The 5 Most Common Plant Care Mistakes
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Most people would love for their home interior to look like that picture perfect image on social media of a lush, green, tropical jungle of houseplants amongst trendy mid-century modern furniture pieces and aesthetically pleasing decor.
That picture perfect image is totally attainable, even for someone just getting started with their plant collection, but let's avoid these five common mistakes that new plant parents can sometimes make.
RECAP: The 5 Most Common Plant Care Mistakes
#1 - Improper plant placement. Although we may have an idea of where we would like to put our new plant when we come home from the nursery, your plant may have a better idea, according to where it comes from, each houseplant has a different environment that they thrive in based on where that plant originates from.
#2 - Over watering/ under watering. The best way to avoid this mistake is to get a little dirty. Reach into the soil a few inches down to tell how damp it is, the colour of the soil at first glance is not a good indication, nor is having a watering schedule as each plant has different watering needs.
#3 - Moving your plants around too much. A plant has to get acclimatized to its new environment when it comes home with you from the nursery, it may drop some leaves or look a little sad for awhile, and that is completely normal.
#4 - Not enough light. Even the most shade tolerant plants need at least some light. It is never a good idea to place even the most shade tolerant plant in a room that virtually gets no light as plants need light energy for photosynthesis.
#5 - Never repotting. Some plants like to be root bound, so repotting too soon or in too big a pot, or just never repotting your plant at all can cause some problems. Read on to find out exactly how to repot your plant, step by step.
1. Improper plant placement
When you first get a new plant from the nursery, or multiple plants, it can be exciting to figure out where you are going to place it in your home. The one thing we can forget is to look into what climate the species naturally grows in, this information can give us a fairly good idea of where the proper placement will be. An example is if you have a plant that originates in the tropics of South America, that plant will prefer bright, indirect light because those plants that grow on the forest floor receive filtered light. The plant will also prefer a more humid environment such as a bathroom or you can purchase a humidifier or mist the leaves often. Whereas plants that come from the desert, will prefer drier soil and plenty of light.
2. Over watering/ under watering
A little research in this area will do you well but as a general rule, the thinner the leaves, the more water the plant needs. An example is monstera with its thinner leaves prefers to have damp soil consistently whereas a Zz plant with its thicker leaves will need to be watered far less often.
As a rule, you're going to want to check the soil a few inches down on each of your plants every couple days to see how dry it is, and then if needed, water until the water drains out of the bottom of the pot (having a pot with drainage holes is always better than without). Don't water again until the soil is dry, and not just on the surface but at least two to three inches down.
Every plant is different, so a little research on the individual watering needs of each plant that you have is extremely beneficial to having healthy, thriving houseplants. Also to note, under watering is far better for your plants than overwatering. A wilted plant that is not beyond the wilting point will come back with a little water. On the other hand, if you have overwatered your plant, the roots will have not been able to get oxygen and you were essentially drowning your plant.
3. Moving your plants around too much
Each time you do this, it puts stress on your plant because they have to get acclimatized to the new environment they are in. They may drop leaves when you first take them home and that is normal as they will get used to their new environment. To reference the first plant care mistake on this list, finding a good area for their needs in your home is so important, and then keeping them there.
As for moving plants when you are moving homes, if it is in cold weather, the best method would be to place them in open cardboard boxes with newspaper in between the pots so they stand up straight and then cover them with a blanket and warm up your car first before quickly loading them in. Try to go straight to the new place because even a couple minutes of your plant exposed to subfreezing temperatures will damage them, and there may be some casualties.
In warm weather it is relatively easier, just be sure not to make any long stops on the way leaving your plants to cook in the car. Try to go from point A to point B as quickly as possible and have a plan for where you are placing your plants in your new home so that they can get accustomed to their new environment as quickly and painlessly as possible.
4. Not enough light
So this is pretty basic but every plant needs at least some light exposure, even if artificial. A plant needs light energy to convert to chemical energy to use later in order to fulfill the organisms activities. A simple formula is carbon dioxide + water + light energy = sugar + oxygen. That is the photosynthesis equation but it gets way more complicated. This isn't a plant science lesson so I will stop there.
In essence, your plants need light and water and CO2 to survive. Just be aware that even a snake plant or a Zz plant that is a low light level plant needs at least a little light exposure. It is easy to want to place your plant in an area that is gloomy or dark to brighten it up and make the space more beautiful, but it is not serving your plant well.
5. Never repotting
Repotting too soon or too late, when to repot, how to repot, ah!
In general, spring time is the best time to repot your plants as the roots are actively growing and they can overcome the shock better.
To check, just wiggle the plant gently out of the pot and if you can't do that without the soil all falling apart, it is NOT ready to be repotted. You'll know when you can pull the plant out and the root ball stays intact. The roots will be circling around and around and will be filling the whole space well, that is when you repot.
Repotting your plants, even for those plants who do enjoy being root bound such as aloe vera, is beneficial because the roots need more room to grow and therefore, your plant will get bigger and be able to level up, if you will.
Be aware as well to not repot in a pot too much bigger than the original pot, I would say go with a pot that is only up to two inches bigger in size. Do not forget to get a pot that is not only wider but also deeper than the original pot. Instead of pulling out the plant while it is upright, turn the pot upside down with your hand over the soil and gently wiggle the plant right out. Before placing your plant in its new pot, untangle the roots to be sure that they grow out instead of around. After filling the pot in with new potting soil around your plant, I like to lift up the pot and gently tap it to get the soil to settle so that the plant doesn't sink too far in eventually. You only want a little room at the top, enough for the water to not run off because it is too level with the pot, you want to leave a little space but not too much because that leaves less room for the roots to grow. To finish up repotting, always water your plant in after to help it settle.