How to keep indoor plants alive is something we all want to know. But sometimes it’s easier to understand how to kill them (or what to avoid). Some types of indoor houseplants are very sensitive and want to have their every need catered to. Others can be difficult to kill, but still, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Your plants will usually tell you when they aren’t happy. They’ll send signals such as dry, brown leaves, wilting leaves, root rot, or an overall lack of growth. There are several ways you can kill your plants if you aren’t paying close enough attention to them.
Make sure you aren’t guilty of any these murderous habits if you want to prevent a tragic case of planticide.
Underwatering Your Plants
All plants need at least some water. Certain species are very drought resistant, but if you never give your green friends any moisture, they’re going to die. It’s important to know how much water your particular plant likes and make sure you keep it adequately hydrated. Dry, crispy leaves are a huge sign your plants are thirsty. Stick your finger in the soil and if the top inch or so is dry, they probably need some water.
Overwatering Your Plants
While plants do need water, they can actually drown from too much of it. If there are no air pockets in the soil, a plant’s roots can’t take in oxygen, and they’ll suffocate. Their leaves will wilt, and their roots could rot from sitting in the excess moisture. A good way to prevent too much water from sitting in the soil is to use pots with drainage holes. Also, use a potting mix with ample drainage.
Not Enough Sunlight
Plants use a process called photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy, which provides fuel for the plant. A few types of plants prefer low light, and others can tolerate less light to some degree. But many plants will outright die without plenty of direct sunlight. Signs your plant is not getting enough sun include yellow leaves, leggy stems, or a lack of new growth.
Too Much Sunlight
Many people don’t realize that too much sunlight can actually be harmful to your plants. If you know how to keep indoor plants alive, you know plants love sun. But they don’t love being overly scorched for too long. Bleached leaves, wilted leaves, and brown leaf tips are signs of too much sun. If your plants look like they’re getting overheated, try pulling them a bit away from your windows. You can also try allowing them to have shorter periods of sunlight throughout the day.
Fertilizing is a great way to give your plants a boost of nutrients. This will generally help them grow faster, but over fertilization can cause some serious damage. Too much fertilizer can cause a buildup of salts and nitrogen in the soil. This buildup will usually present itself through wilting or browning leaves or a white crust on top of the soil. Too much fertilizer can also create rapid growth. This can stress your plants and leave them vulnerable to pests and diseases. Preventing over fertilization before it happens is ideal. But if you’ve already given your plants too much fertilizer, water them deeply. Doing so will help wash away some of the excess salts.
Poor Soil Conditions
The soil or potting mix you use for your plants provides them with the nutrients they need to grow. Old soil can become depleted and needs to be refreshed from time to time to keep your plants well fed. To achieve this, you can remove the top few inches of soil and add fresh soil. Or you can completely repot your plants. The type of soil you use can also determine how well it drains. Some plants, like cacti and succulents, prefer quick draining soil. Others prefer that their soil retains a little extra moisture.
Humidity isn’t usually a fatal concern for all plants, but some can be quite sensitive to it. Certain tropical species love humidity and require regular misting, or their leaves will become dry and brittle. Using a humidifier can also be helpful with these moisture loving varieties. Plants that prefer a dry climate will suffer and wilt if you live in an overly damp region. If there is too much humidity, mold and fungus can grow on the surface of the soil. Increased ventilation or a dehumidifier can help with an excessively humid atmosphere.
You might think your plants are safe from pests because they live indoors. The truth is, there are quite a few little bugs that can get into your indoor garden and wreak havoc. Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scale, and fungus gnats can all find their way to your plants. These pests can become a big problem if not dealt with immediately.
You can prevent infestations by inspecting all new plants you bring into your house for any little bugs or eggs. If you develop an infestation, you can sometimes save your plants by washing them down thoroughly with soapy water. Alternatively, try giving them a good spray with a powerful setting on your garden hose. Different removal techniques may work for different pests. However, you might need to resort to an insecticide if your situation gets desperate.
Plants Need Repotting
When your plants have outgrown a container their roots will eventually fill up the entire space and your plant will become pot bound. They may also try to snake their way out of drainage holes. This doesn’t leave much room for the soil and nutrients and when you water your plants, the water may just pass right through the pot. This can lead to root death and eventually the death of your entire plant. You can slide your plant a few inches out of the pot and if you notice the roots are growing all around the edges, it’s time to repot. You should repot in a slightly bigger pot but if you plan to keep your plant in the same potter, you’ll need to prune away some of the roots and replace the soil.
Plants Don’t Need Repotting
Repotting a plant that doesn’t want to be disturbed is another way you might kill your plants. Repotting can be a stressful process for some plants and if you disturb them too often they could become weak and overly sensitive to their environment. Some plants actually prefer to be a little rootbound and may not even produce flowers if they aren’t. If you want to freshen up your soil without disturbing the root system, just remove and discard the top few inches and add a new layer of fresh soil.
How to Keep Indoor Plants Alive
It sounds like there are a lot of ways to massacre your indoor garden but it doesn’t have to be difficult to learn how to keep indoor plants alive. Pay attention to your plants and what they’re telling you through their leaves and posture. If something looks wrong, be sure to change your maintenance habits and think carefully about what kind of care you’ve been providing. Knowing the water, temperature, soil, and sunlight preferences of your particular plant species will go a long way in helping you keep them alive.