Most of us are guilty of buying appealing plants on impulse without a clue of how to take care of them. Then, when our new purchase promptly bites the dust, we get upset. Usually, the plant is not to blame, it is the lack of understanding the needs each plant needs. To battle that, we made a list of the 6 most common reasons your houseplants are not thriving!
We often ignore one of the most crucial aspects of getting greenery to grow well indoors: Light! When gardening indoors, the amount of light and type of light is more crucial than outside in a garden. In fact, it is worth spending time to figure out the lighting needs for your plant. There are 4 types of light indoor plants require; including Full Sun, High Light, Medium light, and Low Light.
If the plant label says, “full sun”, “sun-loving” or “direct sun”, it requires the most amount of light. You can get full sun by either keeping the plant in a south-facing window with no obstructions or with a 40 watt Aspect kept within 10″ – 18″ of the plant canopy. More Aspects may be required depending on the size of the plant. Bear in mind that most houseplants are not full sun plants and sun beaming thought the window or any growlight placed too close will fry your plants! Notable full sun plants include: outdoor bonsai trees, coreopsis, daylily, some cacti, chick and hens, hibiscus, and lavender.
High Light Plants
When the plant label says, “partial shade”, “partial sun” or “bright indirect light”, the plant requires lots of light! Traditionally, you can get high light from filtered south facing windows or east/west facing windows. A 40 Watt Aspect kept within 20” – 28” of the plant canopy is a good substitute for those who can’t achieve this amount of light. Many houseplants adapt or enjoy this amount of light. Notable high light plants include: aloe, aralia, azalea, banana, some cacti, dwarf citrus trees, ficus, olive, dwarf pineapple, pomegranate, succulents, and Venus fly traps.
When the plant label says, “dappled sun”, or “medium light”, the plant does not enjoy much light. Traditionally, you can get medium light with north facing windows. A 40 Watt Aspect kept within 30”-36” or a 20 Watt Aspect kept within 20”-28” of the plant canopy is a good substitute for those who can’t achieve this amount of light. Some house plants do fine in this environment. Notable medium light plants include: african violet, aluminum plant, arrowhead vine, bamboo, begonias, bird-of-paradise, coffee plant, corn plant, dracaena, herbs, orchids, peace lily, peperomia, pleomele, spider plant, and wandering jew.
Low Light Plants
The plant requires mostly filtered, indirect sunlight if the plant label says, “low light” or “full shade”. Traditionally, these plants are near a north facing window with filtered light. A 40 Watt Aspect kept within 40”- 48” or a 20 Watt Aspect kept within 30”-36” of the plant canopy is a good substitute for those who can’t achieve this amount of light. Only a few plants can tolerate this kind of lighting. Strong low light plants include: aglaonemas, asparagus, ferns, cast iron plant, chinese evergreen, dieffenbachia, snake plant, staghorn fern, ivy, pothos, philodendron, and ZZ plant.
Worried about when to water your houseplants? You are not alone! Over-watering might be the number one cause of death and gauging the right time to give indoor plants water can be complicated. Excess water will cause the roots to rot and die. For most plants, when deciding when you should water, feel the soil by pushing your finger about 1 inch below the dirt’s surface. If the soil is still moist, do not water the plant. Overwatering can lead to root rot, mildew, and disease. Water meters are available at most greenhouses to simplify watering
The Wrong Soil
Choosing the correct soil is important for overall plant health. Never use garden soil for container gardening, this soil is not able to sustain house plants and typically will contain bugs. Make sure to grab a bag soil that fits your needs; there are now special formulas for many kinds of plants! African violets, cactus and orchids all require special formulas of soil, while other plants are typically okay with potting soil. Potting soil varies enormously, but they typically contain peat moss, compost, sand and vermiculite, along with fertilizer that fits the type of plant you are growing. You will also see “sterilized” potting soil, which has been heating to over 180 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria, insects and weed seeds.
Remember, most potted plants require good drainage.
Many people don’t realize plants need fertilizer, it is essentially plant food that helps them thrive and grow. Eventually, the nutrients available in the soil will be gone, when this happens your plant will begin to struggle.
Don’t worry, you can pick up and apply fertilizer fairly easy. When shopping for fertilizer, you will see three sets of numbers such as 15-30-15 or 20-20-20. These three symbols are always listed in that order on product labels and represent three basic nutrients:
Nitrogen (N): Promotes growth of green leaves and stems.
Phosphorus (P): Promotes roots, flowers and fruit growth.
Potassium (K): Assist flowering and fruiting and promotes strong stems. Helps some plants resist disease.
A bottle of plant fertilizer that says 15-30-15 contains 15% nitrogen, 30% phosphorus, and 15% potassium. Determining which one you need varies on the type of plant you are growing. We recommend asking the garden center if you are unsure. A good all-round formula is balanced, such as 20-20-20, these work well with most houseplants.
Heat & Humidity
Indoor environments are typically much different than the native tropical environment that most plants originate from. Take the time to check what temperature your plant prefers; this information is usually marked on their labels. Most plants are okay in the 60-80 degree Fahrenheit range and can adjust to a 5 or 10 degree difference at night. What is important is to minimize temperature fluctuations caused by drafts. Your plant may experience drafts or the temperature in your home fluctuates more than 20 degrees over a 24 hour period, in which case your plant probably won’t last long.
Humidity is crucial for houseplants! Many plant lovers forget that their plants probably came from a humid area and require a higher amount of humidity typically found in the home. A lack of humidity in your home, especially in the dry winter times, calls for the recommendation of a humidifier.
Like all plants, indoor plants will occasionally come under attack from pests. If you notice a plant suddenly begins to look ill, take a close look. Chances are, it is infected with unwanted pests. If not quickly treated, infestations can be very severe, spread quickly and kill your plants.
To keep infestations to a minimum, keep plants indoors, keep plants watered correctly, don’t let the soil get too wet, be meticulous about plant housekeeping, and maintain high humidity.
Some of the most commonly encountered arthropod pests found on plants are those that feed on plant juices. These pests include aphids, scales, mites, leafhoppers and plant bugs. Some of these pests can even act as vectors of plant diseases. To remove the infestation, purchase oils or insecticidal soup. Soltech Solutions recommends a diluted organic Neem Oil, which can be purchased in the garden section of most stores. You can also treat the plants by wiping leaves and stems with insecticidal soap.
Fungus gnats are the worst. These little flies can become an annoyance quickly. They start as larvae inside moist soil, then suddenly start to appear everywhere. To avoid them, use sterile soil. A few products exist to help you get rid of them if you have them. Our team has always had the best luck by using yellow sticky paper sheets to kill the flying gnats. To prevent the eggs from hatching, leave the soil dry out more than normal between watering and add neem oil to the water.
For more information on plant care and techniques feel free to reach out to us about our consulting services.