Many of us have intuitive reactions to our indoor plants that may cause us to do (or not do) certain things with our plants that are not always in the best interest of the plants. Below are some examples.
• A plant appears to be unhappy so we assume it needs more water. That is the quickest and easiest thing for us to do, so that is what we do. Unfortunately more times than not the plant’s problem is not due to lack of water and may even be caused by too much water.
• Folks who are nurturers like to do as many things for their plants as possible. They repot too often and over water and over fertilize. They end up killing their plants with kindness. In most instances of plant care, less is better.
• We tend to think that when it comes to potted plants, bigger is better. Lots of hefty growth is a sign of success. True enough that a big plant has to be healthy to get that way. But small plants can also be healthy and are often more attractive. Unfortunately, the bigger is better approach usually leads to a failure to prune and that ultimately leads to badly overgrown plants that lean, fall over, push up against the ceiling and take over the house. Regular pruning is essential to keeping your plants manageable in size and attractive looking in the space you have assigned them to.
• We also believe that if a little of something is a good thing, then more would be even better. So we tend to provide too much water, too much fertilizer and use pots that are too big. When it comes to water, fertilizer and pot size it is far better to err on the side of less or smaller. Let the soil dry out deeper into the pot. Dilute the fertilizer to half strength. Up-pot only if absolutely necessary.
• We love quick and easy solutions. That is why fertilizers are so appealing…and overused. Fertilizer is not medicine and should only be used for healthy plants that are growing vigorously and never for ailing plants.
• We project our own (human) feelings onto our potted plants. So we think that pruning is like amputation and should be avoided. If our plants are not doing well, we assume we are causing pain to them and feel terribly guilty ourselves.
• When faced with plant pest infestations, we want to nuke those critters with the most lethal of substances so they never come back. Those heavy duty pesticides in our arsenal are not only hazardous to use and harmful to the environment, but they are no more effective than carefully applied non-toxic remedies such as soap, alcohol and oil sprays. The results may not be as dramatic, but they are more effective in the long term.
• We overestimate the available light in our homes. Because a large window has a large sunny window, we assume that there is lots of good light for plants throughout the room. In fact, light intensity drops off dramatically with every couple of feet of distance from the window. Few plants will survive for long across the room from a sunny window.
• We believe that some plants are virtually indestructible. While it may be true that some plants require less light than others and some plants can go a long time without water, all plants species will quickly decline if they are not given proper light and water.
To be successful with plants, it is sometimes necessary to check our own human reactions to plant care and do what is best for the plant.
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