I killed my indoor plants with kindness

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Indoor plants __ The Hot Mess Press

Indoor plants have never done well in my home. Sadly, most of them don’t survive at all. After a recent visit to a friend’s house, my jealousy made me Google for tips on keeping indoor plants healthy. My problem is that they arrive at my home in perfect health, and within a couple of weeks, they begin drooping. What I learned was that kindness killed my indoor plants.

It took a bit of detective work to figure out that I was not the only guilty party. I learned that my husband secretly watered the plants for years because he thought I neglected them. In the meantime, I also watered them whenever I saw them declining. What we both failed to realize is that the poor plants were drowned by our efforts keep them healthy 🙁

Indoor plants Chinese Evergreen
Chinese_Evergreen (Aglaonema)

Why have indoor plants?

While well-placed plants bring greenery into your room, caring for them can bring mental enrichment and emotional fulfillment. Scientists say caring for plants in your home environment can significantly boost your sense of purpose. I read all that long ago, hence my efforts to bring plants into my home. Sadly, I had to take them out again within a few months.

However, I learned a lot while googling about all my doomed efforts to bring greenery into my room. According to a horticulture specialist at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Paul Blackmore, plants live and have specific needs. Whether you are a new plant parent or a seasoned plant grandparent, caring always involves a learning curve regarding plant know-how. He says it all starts with learning how to care for it. Here are some tips Paul Blackmore shared:

Philodendron plant
Philodendron (gloriosum)

Choose your indoor plants wisely

The first lesson applies 100% to me. Randomly choosing a plant because it looks good could leave you disappointed if you cannot maintain the care level it requires (or if you are ignorant like me). Blackmore reminds people that plants, being living things, can only flourish if their vital biological requirements are met.

He suggests a few sensible choices for people without enough time to maintain their plants’ ideal conditions.

For example, peace lilies, Chinese Evergreen, philodendrons and the cast-iron plant  are all low-maintenance plants that are forgiving, and they could last for years. As long as you do not put them in direct sunlight, feed them frequently and keep them moist (note for myself: moist, NOT wet)

Cast Iron Plant
Cast Iron plant  (Aspidistra elatior)

Understand placement and sunlight

Any green plant makes sugars to grow. They do this through the essential process of photosynthesis, for which they need light. However, the light requirements for plants vary by type, with most plants needing more light than they would get indoors. Blackmore says some plants have evolved to need less bright sunlight, and even live happily in shady areas.

Beware not to provide too much bright sunlight, which can harm your plants. Most thrive in areas where they get morning sun, but spend the hottest, brightest hours in shade.

Indoor Plants Orchids
Orchids   (Orchidaceae)

Learn THE RIGHT WAY to water your indoor plants

I found this bit fascinating, showing all my errors that ultimately kill every indoor plant I ever had.

According to Blackmore, each type of plant has unique needs concerning how much water they need. However, you must consider various aspects of how, where and when of watering your indoor plant. Plants like the Crown of Thorns, Dwarf Umbrella Tree, Aloes and Dracaena don’t need so much water.

Furthermore, you must consider your local conditions like humidity, temperature and light levels.

Consider the season or time of year. Plants grow more actively in summer. Therefore, they tend to have a greater need for water. In contrast, the reduced light levels in winter typically make plants slowdown their growth, and therefore, less thirsty.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all with indoor plants. You must learn more about the growth schedules of your various indoor plants. Many plants need a dry season. For instance, orchids become semi-dormant through the winter months.

Aloe plant
Aloe  (Asphodelaceae family)

Here’s the when and how

Blackmore recommends watering your plants only when they need water. (Not like some husbands and wives who both took care of watering the plants almost every day) He suggests touching the soil and only water it if the ground feels dry. Another suggestion involves lifting the pot and, if it feels heavy, hold back the water. However, I suppose one would get better with this method in time — after all, what is heavy and what is light when it comes to potted plants?

Blackmore says an actively growing plant could want water every two or three days.

When it comes to the how, pots with drainage holes are best, but not if you let the pot sit in a tray of water. That will cause root suffocation. Blackmore’s advice is to place the pot in a basin or sink and pour water to its rim. Let it sit there and let the water run through and drain before taking it back to its position.

Indoor plants Dwarf Umbrella
Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)

The do’s and don’ts of providing nutrition

This is where it becomes more challenging. Let me tell you in layman’s language. Nutrition for plants consists of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

N – Nitrogen boosts the plant’s ability to build strong and healthy stems, leaves and other parts.

P – Phosphorus is essential for DNA production necessary for cell division and manufacturing proteins, enzymes and the plant’s energy cycle.

K – Potassium is an essential ingredient for your plant’s health, flowering and fruiting.

I know this might be information overload, but here is a bit more. The ideal blend of plant nutrition is the N-P-K ratio equaling 15-9-12. Furthermore, Blackmore says never to add fertilizer to dry soil. Feed the plant a day after watering it, or else risk killing the roots by overdose. (At least I’m not guilty of that.)

Now that you know the details let’s focus on the basics. When you go shopping for indoor plant fertilizer, choose one of the many slow-release products designed for pot plants. Note that they cost a bit more than the rest but without the need for mixing and using watering cans. They release their magic over weeks or months, reducing the overdose risk. One other thing to note is that the slow-release fertilizers work only in moist soil. (Note: moist, NOT wet)

Crown of thorns
Crown of Thorns  (Euphorbia milii)

How to deal with pests on your indoor plants

I suggest you discuss such problems with the smart people at a garden center in your area. The list of possible pests is endless, and you might never even have such a situation.

If you are a plant killer like me, don’t tell anyone. Just follow the tips straight from the mouth of an expert. Most importantly, make the watering and feeding the tasks of one person!!!

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