Congratulations, you just bought your first house plant!
The store clerk quickly gave you some vague instructions beginning with “these are super easy to take care of…” A few weeks go by and your plant is looking weak, limp, and has lost several leaves. You’re puzzled because you did EXACTLY as you were instructed (something like “water it once a week”). The weeks go by and you’re feeling less and less inclined to care for a sickly looking plant until you finally decide to get rid of it and label yourself: black thumbed.
Here is the reality of plant care: house plants are grown rapidly in ideal conditions. When they are sold, they are suddenly subjected to harsh (read: dark) conditions where they are stressed and forced to adapt to sub-optimal light, water, and deteriorating soil structure. In general, this means:
- Leaves will be dropped since the plant is doing less photosynthesis; less food produced = less energy to support so many leaves.
- There’s not enough light to drive photosynthesis so soil stays moist for too long, causing root rot or other water-borne disease (this is typically summarized as “overwatering” but people don’t seem to understand the right way to fix it).
- Even if there is enough light, the soil structure eventually becomes so compacted that parts of roots die, causing some corresponding leaves to turn yellow and die.
- Overall plant shape changes according to new home conditions – probably stretching towards light (a greenhouse has light from all angles; windows give sideways light).
If after reading this article, you get the impression that owning a plant is a significant responsibility, GOOD – you’re on your way to responsible plant parenthood. But responsibility doesn’t imply that it will take up a lot of your time, it just means you need to learn the RIGHT things to do for your plants. I see house plants as botanical companions, not simply decoration. If you want a piece of decoration for a dark corner of a room, support a local artist and get a sculpture, painting, or vintage knick-knacks.
If you’re ready to be a responsible plant parent stay tuned here…(I’ll announce new blog posts via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter).