Caring for Your Indoor Plants
Small spaces, dark spaces, dull spaces are all being enhanced by living greenery and the life that is indoor plants. They bring joy and contribute to creating a healthy, happy living and working environment.
If you are one of those that are keen to get on this trend, but fear the dreaded “I killed my plant” – then this guide is just for you. Even the most green fingered have killed a plant or two. The key with indoor plants is to keep on at it!
Common Indoor Plant Problems
- Root Rot
- Browning Leaves
- Drooping Leaves
- Dropping Leaves
- Yellow Leaves
- Bud Drop
Most Common Causes
- Under watering
- Over watering
- Lack of humidity
- Lack of light
Yellowing, mushy and wilting leaves on indoor plants might be an indication that your plant is experiencing root rot. This is caused by either prolonged overwatering of the plant or a fungus present in the soil that might have flared up because of recent overwatering. Root rot can be misidentified as underwatering of your indoor plants but they may well be getting too much!
The best way to identify root rot is to remove the plant from the pot and check the roots – affected roots will look black and feel mushy compared to the firm, healthy brown roots.
If you are experiencing Root Rot, immediate action is needed:
Remove the plant from the pot and wash the soil from the roots. Cut away affected roots with clean secateurs. (Thoroughly wash secateurs with a disinfectant afterwards to prevent spreading of the fungus). Remove all yellowing leaves. Spray the remaining roots with a fungicide or dip in a fungicide solution. Thoroughly wash the pot that the plant was in with bleach. Ensure that the pot has sufficient draining holes and place a layer of crock or small pebbles at the bottom of the pot. Re-plant the plant in fresh, well-draining potting soil.
If need be, the plant can be drenched with an organic fungicide once or twice afterwards according to manufacturer’s instruction as a precautionary measure.
Browning leaves are an indication of under or over watering. In this case browning will start at the base of the leaves and move up.
It could also be a sign that there is not enough air circulation or humidity around the plant or its roots. Plants lose and gain water by osmosis through leaf tissue on a daily basis. Limited water, or access to water in too fast a fashion, means that some parts of the plant get water whilst others don’t. The tips of leaves are often the first to feel this “drought” of sorts.
If you are experiencing browning leaves
First cut off the brown leaves to encourage fresh new growth.
Do the water test to ensure that your watering regime is accurate and if the soil is presenting itself as healthy for that plant (good balance of moist and dry depending on its ideal needs) and adjust your watering as needed. Consider misting the leaves to add some humidity.
Click |HERE| to read our container gardening blog for suggestions on how to ensure good drainage.
Drooping or wilting leaves, as with browning of the leaves, can be a sign of either over- or underwatering or the beginning stages of root rot.
How to remedy drooping leaves:
If the surface and sub-soil is very dry, the plant most probably needs water. The best option is to give a thorough drink right away or even soak it by standing the pot in a tub or sink with water. Remove and allow the plant to properly drain.
If the soil is very moist and soggy to the touch, it may be over-watered, in which case the plant needs to be left to dry out for a while until the soil is no longer water-logged or too moist. Adjust the watering regime to prevent this from happening again.
Other factors which may contribute to drooping leaves are too much direct sunlight and too much wind exposure or draughts. When caring for indoor plants, consider moving your plants around your space accordingly to find the best place for them until they settle and are happier.
Leaves on a plant falling suddenly can cause distress to newbie-plant parents world-wide. There are a good few reasons why this occurs:
The moving, transplanting or dividing of any house plant may cause shock to its system. Similarly, bringing house plants indoors or outdoors, or home from the garden centre, can have converse effects on the plant. Plants are like (most) humans- they like stability. Fluctuations of temperatures will distress us- and plants are even more temperamental!
A rise or dip in Humidity:
As an automatic response to our air-conditioned, drier offices and homes, our indoor plants, which herald from more tropical parts, try to conserve water. The transpiration becomes limited; leaves fall and the plant attempts to conserve energy and water. This results in very frustrated Plant Parents and, frankly, an upset plant. Misting regularly can be a first-responder attempt to fix the problem, as more moisture in the air will alleviate much of the problem.
Pests and Physical Damage:
Mealybugs and mites can over take a healthy plant rapidly. Check regularly for infestations and research simple home-made remedies to clear the leaves.
Physical impact from constant brushing can also upset the plant – and it will retaliate by losing some of its green limbs. Move said plant to a safer, ambush-free spot and this should reduce its stress.
Lower Temperatures and Lower Light:
Leaves may drop with low humidity levels and drops in temperature. Easily remedied by moving to a brighter spot, or with the introduction of heating lamps or extra light. Excess heat from heaters may also result in healthy leaves falling from plants, just as excess cold will do the same thing. Temperature extremes are a plants foe!
The cause of yellowing leaves is the most difficult to identify as yellowing leaves can be the result of many things.
It could be because of over watering, under watering, root rot, too much light, too little light, natural ageing (leaves of old plants will turn yellow, wither and drop off) or even nutrient deficiencies. Identify and treat as described for root rot or wilting or drooping leaves.
Also do some research on the ideal light conditions for your plant and assess if you have placed it in the best position.
Also known as bud blast or bloom blast, this is the phenomenon whereby flower buds drop from a plant before they have the chance to open. Commonly seen in Orchids, the bud, once promising and green, turns yellow and then brown, and drops before it has had the chance to bloom. This is a natural defence mechanism and a direct result of the buds’ energy being extracted from the flower and being utilised in the roots of the plant in order to survive. This is usually a result of something changing in the plant’s direct environment and that would be your cue to finding a solution – what significant changes has taken place in your plant’s environment?
- Has it been receiving enough light or perhaps too much?
- Have you over or under watered it ?
- Have there been any extreme temperature fluctuations?
- Has the humidity been affected by the season, heater or air conditioning?
- Consider the age of the plants – young plants are often weaker with less stable fluid transport systems.
How to remedy the situation:
Sufficient light is often the answer. As for keeping your plant hydrated, adding mulch and a top layer of soil balances the moisture levels and prevents dehydration.
Prevent temperature extremes by placing plants in stable environments – not in drafty doorways or halls. Spray them with misters to counter dry air – this will help balance moisture in hot and dry environments.
Be a Plant Lover:
In general, your plants will always show you how they are feeling – drooping leaves, yellow leaves, browning tips, dropping leaves, losing flowers, etc. Keep an eye on these different things and work out what your plant is telling you – when caring for indoor plants being observant to the way and the place where they are thriving is key.
- Plants are living organisms and the beauty of caring for indoor plants is the experience that they allow you as a plant owner and lover to have!
- They teach you numerous lessons and they grow your knowledge and confidence!
- Don’t be afraid to own your own plants and don’t be afraid to kill a few in the process, this is the magnificence that is nature; failing, learning and growing…
- Research the plants you buy! They are as individual as our fingerprints and all have different needs.