Hey - it’s Maggie again, and today I have some confessions to make. I’m here to admit to some of the terrible things I’ve done to my plants. The mistakes I’ll be disclosing were made with the best of intentions, I swear. For an overachiever, there is no better way to humble yourself than to venture into the world of houseplants. And while this may all sound a tad dramatic, if it can help someone, it’ll be worth owning up to some of my flaws.
My plant parenthood journey may still be in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a thing or two already from the mistakes I’ve made. I knew going into this that I would have trouble overwatering my plants (I’m the type of person who loves too much!), but I didn’t realise I would very quickly make a slew of other mistakes. I hope you can learn from me (and with me) as I try desperately to avoid making these mistakes again.
Overwatering houseplants is by and large the most common mistake, if I had to guess. And I’m guilty of it, too. I can’t help myself; I’ve never been good at moderation. But as my plant collection started to grow, I quickly noticed signs that I was doing more harm than good. First came the mildew and mould on the soil, then came the droopy leaves. Luckily, I’ve made a couple of easy adjustments that have made all the difference: better airflow (a fan or an open window) and a little something called bottom watering. I’ll be sure to post more another day on my plant watering routine, so that we can compare notes.
#2: Repotting too soon
I was so excited to repot my little plant babies and move them from their four inch pots to a more luxurious and spacious home. But it turns out that houseplants only need to be repotted every 12-18 months, and definitely not within the first few months after purchase (unless you see signs of distress). When new plants come home with you, allow them some time to adapt to their new surroundings before moving them into a new pot. Some of the signs that they’re ready for an upgrade include potting mix that dries out too quickly after watering, and roots that are growing out through the drainage holes.
#3: Repotting into a container that’s too big
The truth is, when it’s time to repot, you only need to pot up into a container that is slightly larger than the plant’s current pot. If it’s an issue with soil and not with growth, you can even keep the plant in the same size pot. While it can be tempting to upgrade your precious plant from a bachelor apartment to a sprawling mansion, they don’t love all that space! A pot that is too large can mean that the soil stays too wet, making your plant susceptible to root rot. I noticed when I repotted my ficus in a giant pot, it seemed to grow a lot slower. I think it was having to put a lot of energy into building up its root system! A lot of plants like being cozy, so don’t rush to make the switch. If you’re looking to change the look of the pot, do what I do: keep all your plants in plastic nursery containers, which offer great drainage and allow you to swap them in and out of decorative pots on a whim.
#4: Not fertilizing
I’m going to be honest here: I thought that fertilizing was only something that farmers needed to do. I figured that sunshine and soil were all that my houseplants needed. When I realized that I was going to have to give my plants a bit more than that, I sought out a product that was Canadian, organic, easy to apply and safe to use around kids and pets (because I have one of each!). Plant Vitamins is a regular part of my routine, and my plants are so grateful for the addition to their care. I like to use Thrive with every other watering by adding 1ml (measurements can be found on the side of the dropper) to every litre of water. Thrive provides the nutrients that my plants need on a regular basis. I use Boost once a month during the warmer seasons, when my plants are putting out new growth. I add 5ml to Boost to every litre of water. Boost is also great when my plants are transitioning to new pots, or when I’m moving them to a new location! I like to remember that Boost supports my plants during times of transition.
#5 Meddling with new growth
This one is a hard one. When my Monstera Adasonii had a leaf that appeared to get “stuck” as it was trying to unfurl, my instinct was to help it along by tugging on it. It immediately broke off, and I was really bummed. Listen, we all want to do what’s best for our houseplants, especially if they appear to be in distress. But here’s my lesson learned: those Monstera leaves just take a really long time to emerge. Don’t touch them! The best way to help them, in my experience, is to increase the humidity around the plant, using a humidifier or a tray of pebbles and water. And while I’m not entirely sure if the humidity is what helps the leaves along, at least it keeps me from meddling with the delicate foliage!
I would really love to hear from you this week, because I’m sure that I can’t be the only one that’s made a mistake (or ten) when taking on new plants. What mistakes have you learned from as you navigate the care and maintenance of your houseplants? Leave a comment below, or chime in on our latest Instagram post!