Common Mistakes We Make as Beginner Plant Parents
No matter what experience level Plant Parent we consider ourselves to be, we were all beginners once. And as beginners, we all made mistakes – that's a good thing! Learning from our mistakes is the only way to truly grow. By learning more about the most common beginner mistakes we encounter, we can begin our plant collection journey on the right foot! Each plant is an individual living thing with unique needs. Learning the best care requirements for each of our plants can be a tedious process, but the important thing is to stay confident and patient!
Common mistake #5 - Overwatering
You know your plants are overwatered when the leaves yellow but don't become crispy, and when the main trunk or stem is dark and mushy. This happens when we water too frequently: water supersaturates the soil, making it so the roots have no access to oxygen. As the roots sit in the waterlogged soil, fungus grows and eats away at the decaying plant material (aka - the roots). If we don't catch the fungus quickly, it spreads up to the rest of the plant like a disease. Rotted roots need to be cut away, sometimes leaving only a small portion of healthy roots. Most of the time the amount of roots left are not enough to keep the rest of the plant alive.
The biggest myth we hear is that we should water more often because our plants are not in their natural habitat. This is partially true - our plants are not in their natural environment. The plants we buy online have been lovingly grown in greenhouses from the time they were a wee little seedling or cutting, so beyond the genetic predetermined amount of water needed – like what a cactus needs versus a water lily's requirements – these plants have acclimated to being happy with the water we give them.
If you think your plants are overwatered and showing signs of root rot, the best thing to do is let the plant's soil dry until you can see that it's receding from the edges of the planter. If you've caught it soon enough, this should prevent the root rot from spreading and you'll be able to start fresh with a new (and less frequent) watering schedule.
Common mistake #4 - Underwatering
Now we're talking about the other side of the coin – Underwatering. Underwatered plants are droopy and their leaves have also yellowed, but this time the leaves have brown, crispy edges. Thirsty soil is a greyish color that has receded from the edges of the pot.
Most of the time, we're not used to having a new plant, or we've moved it to a new spot that we're not used to checking, or we just plain forgot. This happens, and so long as we're not leaving our plants to fend for themselves in their pots for too long, it's salvageable. Most plants can handle a little drought. Many beginners make the mistake of underwatering when they think they're giving the plant enough water because it looks like a lot of water to us. Unless your plant is in a 2 - 4" pot, you'll need more than just two cups of water! The best way to determine if we're watering enough is to slowly pour water into the soil until you see liquid draining from the holes in the bottom of the pot. With this process, you'll find yourself having to water less without drying out your plant!
If you think you're watering your plant a lot and the plant remains dry, you've probably got it in a spot that's too sunny. Try moving your plant to slightly shadier space and wait a few weeks to see if the plant likes that place better!
Common mistake #3 - Too much sunlight
You know you're giving your plant too much sun when the foliage is stunted and new growth becomes leggy before the leaves eventually burn and become bleached of color. Sometimes plants with too might light are also too dry, so you might also see crispy browned leaves.
The most common mistake we see is a plant being placed outside or in front of a window with the bright sunlight. We want the plant to have as much light as possible so it can grow big and strong! But that's not always the best plan. Sunlight is the most fickle part of plant parenthood. Cactus plants and snake plants are almost always happy in direct light, while peace lilies and Fiddle leaf trees like a less direct form of sunshine. Plants that require bright, indirect light can handle sitting next to a sunny window, out of the direct beam of light. A medium to low indirect sunlight request means the plant can be in the same room as a sunny window, or in front of the window so long as there's a translucent curtain blocking some of the light. Shade-tolerant plants like sunlight, but they prefer to peek at the light from a hallway or a not-so-bright kitchen.
If your plant did get a bit too much sun, don't panic! Snip away the burned foliage and slowly move your plant to a better spot. Try to avoid moving a plant that was in the bright sun immediately into a shady spot. This can shock the plant. You want to move a plant that was in dierct sun to an indirectly lit area, like a space next to the window. Then, after a week or so, you can move your plant to a shadier spot if necessary. This way your plant can adjust!
Common mistake #2 - Lack of Research
So many new plant people are convinced they have a "black thumb" because they didn't do their research and therefore didn't learn how to properly care for their new plant. Taking the time to look into the plant you're interested in buying will only take a few minutes and can help save you heartache!
Look into what kind of sunlight the plant needs - do you have that kind of light? Only some plants can sit in direct light, on the blacony or right smack in front of a window. The most universally helpful light is the kind of sun we get in a room with a few windows – bright, but not baking in the direct sun beam. Most plants would be happy in that kind of room, either on a shelf or in a bright corner. At the same time, there are some plants that prefer to be in a place with just an idea of light, like a hallway or kitchen.
What about the maximum expected height of the plant - are your ceilings tall enough? How fast will the plant grow? Do you want something that will grow in a tree-like shape, or one with a bushier appearance? Sometimes you can prune your plant into the shape and size you want, but some plants would rather die than be cut back.
How about the plant's toxicity? Babies and pets will munch on things out of curiosity, and that includes leaves.
Taking the 5 minutes to research the plant you want will give you realistic expectations AND help you prevent mistakes, wasted money, and unnecessary stress!
Common mistake #1 - High expectations
Every so often, someone will buy a big expensive plant becasue they saw it on a TV show and thought the plant would survive perfectly in their home. Unfortunately, unrealistic beauty standard extent to plants too! Plants we see in TV or magazines or on social media are almost always fake, dressed up for the camera, or completely replaced for each new filming. Plants take some time to acclimate to their environment, especially if your new plant came right from a greenhouse to your home - that's a big transition! Giving your plants a few weeks – like 2-3 weeks – to acclimate is a fantastic rule of (green) thumb!
Plants are just like us: With some kind, care, and patience, we can create the perfect environment for our greenry and help them grow to be the best version of themselves!
We're here to grow with you!
No matter what experience level Plant Parent we consider ourselves to be, we can all use a little help sometimes. We know you love your plants and just want the best for them! If you want to triple check and make sure that you are doing the right thing, or if you just have a general plant question, send a photo and your comments or questions to email@example.com. Our Plant Experts are always ready to help!
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