Over the last two months I took my plant obsession to a whole new level. I am not quite sure what happened but four plants quickly turned into 24. I get so much joy from watching them change and grow but, I have made a ton of mistakes along the way. Some of my favorite plants are struggling and it is honestly all because I pay too much attention to them. My boss always says that houseplants like neglect and I think he may have something going with that statement. From all the research and reading that I have been doing it is clear that it is probably better than being the over attentive parent especially when it comes to watering.
When I only had four plants I found myself underwatering my babies most of the time. This was okay though. I only had a Snake Plant, Jade, Aloe and my ever so difficult Calathe Ornata. During a heat wave I left my snake plant and Calathea in a hot studio and kind of forgot they existed. When I went back into the room after about a week and a half I found my Calathea limp. I seriously though that I killed it but, I had hope. I watered the poor thing and hoping for the best. After a few hours the plant perked right back up and was totally fine for the most part. I actually think it’s helpful to look for physical signs that your plant is thirsty. A under-watered plant is almost always better than an overwatered on. When you see you plant droop a little, water it and it will be okay for the most part. I know some plants are finicky and you may see distress on their foliage by doing this — like the Fiddle Leaf Fig but this truly is better than the other option.
Over watering is probably one of the worst things you can do to your plant. Honestly, it can be a pain to come back from. This is why I bought a moisture meter and I write in my calendar when I water my plants to help me keep track. It was a little easier to ensure I wasn’t over watering when I had 4 plants but having 24 I have a hard time pinpointing if I watered it last week or the week before. It’s just not always easy to keep track of. The problem with overwatering is that can get all sorts of nasty problems. The biggest one being root rot but, fungus gnats, bacteria, fungus and so many more issues can occur in an overwatered ecosystem. I found this true for my Calathea Ornata. I seriously think of this plant as a princess. I try and try to keep it happy but I find it so difficult. Recently I have had an issue with the edges of the leaves turning black but not drying out. I thought it was a humidity problem at first but then I realized that the plant is probably suffering from some type of fungus or rot situation from overwatering. I pulled the plant out of the planter to take a look at its roots. Upon seeing healthy roots, I decided to change the soil so it drains better – sprayed the plant for fungus and bacteria and then bottom watered it to help promote stronger roots.
I have another plant that I also believe was overwatered – I have continued to cut off yellowing leaves and trying to water the plant more responsibly. I found that this particular plant the soil never really seems to dry out. I am not sure what is in its soil mixture and I have been tempted to change it out. Before I go down that route I am tracking when I water the plant like I mentioned above. It has some new growth coming in so I do not want to stunt it but I do want to make sure I don’t continue to overwater the poor thing. I think this is a crutial tip for people like me who are over attentive to their plants. Use tools at your disposal to help you track and determine what you are doing wrong. If you don’t have a moisture meter or you cannot afford one I actually have seen people use a chop stick. Its super simple if you insert it into the soil and it comes away with dirt on it, then your soil is moist. If the chopstick comes away dry it is time to water. This method reminds me a lot of baking. Growing up my dad owned a bakery and he taught us to do just that when testing a cake to see if it was ready to come out.
One of the biggest shocks that happened to me over the summer was realizing that plants can get sunburn. I thought some of my houseplants would benefit from being outside during the summer. I was picturing a bigger and healthier plant coming back in. I did not leave the plants in direct sun per say but they did get moved around. Someone had moved my Aloe off of our table outside into direct sunlight and honestly, I didn’t think much of it when I noticed. I went about my day and then came back to it later on. When I went back to the plant it looked as though it was white. I though the plant was just in shock but instead many of its leaves were severely damaged and some it seems as though the outer flesh was seared away. I had no idea that plants could get a sunburn let alone Aloe. I have always pictured Aloe plants growing in the desert but that just shows the amount of research I have done on the plant.
Its funny how my mistakes have taught me so much in this short period of time. I have begun mixing my own soil to add aeration to it. This way my soil will not compact as easily when watering allowing for better drainage, a happier plant and hopefully less issues. I have also begun to leave a humidifier running in the room I keep my plants. I try not to let the humidifier soak my plants. I keep it just close enough that they are getting some added humidity in the air to help them survive. Some people actually even bring their humidity loving plants into the bathroom when they shower to help them get the environment they need. I thought that was a very interesting tidbit that I found on Reddit.
Overall this has been a journey that I am enjoying a lot. I am excited to grow my collection and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to your plants. It is never fun when one dies but it’s all a learning experience along the way. Over time I have faith that you will go from a plant killer to the proud owner of an indoor jungle in no time!