(SPOT.ph) Plants are one of 2020’s very few bright spots. Turning into a full-blown plantita or plantito is one of the few ways we can have some semblance of control over something in this wild ride of a year—and on a less existential note, taking care of the little leafy babies just happens to be very enjoyable. If you’re a newbie gardener, we round up common mistakes you might be making. You may want to take note of these so your plants grow well under your care.
Activate your green thumb by avoiding these 10 common plant-caring mistakes:
Choosing the wrong plants
It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, which is probably why it is such a common mistake. Do not mindlessly buy plants without doing proper research first. You might end up buying something like a palmera and plan to keep it indoors—only for it to quickly outgrow its space or worse, wither in the shade. Before you purchase your first plant baby, make sure it is suitable for the environment you plan to put it in. Not all plants are alike! For example, most cacti and succulents thrive in sunny, dry areas but there are some, such as the Schlumbergera, which originates from rainforests, that prefer lots of humidity.
You might also be making it rain over your babies a little too much. While the rule of thumb dictates twice a day in the dry season and once when it’s rainy, you may want to watch out for signs of overwatering and adjust accordingly. Plants that have been overwatered tend to have limp, yellowish leaves, a rather moldy smell around them, as well as pesky insects flying around. You can research how often your type of plant needs to be watered or also feel the plant’s soil and water when it feels a bit dry. It will most likely take some trial and error but will ultimately help prevent root rot.
Lack of drainage
Speaking of root rot, be sure to get pots that have proper drainage holes. We know it’s tempting to keep your plants in nice-looking pots—holes be damned—but trust us that it will be better for them in the long run. Proper drainage means less chances of your plant’s roots being soaked in water and rotting. You can put your plant babies on a tray to keep excess water from dripping and place pebbles in the base of your pot for extra root support. Just be sure to throw away the excess water collected on the trays as often as possible.
Too little water
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can just as easily forget to water your plants just as much as you can overwater them. If your plant’s leaves are shriveling and turning brown, then it might be time to revisit your watering habits and crank things up. Another clear sign your plants need more water is by touching the soil; if it’s practically dust then take out the watering can. Don’t be afraid to get all up in dirt when taking care of your plant babies!
Fertilizer is another tricky factor to get pat down. Use the least amount of fertilizer necessary depending on your plants as too much of a good thing always becomes a bad thing. Over-fertilization can stunt your plants' growth—no matter how counterintuitive that may seem—and make them more vulnerable to pests. If you have liquid fertilizer, it is advisable to mix it in when you’re watering; otherwise, apply it when the soil is damp.
Getting the right amount of light
Water and sunlight are the two main things you need to acquaint yourself with in becoming a true plantita or plantito. It all boils down to the first tip on this list: making sure you know what plant you have and how to take care of it. Different plants require different amounts of sunlight. Cacti may prefer sunny spaces, while some succulents such as the snake plant can tolerate darkness. Wind can even factor in for delicate flowering plants like roses. Most plants are best kept away from direct sunlight as the strong rays can bleach the leaves to a rather bright yellow.
You’ll know it’s time to repot when the roots have outgrown the plastic pot they usually come in. Actually, that might already be a little late, but at least the roots piercing the plastic is a definite sign you can always count on—then research how often you’ll need to repot after the first one. Some like tight little homes, such as orchids and snake plants, while some like to grow and need as much space as possible. Pro tip: Cut off the dead tips of roots that outgrew the old pot before transferring to a new planter.
Not tidying up
Home gardens definitely don’t work the same way nature would in the great outdoors. This means that whatever waste they generate won’t be picked up by the cycle of life, so yes, it’s up to you to pick up the dead leaves and flowers they drop! Be sure to cut off dead branches, leaves, and wilted flowers. This will help your plant make way for new growth and avoid pests.
We get that it is incredibly tempting to rearrange your garden like you would with furniture, but all the changes in the environment could stress them out. Once you have found the perfect spot for your plant to flourish then, as much as possible, just leave it be. Give your plant babies the same experience they would have if they had grown in the forests they come from.
Being the hover parent
In line with leaving plants where they’re happy, avoid fussing over them too much as well. Taking care of plants is supposed to be a peaceful and enjoyable hobby. Plus, these plants have survived for millennia outside of people’s care so there’s really no need to overthink things! A green thumb isn’t a gift that comes from nowhere; take the time to learn what your plants need and have the confidence to make decisions based on your experience.