The following are some common mistakes made by first time plant owners. The conclusions that I’ve made are based on my own experience, the questions asked to me on my insta, blog, neighborhood group and also here online!
1. Killing the plant with love
Be it overwatering or over-fertilization; too much of anything is bad for your potted plant.
Overwatering causes root rot which in turn inhibits the plants ability to absorb water and eventually results in the plant’s demise.
Over-fertilization is a less know yet equally dangerous killer of potted plants.
2. Repotting new plants.
Many people get a plant from a store, and go straight home and repot it. This may lead to as many cases of early plant death as overwatering and insufficient light.
Growers use perfectly acceptable soil in their plants – after all, if the plants don’t grow well, the growers aren’t going to make any money.
There’s absolutely no reason to put the plant into “good soil.”
Also, in most cases the plants haven’t been growing all that long, and are just beginning to develop a good root system; they’ve already gone through the stress of moving several times, light being changed, etc.
Repotting doesn’t do anything good, and just creates another layer of stress.
* There are a couple of exceptions to the ‘don’t repot new plants’ rule. One is with orchids, which are usually bought planted in sphagnum moss; they should be replanted into orchid mix in a basket or special orchid pot as soon as possible if you want the plant to live and flower again. Another exception is if you get a succulent that’s been packed in some kind of moss stuff; it should be repotted in a good cactus mix right away, and into a pot with a drainage hole if it doesn’t already have one.
3. Establishing a “fixed watering schedule”
Regardless of the type and needs of your plant, your particular climate/micro-climate, the season, position of your plant etc. Don’t get me wrong.
Establishing a good watering schedule is important.
But you should realize that watering schedules must be devised based on your plant’s needs, the current season, your particular climatic conditions, where is your plant positioned inside your house, how much sunlight it gets etc.
So, you can see that you can’t have your plant on a “Fixed watering schedule” all year long.
Also, it isn’t right to have all your plants on the same watering schedule. For example even during the same season, succulents and cacti need very less watering when compared to ferns.
Also, plants need less watering during the colder months than they do during summer.
Another example is that a plant that you’ve kept on your West/South facing windowsill will need to be watered more often when compared to a plant the you’ve kept on your North facing windowsill which gets little to no direct sunlight (by Northern hemisphere standards).
Also, plants in Terracotta pots dry out a lot faster than plants in ceramic or plastic pots.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me my watering schedule and some have asked me to plan a watering schedule for their plants.
This is the advice that I give them; what works for me may not necessarily work for you.
It is up to you as a plant parent to figure out what will work for your plant!
Sometimes new plant owners tend to totally forget about their plant babies. Well, the thing about growing plants in pots is that they totally depend on us humans for their basic food and water needs.
It is imperative that we provide the right care! Sometimes people just let their plant completely dry out and then water it too much in the hopes that the plant will “Come back to life”.
Well it doesn’t work that way.
Unless you’ve got yourself a succulent, cactus or some other xerophytic plant, extreme underwatering will most likely kill your plant.
5. Not cutting off dead leaves.
People often think that the dead leaves will somehow revive, or that cutting them might harm the plant.
Please understand – dead is dead.
The plant can grow new leaves, but a dead leaf is just so much compost waiting to happen.
Cutting off the dead stuff – or even leaves that are more than 1/2 yellow or brown – is not harmful, and makes the plant look much better.
6. Potting your plant in a planter without a drainage hole.
Especially when you are a new plant owner. There is a good chance that you will end up overwatering your plant.
Many people make this mistake because there are a lot of beautiful, decorative planters out there which don’t have a drainage hole.
People tend to overlook this fact and buy them anyway because these planters look fabulous.
A good way to overcome this potential problem is to first pot your plant in a plastic/terracotta pot that has a drainage hole and then put it in a decorative planter without a drainage hole.
The decorative container acts as a cache pot. Looks pretty and also saves your plant!
7. Expecting instant results.
Please remember that plants don’t grow overnight. They need time to adjust.
More often than not, when we bring a plant from nursery to home it goes through an adjustment period where it gets used to the humidity, temperature and lightning conditions of our home.
During this process, the plant may loose a few leaves. Please don’t panic; provide the right care and wait it out.
Also, when a plant has been stressed it does take a while to get back to normal. Again, patience is the key!
Plants teach us a lot about being patient.
If you aren’t very patient, it is a better for you to buy fast growing plants or fully grown plants rather than slow growing or baby plants.
8. Feed a Stressed plant
Sometimes when people find out that their plant baby is stressed, they Fertilize their plants.
After all, fertilizer is plant food; isn’t it?
Ah, what a grave mistake this is!.
The truth is, fertilizers aren’t miracle serums that bring a stressed plant instantly back to life.
Fertilizing a stressed plant does a lot of harm and can potentially kill your plant.
Many people think their plants need to be ‘fed.’
But plants are not puppies; plants actually make their own food from light, air, and water.
Fertilizing only adds specialized minerals, very important but only needed in minute quantities.
Plant fresh from the grower have already been fertilized heavily, and don’t need to be fertilized for 3 – 6 months.
Generally speaking, house plants in high light don’t need to be fertilized more than 4 times a year; 3 times a year for medium light; once or twice a year for low light.
And fertilizer should always be mixed at least 1/2 the strength of package directions.
Too much fertilizer is not used by the plant, sits around in the soil, and (because fertilizer has to be in the form of mineral salts in order to be absorbed by the roots,) causes the accumulation of salts in the soil, which leads to mineral toxicity and pH imbalance.
10. Buying a hard to care for plant simply because it is “famous”
Instagram and YouTube has made a lot of plants extremely famous. And those bloggers and Youtubers make it all seem too easy.
Well the fact is, even these great green thumbs started small! Start with plants that are easy to care for.
I have myself rescued a rubber plant, maidenhair fern, Calathea ornata and a lot of orchids because they were dying and the owners didn’t know what to do with them.
You won’t believe how many insta famous plant end up in landfills because of this very reason – people who bought them didn’t really think about how to care for these plants before buying.
They buy these plants because they are famous!
11. Not turning plants.
When plants are sitting in a window, they naturally grow toward the light; if they’re not turned every so often, they end up all looking out the window, and all you see is their “backs.” Try to turn the plant every time you water – I always do 1/4 turn clockwise.