NELA Living Blog by Emilie Broughton

Stop Killing your House Plants

Houseplants have become a popular interior decorating accessory. But you can destroy your investment through improper care. Here are 8 bad habits to avoid in caring for your houseplants.
1. Being impatient When you bring a new plant home it can go into shock while it
adjusts to its new environment. This can cause leaves to fall and growth to slow.
Don’t add to the stress by excessive watering, fertilizing, or continuing to move it
around. Let it settle in.
2. Avoid that rock layer at the bottom of a pot. A layer of rocks in the bottom of
pots does not improve drainage. In fact, they can cause root rot.
3. Too much water If you notice a declining plant, don’t just add water. First, check
the soil with your fingers, or lift the pot to see if it is heavy with water. If it is still
wet, do not water it! Check for light levels, temperature extremes, pests, or diseases.
4. Watering just a little bit at a time If a plant is getting crisp and shriveling, you
may be under-watering. Get rid of the crisp leaves and give a thorough watering
by sitting in a sink or tub with 2-4 inches of water for about an hour. If the pot
feels heavier after this time. Remove and let it drain. Some plants do not get
enough water to the roots with just top watering. Consider repeating this soak
every 2-4 weeks.
5. Trimming orchids all the way back to a couple of nodes. This will give you new
blooms faster, but they will be small. If you trim back to the first node on the
spike, you will get larger blooms, but it will take longer. In any case, leaving the
plant as it is after flowering won’t result in a robust orchid.
6. Keeping it trim Leaving your plant in the same pot for a long time can harm and
eventually kill it. The plant can become root-bound as its root system outgrows
the pot. An indication that you need to repot is when you see roots growing out
of the drainage holes or above the soil line.
7. Incorrect light level All plants do not need to be in the sun, on a windowsill or on
the patio. Check for the correct light levels on the tag or on the Internet. If a
plant isn’t doing well in the full sun, find a new spot.
8. Using the wrong liquid Tap water often has fluoride, chlorine, and salt, which can
damage some fragile indoor plants. Many plants will be fine with tap water, but
if they are in distress and there are no pests or diseases, consider bottled water.
And any other liquid is a bad idea. Don’t dump the last bit of coffee or seltzer
into your plants. It might not kill the plant when done once, but done
consistently it can have a bad result.

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