Lessons I learned the hard way

Every plantparent, whether a newbie or more experienced, makes mistakes regarding the care of their beloved plants. We are humans after all, and mistakes are part of humankind. Although often made with the best intentions, mistakes regarding plant care can mean the end of your plants. So, in order to spare you from making the same mistakes I made, here is a list of lessons I learned the hard way (ie. by accidentally killing my plants).

1. Repotting to a container too large 

I already briefly mentioned it in last weeks blog (Plant Portrait: Pilea Peperomioides), but repotting is about more than just putting your plants in a bigger pot. Make sure you research your plants needs before repotting. As I mentioned last week, some plants like a snug fit, and when repotting you should take that into account. A pilea for example, should be potted up in only a slightly bigger container. Most other plants, however, do like some room for their roots to spread out, so a bigger pot is often necessary. Just don’t go too big, or you risk overwatering your plants. With any pot, the top layer of soil dries quicker than the bottom layer. If you, like me, stick your finger in the soil to check for dry-ness, you may have noticed that with big pots you can only reach the top layer. As that dries quicker, you tend to think you need to water your plant again when in fact the bottom layer is still wet. This will lead to overwatering, so take that into account when potting up your plant. 

2. Misinterpreting the signs

The second plant I bought when I moved into my own place for the first time was a dracaena marginata, a lovely tree-like plant with spikey leaves. I really loved that plant, and I was hell-bound on taking good care of it. So when he dropped a couple of leaves in a short time, I figured it was because he didn’t get enough water and upped his water intake. Needless to say, I slowly drowned the poor thing. Before I realized his new watering regime wasn’t doing him any good he had gotten root rot and I could no longer save him. What went wrong? I decided to do some research about what a dracaena needs (only after he was too far gone), and found out dracaenas like their soil to dry up completely before getting a new splash of water. So in summer, watering approximately once every two weeks would have been enough. I already watered him once a week, and when I tried to make him feel better even twice a week, which clearly was way too much. My advice? When a plant isn’t doing too well, don’t act immediately. Do your research to figure out what the plant needs. Are you giving him that? If not, adjust your care. If yes, maybe your plant is suffering from pests, or it is simply part of the seasonal process. Some plants just drop their leaves to make space for new ones, so dropping leaves definitely is not always a reason to worry!

3. Ignoring signs of pests

By now you may have noticed that these mistakes were from when I was very new to the world of plants, so I do hope you can forgive my blatant ignorance for making these mistakes..Another way in which I killed a plant of mine was by not reacting to pests. I had a lovely hedera helix (named Felix), that never seemed to be really happy in my home. At this point I did do some research regarding his needs, and found out hedera’s aren’t really indoor plants, so I figured it was just logical he wasn’t thriving. I also noticed some small webbing all over Felix, but didn’t think much of it and let it be. After Felix had passed for a while, I learned a bit here and there about different kinds of pests, and suddenly realized poor Felix had been suffering from spider mites. Spider mites are very tiny mites that are not visible for the naked eye, but they do leave small webs. Spider mites suck the saps out of the leaves, causing the plant to no longer take in any nutrition. Basically, poor Felix starved to death.

What you can do to prevent similar things happening to your plants is to take a close look at your plants once in a while. I like to do this while watering, because I have to move some pots around anyway to reach them properly. Especially take a look under leaves and on the stems where the leaves protrude, because these are the nooks that different kinds of bugs like to live in. If you see anything out of the ordinary, go online and do some research on what it can be and how to get rid of it. I will also write a blog in the near future about different kinds of pests and how to deal with them, so keep an eye out for that!

I hope this has helped you a bit in taking care of your plants. If you have any experiences of your own you want to share please let me know, same goes if you have any questions!

Happy planting!

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