You just haven’t had any luck with houseplants so far? Then you have likely made one of these seven grooming mistakes.
Most indoor plants have very special and individual requirements in terms of care, location, and substrate. You can do a lot wrong here and in no time the houseplant dies, no longer shows any flowers, or is attacked by pests. Whether watering, fertilizing, or repotting: Here you will find the seven most common mistakes that are made when caring for houseplants.
Caring for indoor plants: tips in brief
- Find out about the individual needs of your indoor plants in terms of water, nutrient, and light requirements.
- A drainage layer protects against waterlogging in the pot.
- Avoid drafts on plants that are sensitive to the cold.
- Check your houseplants regularly for pests.
- Bring the potted plants to their winter quarters in good time.
Mistake 1: watering indoor plants incorrectly
There is a great deal of variance in indoor plants when it comes to the amount of water required. Plants that come from arid regions, such as cacti or succulents, require very little water. They hardly evaporate, store the water they have received and thus create a reserve. Other plants, such as those from moors or the tropics, have completely different requirements.
They need more water or another water supply, for example via a spray bottle, because they are used to high humidity. There are numerous gradations between these two extremes and, as you can imagine, many possibilities of going wrong. By the way: Most of the time plants do not dry out, they tend to be poured over, which leads to waterlogging and rotten roots.
Therefore, you should consider the following tips for care:
- Find out about the individual requirements of your indoor plants in terms of water requirements.
- Check with a finger test whether the substrate is dry and water is required.
- If you are not sure, a retail moisture meter is a good alternative.
- To avoid waterlogging, a layer of gravel can be used to create a drainage layer in the pot.
- Use pots with a drain hole.
Mistake 2: Choosing the wrong substrate
Whether culinary herbs, orchids, or dragon trees: every plant has different demands on the substrate in which it grows. While some culinary herbs like thyme prefer a sandy, nutrient-poor substrate, basil loves nutrient-rich soil because it is a heavy hitter. Orchids only need a few coconut fibers and the dragon tree needs acidic soil (pH value of around 6). If the right soil is not used, deficiency symptoms, root rot due to waterlogging or diseases can occur.
Mistake 3: The wrong location for indoor plants
In addition to the wrong water supply, the wrong location for plants is often a death sentence. Follow the care instructions or specialist literature that will tell you whether the plant is more comfortable in the shade with little light, in the sun, or partial shade. Here are some plants for the different locations.
Light to sunny:
- Indoor bamboo
- Shame flower
- A leaf
- Bow hemp
- Kentia palm
- Dragon tree
Further criteria for the location are the temperature and any drafts. In the winter months, when the heaters are on, the warm, rising air is harmful to plants on the windowsill. They lose a lot of moisture through the leaves (evaporation) and the temperature directly above the heater is far too high for them. In such cases, the houseplant usually calls for help by shedding its leaves and should be relocated immediately. In addition, spider mites feel particularly comfortable at higher temperatures, which often leads to an increased incidence of pests.
Drafts are usually not a problem in summer because the temperature difference here is only a few degrees Celsius. In winter, however, plants should not be placed directly next to windows or doors that are ventilated. House plants that are more sensitive to the cold, such as the weeping fig (Ficus benjamin) or the popular poinsettia, often shed leaves after being ventilated for a long time if they were in a draft. Another winter problem: If leaves come into direct contact with the window pane, they can cool down, turn brown, and fall off. So make sure there is some space between the pane and the houseplants. A curtain can be sufficient as an intermediate layer here.
Mistake 4: not fertilizing indoor plants properly
A lot helps a lot. This wisdom has somehow lodged itself with some plant owners, but it is a misconception! Pay attention to the information on the fertilizer packaging and the requirements of the individual plants. Too little fertilizer can be acknowledged, for example, with reduced growth, yellow leaves, and small shoots. If there is too much fertilization, the houseplant can either no longer absorb nutrients and water properly or it will even be deprived of water. The result is brown and dried-out (burned) leaf edges. Or it becomes “masty”, floats up, and forms soft shoots that are bluish in color.
Mistake 5: Failure to recognize pests on indoor plants
In addition to adding water and fertilizer, you should also take care of removing unwelcome visitors when caring for indoor plants. Visitors especially like to bring potted plants into the house, which are given some space to sunbathe on the balcony and terrace in summer. Or the pests come together with newly purchased plants or substrate, which is why you should always keep a watchful eye here. Common pests are:
- Scale insects
- Spider mites
- Sciarid gnats
Many of these pests are not a problem for the houseplant in small numbers, but in larger numbers, they can become one. When watering, watch out for damage such as scuff marks or obvious signs of pests – and act immediately.
Mistake 6: repotting indoor plants incorrectly
When does a houseplant need to be repotted and what should you watch out for? Basically, the older a plant gets, the less often it has to be repotted. Young plants that are still growing strongly and have their pot rooted through quickly must be repotted regularly in a larger container. Some plants, such as the green lily or the bow hemp, create such a strong root pressure when the vessels are too small that the plant pushes itself out of the pot or the pot is even blown up.
To check, lift the houseplant out of the container and check whether the soil is already fully rooted or whether roots are already growing out of the drainage hole. The right time to repot is early spring because as soon as more sun floods through the rooms, the plants sprout. The fresh, loose substrate supports them in this.
Once houseplants have reached their maximum size, they no longer have to be repotted as often. With them, it’s less about the number of roots than about the fact that the substrate is depleted and needs to be renewed. This should be done about every three to four years.
Mistake 7: Do not bring indoor plants into the house in time
Many indoor plants spend the warm summer months in the garden, on the balcony or terrace, which is obviously good for them. However, if you wait too long in autumn to bring the plants back into your house, you often have to complain about failures. In October at the latest, the plants should leave their summer home and move back into a warm house or sheltered winter quarters. If the houseplants are forgotten, the first cold temperatures can damage the shoots and leaves as well as the roots and in the worst case lead to the death of the houseplant.
For young plants that were previously only in the house, sun protection should be installed for the first few days in the garden, on the balcony, or terrace (for example with a gardener’s fleece). Without sun protection, many plants cannot tolerate the first direct exposure to sunlight. You have to get used to the strong light first. If they are still exposed to the blazing sun, damage such as sunburn can result.