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Stop Slaughtering House Plants

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Are you frustrated with trying to grow a lush indoor landscape full of healthy house plants? Do you find yourself accidentally killing the house plants you spend so much time and effort trying to raise? Believe it or not, this is quite common, especially among new indoor gardeners and people who may not necessarily have the “green thumb” most garden enthusiasts are born with. Thankfully, there are a few hints that can help you overcome the mistakes you are making, and allow you to become the indoor house plant host you always thought you could be.

Be Aware of Bad Internet Information:
I know, this is counter-productive to asking you to read an article on the internet, but realistically, anybody can launch a website, write content and publish it to the masses. The trouble with this is, 99{693caeddec125ac0dffc6900ebb304e7b3460b245f839692e81e846f79eb42e4} of the information on the internet is vetted by the author, rather than an accredited resource.

Some of the biggest hazards regarding gardening that permeate the internet are “watering” concepts; melting ice cubes, upside down water bottle plant feeding systems, unsupervised drip lines, damp sponges in the bottom of plant pots, etc. The leading cause of house plant homicide is overwatering.

Self-feeding watering systems are a bad idea, especially for indoor house plants that receive very little direct sunlight. In fact, self-feeding watering systems will keep the soil of the house plant damp at all times, which prevents oxygenation of the soil and has a negative impact on the house plants ability to breathe through the root system. This will cause the roots to rot and the house plant will eventually perish if serious actions aren’t taken immediately.

The melting ice cube concept is truly baffling. Plants tend to prefer water at room temperature. Cold water, which is all that could come from an ice cube, can shock the internal system of the plant and cause it irreparable damage.

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Water Content & Quality:
Most people feed their house plants with water from the faucet. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it can have negative implications for the house plants. Municipal water systems are polluted with chlorine and fluoride, which aren’t healthy for humans or house plants. If you are using tap water, consider running it through a filter, or purifying it by bringing it to a boil and letting it revert to room temperature. If you are using water from a faucet that is part of a water softening system, discontinue this practice immediately. Water softeners employ massive amounts of salt, creating a chemical suicide solution with sodium for house plants watered with it.

Be Concerned with Overwatering Rather than Underwatering:
As mentioned previously, overwatering is a death sentence for house plants. It is far better to underwater house plants than overwater them. If they are underwatered they may begin to change color and wilt, exhibiting signs of deterioration, but they can be saved simply by adding water to them, and possibly giving them a boost with fertilizer if need be.

The recommended procedure for watering house plants is similar to those you would grow in an outdoor garden. You can determine the condition of the soil through a simple touch test. To check the moisture content of a house plant, place one finger into the soil, to the depth of one knuckle, then remove it. If soil sticks to your finger, then the soil is moist and likely has plenty of water, at least for that day. If you remove your finger and no soil, or just soil dust, appears on the finger, then the soil is too dry and requires water immediately, but do not overdo it.

Certain plants require more water than others, so it will be necessary for you to do the research on the plants you are growing. The proper way to conduct that research is through a local resource, such as the nursery you purchased the plant from. In fact, if you are unfamiliar with a plant when purchasing it, you should gather as much information as possible from the nursery employee selling it to you. If the nursery, and/or its employees are unable to answer these questions for you, then you need to find a new nursery to shop with.

Fertilize with Egg Shells & Coffee Grounds:
This is another area you do not want to go overboard in. Save a small surplus of empty egg shells and allow them to dry out completely. Once dried, crush the egg shells into a fine powder and add to the soil near the base of the plant stem, then water thoroughly. This should only be done once or twice a year, any more than that is overkill and will harm the soil by altering the pH balance.

Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen. Plants are like humans when it comes to coffee; some like a little in the morning, and others need a whole pot just to get going. Add a teaspoon of coffee grounds to the soil of the house plants once a week until such a time as the plant ceases to show improvement.

Plants versus Pets:
Cats are notorious for eating plants, playing with plants, and destroying plants when they are left to their own devices. Take pet prevention action by spraying the leaves of the plants with cayenne pepper, or placing tinfoil over the surface layer of the soil. You can also put citrus fruit rinds on the surface of the soil to keep cats away.

A Fraction of Fertilizer:
Conventional fertilizers use salt, so too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Salt deposits will form in the soil if too much fertilizer is applied at any given time. Dilute fertilizers more than the recommendation on the package. Fertilizer manufacturers put those recommendations on their packages to increase sales, nothing else. If the fertilizer recommends a 2:1 mixture ratio, dilute it to 3:1, or even 4:1, for best results. While plants thrive on nutrients, there is a delicate cycle at play here and your job is to ensure a proper balance. Plants will receive nutrients from the soil, the sun, the air, when it rains, etc., so they really do not require a bunch of store bought fertilizer when feeding them.

Deadhead & Pruning:
These are basically the same thing. At least once a week you should inspect the house plants and determine if they need a “haircut.” Remove any dead leaves, stems, and flowers throughout the growing season. This activity results in healthier plants. When dead plant matter is removed, the plant is able to maximize the use of nutrients, rather than continuing to try and feed the dead areas of the plant.

The Importance of Location:
All plants have a preferred location; they either require plenty of direct light, or they require a shaded area. Again, you will need to do the research on the species of plant you are growing, in order to determine the best location for it within the house. The light source doesn’t have to be natural sunlight, but if you use artificial lighting, it needs to be in the right spectrum, so you may need to do a bit of research in that area as well.

Repotting Plants:
Plants can only grow if their roots have plenty of space and soil. As a plant matures it replaces soil with the root system that supports it. If a plant consumes all the soil in a pot, it will quit growing and eventually die off. To determine whether a plant needs to be repotted, carefully take it out of the pot it is currently planted in. If the root system has occupied the entire soil structure below the surface, to the point it has taken the same shape as the old pot, then it is time to find it a larger home. The new container should provide at least 2” of additional space all the way around, and in depth as well. Personally, I transplant mine into pots that have at least 4” of additional space, in all directions, when repotting house plants; this ensures they will have plenty of space for quite some time, and lengthens the time before it will require repotting again.

Plant Choice:
If you’ve never grown anything in your entire life, then the first house plant for you should be a cactus. This might sound like a cruel joke, but it is a serious suggestion and here’s why; cactus plants are hard to kill. These plants are famous for growing in some of the harshest conditions known to man. They require very little water, and soil content seldom seems to matter; cactus seem equally happy in aerated soil, such as sand, or in compacted soil, such as clay, depending on the species mind you. Cactus do not require fertilizer; if it is used, it should never exceed being applied more than once or twice a year, during optimal growth.

Selecting cactus as your first house plant will also provide you with a boost of confidence, which is necessary for successful gardening. If you’re serious about having house plants and keeping them alive, start with plants that offer the best chance at success and then learn as you grow.

Remember, when doing research, the best resources are those you have locally; visit nurseries, check out botanical gardens, find helpful information in pamphlets provided by local agriculture extensions, or you can even speak with farmers. These are treasure troves of valuable information for growing anything under the sun. Get in touch with your green thumb by growing a house plant today!



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