I’ve been lucky enough to have only killed 4 houseplant babies, but just know that if you are a houseplant-killer you are not alone. And, I hope my blog posts can help you turn your black thumb into a green thumb!
We have over 30 houseplants in our home right now and a few at my Studio 29 Photography studio, and the first question people always ask is, “Ren, how do you keep them alive?”
The short answer is sunlight, water, and kind conversations with them.The long answer; honestly, I am a serious helicopter-houseplant-mom when it comes to taking care of our houseplants. I am constantly monitoring the sunlight, the soil dampness, the “nutritional value” of the soil, pruning, and adding additional (LED) lighting depending on cloud coverage and the time of year.
Basically, you need to become besties with your houseplants. It is important to be aware of their growth patterns, watering needs, sunlight preferences, and soil conditions.
Taking care of houseplants can be relatively easy depending on the type of plant you decide to purchase; but, remember, all houseplants may have their droopy days, so I am addressing the most common problems that people have encountered and asked me about in regards to keeping their houseplants happy and healthy. Today’s answers are fairly simple, but I am working on in-depth posts that will specifically be answering each of these Common Houseplant Problems for you!
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Stop killing your houseplants: Quick Answers & Solutions to Common Houseplant Problems. Save your dying houseplants ASAP!
Problem: My houseplant Appears Droopy & Soil is Dry & Crumbly
Cause: Not enough watering.
Solution: Water plant thoroughly & give it a nice pep talk! You can do a deliberate full watering enough to see the water leaking from the drainage holes at the planters bottom. After that excessive watering, only water when the you feel that the soil is dry just underneath the top of the soil. To test the soil’s moisture simply dip your finger about 2 inches in the soil. Increase the time between waterings to keep the soil from becoming oversaturated.
Problem: My Houseplant is Leaning Far in One Direction
Cause: The plant is leaning towards the light! Have no fear, this is basically the easiest houseplant problem you can have!
Solution: This is common for larger plants, so you will have to rotate the plant frequently and if needed you can tie it to a bamboo cane or wooden pole for stability. We recently had to make a crutch for our Dwarf Banana Tree. Since getting him to stand up-right he has grown 3 new leaves.
Problem: My Houseplant Has White Residue that Looks Like Cotton
Common Cause: Houseplants can acquire pests, and it sounds like you may have mealybugs or mold.
Solution: Isolate your houseplant ASAP so that the pests do not spread to your other plants. Then you can scrape away the white residue and wash down the entire plant. You can use one part rubbing alcohol to three parts water to disinfect your plant. Keep your plant isolated for a few days and then wash it down again. Mealybug infestation can be really difficult to eliminate, but the sooner you catch it the more likely you can save your plant. You can also try using an organic and houseplant safe miticide, which I highly recommend! If you have root to due to overwatering the leaves will turn brown and your plant will start to collapse. The roots will be black and soft, so you will want to trim off the black roots and leave the healthy beige or white ones. Repot with fresh potting mix, treat with a fungicide and make sure to clean out it’s original planter.
Problem (for plants with flowers): My houseplant Isn’t Blooming
Common Cause: The most common problems for houseplants not blooming is not getting enough sunlight or it might be in too large or too small of a planter or it could be in need some nutritional value (organic fertilizer.)
Solution: Move it into a well-lit area or purchase a plant light. We have our flowing plants in our sunporch in front of a south facing window. We supplement itâ€™s light with a plant light during the winter when there is are fewer hours of daylight. When adding additional lighting be sure to set a timer (no more that 4 hours at a time) to avoid burning on the foliage. If you have not changed the soil or repotted your houseplant for several months and you have noticed fewer and fewer blooms it may time to add some fertilizer to your soil.
Problem: My Houseplant’s Leaves are â€œBurntâ€ Looking
Common Cause: There are a few possible causes; usually it could be too much direct sunlight. OR burnt leaves can be a sign of insufficient watering or too low humidity levels in your home OR if could have been fertilized too much.
Solution: Houseplants with long leaves are especially susceptible to burning when they are exposed to too much direct sunlight. Sun damage first shows up as yellowing of the whole leaf, or small black scorched spotty areas on the leaves. Move your plant further away from the window or to a spot that doesn’t receive such harsh sunlight for more than 4 hours a day. If it is an issue of under watering, usually this will just appear as burning at the tips of the leaves. You can increase the humidity levels by spritzing your plant leaves with water every other day.
Problem: My Houseplant is Collapsing & Looks Incredibly Droopy
Common Cause: Overwatering & not enough soil drainage, the room your plant lives in may be too cold.
Solution: For overwatering: empty the saucer beneath the pot and let the soil drain. Remove plant from pot, add gravel to bottom of planter, add perlite to soil. If your plant is under-watered, their leaves will droop or the leaves might turn yellow. Perlite is a HUGE lifesaver. Perlite is a volcanic white material that you can use in your potting soil to lighten the soil, allow more air to circulate around the roots, and help with water drainage. Once I started adding perlite to the soil when repotting plant I noticed a huge difference in growth rates and blossoms. You’ll want to check the ideal temperature requirements for your specific houseplant and move to a warmer or cooler area as needed. I move our plants around our house all the time, because throughout the seasons the amount of light, the temperature, the humidity levels and draftiness change in our house dramatically.
Problem: My Houseplant Has Little Flies or Gnats
Common Cause: Overwatering, making the potting soil remain too moist or it is from decaying plant material at the base of the plant. Pests love unhealthy houseplants and are more likely to attack a plant when it is stressed or “sick.” Commonly the pests will be seen hovering just above the soil.
Solution: Fungus gnats are small flies that look like mosquitos and are really annoying! First, separate the pesty plant from your other healthy plants. You can use an all natural pesticide or you can try using gnat sticky traps for houseplants. You can simply place the sticky yellow rectangles on their stakes and push the stakes into the soil surrounding the base of the plant. This should attract the gnats within a few days.