I’ve learned lots since I decided to replenish my collection of houseplants almost two years ago. I had given up on them years ago when my boys were young, mainly because my middle son destroyed most of them by pouring stuff into the pots. I even caught him urinating in one once.
I have to admit, most of my new found knowledge of houseplant care has been gleaned through a few Facebook groups I joined. Houseplant Help is just one of many, simply submit a request to join on their page.
Pandemic restrictions have spawned many of these groups, a therapy of sorts for some of us not used to being stuck at home.
Houseplants do attract bugs, so if (tiny) bugs flying around gross you out, houseplants may not be for you. These tiny bugs include fungus gnats that love wet/damp soil, spider mites, thrips, you name it.
There are, however, numerous ways to combat the bugs, depending on how big of an infestation and how many houseplants you have. I have not yet tried the repellers but like the idea. They work using sound waves, so no chemicals, radiation, smell etc. They are more expensive than other methods as you need one per room; they simply plug into an electrical socket. They also deter other pests like mice, spiders and other unwanted guests you might not want in your home. I might consider these to keep mice, chipmunks and squirrels from the cozy warmth inside our cottage.
A second, less expensive option, are sticky traps. Like their name implies, the bugs get stuck on the sticky surfaces of these traps. Some people might find the sight of the bugs stuck to the traps offensive. The traps come in many shapes, I have this butterfly version in my home. My husband is one of those people that hate the sight of them covered in little black dots. The bonus to these is that they work for fruit flies too, something (I’m sure) everyone finds bothersome in the summer. I keep one stuck to the underside of my kitchen cabinet above the spot I store bananas. Works wonders, and you don’t see the proof that they work…
Another way to minimize insect infestations on your houseplants is to spray the soil and leaves with insecticidal soap. This is especially important when transferring plants from the outdoors to inside your home. Here in Canada we like to put our houseplants outside for the summer to let them flourish in the fresh air, rain and sunshine. When frost threatens we bring them back inside to overwinter. However, if you fail to treat the soil and leaves before bringing them inside, you will bring in much more than just the plants!
Most experts will tell you overwatering houseplants is the fastest way to kill them. To determine how often to water them, stick your finger in the soil of each potted plant to determine how dry the soil is. Each pot will be different based on the type of plant, type of pot (clay pots dry out faster than plastic), where in your home it is located (sun exposure), and even what the weather is like outside (plants need less water in cooler months here in Canada).
Repotting Do’s and Dont’s
One of the biggest mistakes I made was repotting my houseplants into pots that were too large. Apparently you must only move up one pot size at a time to avoid root rot. I lost several plants going too large too fast; my impatience got the best of me. I chose large planters to complement my decor, not to suit my plants.
I have since managed to salvage a few of these mistakes by removing the struggling plants from the large pots, then tucking them into smaller pots. I have several small pots sitting on top of the larger, decorative pots that I purchased. Eventually, they will fit into the large pots…
Unfortunately, the plant on the left did not survive in the too large pot.
Another repotting tip involves washing the roots of your plant before repotting it. Root washing is especially helpful if the plant was not thriving in its previous pot. This practice of washing the roots is also recommended when planting perennials and annuals in your outdoor gardens and containers. Although I have just started to do this in my outdoor gardens, I can see how root washing is beneficial to remove excess fertilizer and relieve root bound plants, not to mention flushing out any diseases or pests inadvertently transported home from the nursery or a friend’s garden.
Did I forget anything? Do you have any tips for houseplant care that I did not mention?