most importantly: trying. After a while, we can all get our thumbs a little greener.
8. Not checking the roots
Most of us get so absorbed with the way our plant's leaves, stems and flowers appear, we neglect the roots - or forget they’re there at all.
Roots are the feeding veins of your plant, they help bring up many of the nutrients and moisture it needs to thrive, so it’s important to keep them healthy.
You might notice from time to time that the roots of your plant may try to escape from their pot. This is a sign that the plant is due to be repotted. This is a good time to check the roots to determine their health. They should appear white or creamy coloured once the dirt has been washed off. Unhealthy roots will be dark brown or black and appear mushy. They may also omit a noxious smell. To prevent root rot we suggest not using rocks or gravel at the bottom of pots. Instead select a pot that has drainage holes.
9. Failing to clean the leaves
Most people are surprised to learn that you should clean the leaves of your plants as part of your indoor plant care regime. There are a couple of reasons why this is important. Firstly, it leaves your plants looking shiny and beautiful! Something none of us can find an issue with.
Secondly, it also improves the health of your plants!
Indoor plants often struggle with sunlight deficiency, especially if they’re in dark rooms with little natural daylight. As dust accumulates on the plants’ foliage, the chloroplasts in its leaves are clogged up and the plant is unable to photosynthesise.
Plants are autotrophs, so they produce their own food. Without photosynthesis, they are unable to convert water, carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and sugars, which they use to fuel their essential processes. The result is sad, depressed plants, which can’t grow. So, next time you’re dusting - include your plant leaves in the sweep up regime!
Finally, for more practical and personal tips on well-being and indoor plant care, try Dr. Katie Cooper’s informative and restorative book: Plant Therapy.
We hope that’s helped!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these easy-to-avoid houseplant mistakes. Head into the new year with confidence and become the master of your indoor plant care regime!