9 House Plant Mistakes To Avoid If You Are A New Plant Parent

Congratulations on starting your journey as a plant parent. Not only do plants bring life & character to our homes but are also a home décor staple. They are beautiful & vibrant elements that will never go out of style. As straightforward as it may seem, caring for house plants isn’t as simple as bringing new plants home and watering them from time to time. I learned this truth the hard way, after buying exotic-looking and Instagram-trending plants and then not being able to keep them alive. So here are few mistakes to avoid:

indoor plant styled aesthetically

Not Researching Before Buying New Plants

When starting, it is crucial that you choose the kinds of house plants that are easy to grow. Another factor to take into consideration is the environment in your home. When I say environment, I mean the local climate of your place and the direction of your home/openings w.r.t the sun. Do you have any south-facing or west-facing areas in your home, where plants can get direct sun for 5-6 hours, or you just have north-facing areas that will receive light but no sun? In case if you don’t have any patio, deck, balcony, or outdoor gardens, the same questions can be asked about your windows, near which you plan to keep your plants. Are you living in a tropical climate? How severe are the winters? These are few questions that will need to be answered before you decide which plants you can get for your home. For example, if you buy a Chinese evergreen and keep it near the south-facing window, that plant will be doomed.

Decide where you want to place your plants, determine how much light that area receives, and choose a plant that can thrive in that environment. Most plants can be categorized as low, medium, or high for sunlight requirement, so make sure to select yours based on the conditions in your home. Have a list of plants handy with you, the next time you visit the nursery and avoid buying them based on just their looks or flowers. Another thing about flowering plants is that not all plants flower easily. The most exotic-looking flowers like Heliconia or Bird of Paradise appear on a mature plant, which may take a few years. Plants like orchids look pretty when flowering, and their flowers last long, but it may take them really long to flower again. So, if you are looking for a flowering plant, it becomes all the more imperative that you first study the flowering habits of the plant and then buy it if it suits your requirement.

houseplants displayed in an aesthetic manner

Not Thinking About Your Lifestyle Before Buying Plants

If you travel a lot or work for long hours then you may want to have low maintenance plants, which will need to be watered and looked after less frequently. Be mindful if you have toddlers or pets at home because many plants are toxic.

Repotting the Plant Immediately After Bringing it Home 

In case you are looking to repot your newly acquired plant in a fancy pot, wait! Let the plant acclimate to your home first, and repot it only after it shows signs of settling. Repotting it too soon could shock the plant and it may not survive. You could use Vitamin B to help it ease through the process of acclimation and repotting.

Planting Your Plant in Too Big a Pot

Planting a plant in too big a pot will result in excess soil at the root zone that remains wet, because there aren’t enough roots to soak up the water. The excess wet soil will lead to a build-up of fungal pathogens, and ultimately root rot. If you want to change to a bigger pot, try selecting a pot around 2” bigger & deeper than the existing one.

Not Cleaning the Plant’s Foliage

When we bring plants indoors, there is no rain or wind to help keep the foliage dust-free and healthy. Also, the accumulation of dust on leaves may slow down photosynthesis, resulting in the ill-health of plants. Indoor plants should be cleaned with water at least twice per month. You can shower them with a spray bottle or gently wipe the leaves with wet tissue.

Overcaring or Improper Watering

Both over and under watering can be detrimental to your plants’ health & not all plants have the same water requirements. Observe your plants to understand when and how much water to give to them. The general thumb rule is that if you stick your finger into the top couple inches of soil and the soil feels completely dry, it’s time to give your plant some water. However, if you don’t want to rely on this thumb rule, you could get a moisture meter, which will show you the exact moisture level of the soil. Generally, the less light your plant needs, the less water it will need, and vice versa. 

checking moisture of soil with moisture meter

Not Aerating Soil

This is important, especially in the winter months. Aerating the soil allows air into the soil to help the soil dry out after watering. It also provides additional oxygen to the soil. Proper aeration will prevent the soil from staying damp for long, and protect the roots from rotting.

Over-Fertilizing The Plants

Over-fertilizing can cause stress in your plants. They may weaken, become susceptible to diseases or even die. Different plants need different type of fertilizers. e.g. nitrogen rich fertilizers promote leaf growth and may be good for green plants with foliage, but they may not be of much use for flowering plants. A little research about the types of fertilizers best suited for the type of plants you have will help you figure out the best options for your plants. Note, that your plant may already be having slow-release fertilizers in it when it came from the nursery. It’s best to fertilize plants about once a month during spring and summer, and halt fertilization in the dormant period of plant growth (winter, for most plants).

Not Preparing Your Plants For Winter

Lastly, not readjusting your house plant care routine in the winter can lead to the demise of your plants. Most houseplants love warmth and humidity, and a sudden drop in temperature, accompanied by lack of sunlight may be detrimental to their health. If your plants are outdoors in the spring and summer months, it will be best to make a space for them inside once the temperature starts to dip to around 10 degrees Celsius.

If your plant is growing by a window, ensure that the window does not let in any drafts. If the air in your home becomes dry in the winter due to heating, keep your plants far from radiators or heat vents. Misting, buying a humidifier, or creating a pebble humidity tray are ways to help give your plants a much-needed humidity boost. Fewer hours of sunlight will mean soil staying moist for longer periods and therefore, the watering schedule will need to be adjusted accordingly. Grow lights may be helpful for some plants like succulents to provide them with additional light.  

house plants arranged aesthetically in living room

That’s all folks. Hope you’ll enjoy beautiful flowers and fresh foliage of your houseplants and be able to sustain them through different conditions with the help of the above mentioned factors. 

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