Common Planting Wisdom

Congratulations on your new plant!  Whether you are new to plants, or someone with some plant experience, as they say, “even the greats practice the basics”.  We want to share with you some plant wisdom, based in science and experience, to help you be successful in keeping your plant pal alive. (Page still under construction, but still wanted to have something out there for all to see! Message me on Instagram @botanictonic and help me keep this site alive by contributing. If you could contribute to my Venmo (@C-Sat), or here, I would be much obliged!)

To practice the basics, you’re going to need to know the basics:

  1. All plants eat the light as their food.  Light energy is captured via photosynthesis to make sugars, which the plant eats and needs to grow. That means that all plants should be in windows; no more than three feet; and the more light they get, the bigger and leafier they will grow

  2. Watering is not necessarily something that is every X days.  It doesn’t rain at exactly 4PM every Thursday, right?  It rains when it needs to.  So, how do you know when to water a plant?  Feel the soil a few inches deep every few days.  Water, only if dry, by saturating the soil, and letting the excess drain after it has soaked for a little bit.  You can pour water in, and let the plant sit in its soak-through for a few hours.  If you come back and it’s all soaked in, add a little more until the soil is saturated.  Dump any excess water that sits for more than a day.

  3. Be mindful of temperature flux!  Stand where your plant will be, and consider the environment.  Is it in a window that you frequently open?  If so, consider that the plant will be subject to outside temperatures.  If it’s too cold, you may want to move the plant for the duration that the window is open.  Remember, plants want to be where you want to be.  You wouldn’t sit on a radiator, so don’t put your plant on one!

  4. Fertilizer is often called “plant food”, but it really should be called plant vitamins, because that’s exactly what it is.  In nature, plants gain nutrients by infinitely extending their roots to the decaying matter around them and absorbing (with the help of fungi) those nutrients and minerals.  Because your container is a finite space, your plant will absorb all that is available, so you will need to replace the nutrients via fertilizing your plant. Fertilize your indoor plants once a month.

  5. Repotting is necessary when you first get your plant, and either once a year, or whenever your plant outgrows its current pot; whichever comes first.  If a plant is pot-bound, its roots will be coming out of the bottom, it will dry out faster than other plants, and it will drop leaves as it grows new leaves to keep the exact same number of leaves on the plant.  Go up 1-2” in pot size, and always go with a pot with drainage.  If you are more confident with your watering abilities, then you can opt for a non-draining planter (which ferns and begonias tend to like).

  6. Understanding troubles/Diagnostics:
    • Yellow leaves – These are a general sign of distress.  Yellow leaves could actually mean anything.  From watering too much to too little; from being too hot to too cold; all plants will yellow their leaves for some kind of ailment.  Occasionally, on an otherwise healthy plant, it’s normal to yellow and drop the lowest oldest leaves as it grows new leaves.  You will need to observe your plant, its soil, and its surroundings to properly diagnose yellow leaves.  Read on to know more…

    • Leaves dropping – When leaves drop, it’s generally from one of three reasons:
      • Not enough light (the most common for indoor plants)
      • The plant is pot-bound (second most common)
      • The leaves are old
      • The plant has been sprayed with too much pesticide

    • Crispy tips – Crispy tips are from one of a few reasons:
      • The plant got too dry (crisping from the tip going in, symmetrically).  To confirm, the soil will be dry consistently a few inches deep
      • The plant has an infection of bad fungi or bacteria (asymmetrical, and spreads in an asymmetrical fashion)
      • Salt damage (rare unless you have hard water or overfertilized)
      • Wind burn (outdoors only, if there is a wind storm, and it dries out the plant or beats it up)

    • Brown leaves – When leaves turn brown, it’s generally from one of the following:
      • The plant is severely dry (damage is symmetrical).  To confirm, the soil will be dry consistently a few inches deep
      • The plant has an infection of bad fungi or bacteria (asymmetrical, and spreads in an asymmetrical fashion)
      • (with mushiness and wet soil) The plant is wet for too long/overwatered

    • Leaves drooping – When leaves droop, it’s usually:
      • Not watered enough/properly
      • Heat/Cold stress (usually accompanied with a draft or hot spot at some point during the day)
      • Pot-bound (related to roots not absorbing water properly due to crowding)

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