If your houseplants were to visit a plant whisperer and have a heart-to- heart, what would they say? Are they happy and healthy and glad to be a part of your home? Or are circumstances a little less than ideal?
Unable to hear what your houseplants are saying to you about their accommodations? No worries, I’ll translate here for you. Check out the signs that your houseplants are deliriously happy and the signs indicating that they’re harboring some resentment.
Signs of Contented, Healthy Houseplants
Happy houseplants don’t complain with pests or diseases. Instead, they sport perky, vibrant foliage. Leaves grow in at full size and have a healthy sheen to them. If the houseplant flowers, you’ll find that it regularly buds up and blooms.
Healthy houseplants are also well-anchored in the soil. You won’t find any wobbling. The roots are firmly planted. At the root zone of healthy plants, you’ll find roots that are firm and white or tan.
Signs of Sick Houseplants
Limp leaves that are dull indicate a distressed houseplant. Likely problems are that the plant is dry and needs watering, or the soil is too wet and the roots are suffering from rot. Fix the watering problem and the plant will become more content.
Distorted, shriveled leaves that yellow and fall off are indicative of cultural problems that can lead to plant demise--including insufficient lighting and incorrect watering.
Plants that are wobbly at the base are most likely infected with fungal or bacterial disease. Brown or black roots that are mushy are another sign of root rot. Stop watering the plants when this occurs.
Plants that are rangy and leggy and lean to one side are indicative of insufficient light. And a pot-bound plant full of roots indicates that the plant needs repotting as soon as possible. Not only are such plants starved for nutrients, the lack of soil leads to insufficient water for the plants.
If the plant is supposed to be budded up and flowering, but it’s not, this can be another sign that your houseplant needs an attitude adjustment.
A sticky, annoying residue on foliage indicates that the plant is being attacked by sap-sucking pests like mealybugs, scale and aphids. The fact is that the sticky substance is essentially “pooped” out by the pests as they feed on your houseplants. Of course, if you see pests on the plants, this is another obvious sign that there's trouble in paradise.
What about your houseplants? Do you think they’re happy?
No, I’m not talking about that kind of potting up! (Although, who knows, maybe the same rules apply.) I’m talking about a place in your home where you can easily and comfortably pot up plants, treat ailing ones and do some pruning.
Even if your space is tight, it helps to have a small corner where you can go with a plant that needs care. If you don’t have a spot, you’ll tend to put off caring for houseplants until you can clear the kitchen table or the bench in the garage.
You know how it goes. Someday I’ll pot up my houseplants and make them look amazing! Just like, someday I’ll lose 50 pounds; someday I’ll make a million dollars; someday I’ll win the lottery; someday I’ll finish the kid’s baby books; someday I’ll clean out that closet….You get the idea!
Okay, so this shot doesn't really relate to potting up houseplants. Truth is, I just love this photo, so I'm including it. It's a good representation of how good I feel when my houseplants are well tended! :)
If you can fit one in (even if it’s in a closet or the garage), it really helps to have a small potting table. When you have all of your tools and indoor gardening supplies on hand, you can quickly and easily repot a plant, treat for pests and diseases and do some necessary pruning. A potting table also makes a great spot for quarantining a new plant before introducing it to the rest of your plant family.
A well-designed potting table with ample working space, convenient shelves and drawers makes it easy to perform indoor gardening chores.
Find a wide variety of potting tables at nurseries, home supply stores and online, or you can build your own. When deciding on a potting table, consider the height you find most comfortable. Will you be wearing shoes when doing your indoor gardening, or will you go barefoot?
Of course, the kitchen table still works—providing you can get to it! Or any table tucked away in your home where you can store your gardening supplies and get some work done.
Whatever you choose for working on your indoor garden and wherever you put it in your home—have fun caring for your precious houseplants!
If it’s snowing or raining outside, show your houseplants some love. Liquid from the sky is like champagne to your indoor plants. Catch rain and snow water and shower your houseplants with this potent elixir.
Rain and snow infuse your plants with a dilute form of nitric acid, which makes your indoor green friends happier and healthier. “Skywater” is also acidic, which many indoor plants like. If there’s thunder and lightning, the water is even more infused with Mother Nature’s good mojo! So go outside, collect the sky’s bounty, say a toast, and water your houseplants.
Watering houseplants with snow
Scoop up snow into a bucket and pack it tight. Bring it into the house and set it in a sink or bathtub until it melts. Wait until the resulting water reaches room temperature of at least 70-75 degrees before using it for watering. (Studies have shown that cold water can lead to root rot and leaf spotting.)
Watering with rainwater
Catch rainwater when it’s coming down into any vessel that will hold it, including jugs, rain barrels, buckets and watering cans. Bring the rain water indoors and let it reach room temperature before using it for irrigating your houseplants.
Orchids can actually be watered with snow. Form snow into little snowballs and place them on top of the orchid bark. The balls will melt slowly and provide the orchids with a source of water. This should be done no more than once a week in the wintertime. (See below regarding the dangers of overwatering). When placing the snowballs around the orchid, make sure not to touch any leaves with the snow.
Filtering snow and rainwater
If the snow or rainwater contains any visible debris, filter it out with a fine strainer before using it. The finer the mesh in the strainer, the more debris you’ll catch. While this isn’t an imperative step, it is a good idea to help prevent soil borne disease.
Proper winter watering of houseplants
Keep in mind that most indoor gardens require substantially less water during the winter months than other times of the year. Even though your plants grow indoors, they respond to the cold days, and especially the limited daylight, by slowing down growth and growing less vigorously. When plants slow down growth, they require less water.
Before watering houseplants, make sure to check with a moisture meter in order to determine if the plants actually require watering. If the moisture meter reads wet, don’t water. Wait until it is on the verge of dry or in the dry zone. Most houseplants will recover from becoming slightly dry much easier than they’ll spring back from being overwatered—especially in the winter time. The combination of cold and short nights and wet soil quickly leads to root rot and death.
But enough downer talk! Go outside and collect some houseplant champagne. Then water, and watch your indoor garden throw its own party.