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Killing your Plants Part Two


“Don’t make the same mistake twice – there are plenty of new ones available!”

It’s easy to become inattentive or not to remember, not to learn the lesson, not to take due care or to do the same nonsensical things repeatedly. It is daft to take the same actions and expect different results.

What follows is a summary of more ways we kill our plants … and since our containers and pot plants give so much pleasure, it’s worth the effort of caring for them conscientiously. Many feel obliged to have plants because it’s the thing to do. Don’t, I say again – why not go for flower art or mosaic or pottery or sculpture or something else to decorate your space?

So, if your containers are looking poorly for some reason or another, then maybe more do’s and don’ts that follow will help.

DRAINAGE
a) No drainage holes? Drainage holes too small? Drainage holes blocked from the inside of the pot by impacted soil? Check and correct the situation. Keep checking.
b) Did you pot our plants correctly? Did you use stones or shards or other drainage materials at the bottom of the container so that the water can drain away?
c) If you have drip trays, after watering well, allow water to stand for 20 minutes then throw the rest away, do not let your pots sit in water.
d) If you use cache pots, remember to empty the extra water – you do not want root rot and soggy smelly plants. Many plants do not like wet feet as they say.
e) If you do not use drip trays, do not let your containers sit flush on the ground where drainage could be blocked. Use pot feet (bricks will do) to raise the pots (also gives air a chance)

LIGHT
a) There are low light, medium light (dappled shade) and high light plants around with so many to choose from for the right circumstances … for your circumstances. What is the orientation of your home? Which side gets the morning sun? The afternoon sun? Where are the low light areas? Do you have dappled shade you can count on? Do you have a hot side and a cold side? Choose our plants accordingly.
b) If plants are leggy, dropping bottom leaves or leaning over to one side, they are probably seeking more light. Move them.
c) If your plants are pale, growth slow and new leaves smaller, then it’s likely the plant needs more light.
d) If plants are wilting even though they have been watered, or leaves are yellowing or dry it is likely too much light or too much direct sun. It is not likely that you can save these plants, just put them in a different place if you decide to replace them.
e) Plants without enough light will take a very long time to die but they will look poor. Attend to them or give them away to someone who will.

LOW HUMIDITY
a) Humidity levels drop in a home especially during winter with heaters and air conditioners and so on. The leaves of plants you move inside or into more protective spaces may need their own source of moisture.
b) Water to the soil is for the roots and the stems, and you can mist the leaves. I do this daily for my orchids but less often for other plants such as peace lilies. Go with your program – mist when you can.
c) Do not mist cacti and succulents or any plant with furry leaves (such as violets).
d) If misting is not a solution, then you can make a humidity tray. Using a saucer or the drip tray of the container, place even sized pebbles and fill the middle bits with fine gravel as necessary. Fill this with water and place the container on top. With the extra heat in the area, (natural or not) this water base will provide humidity for the plant as it evaporates. This is practical and looks good. Don’t forget to keep the tray fill with water – and now and then clean out the tray, wash off the stones and start again. This is an excellent answer to humidifying cacti.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS
a) All seed packets and seedlings and specimen plants come with plant requirement and care instructions and if you don’t read and remember them, please keep the packet or label so that you can remind yourself when you need to.
b) It’s obvious to note that different plants need different things, but some gardeners fall back to the position of ‘one size fits all’ which of course is not true. Your plants are individuals with specific needs, no two plants are the same.
c) Adhering to plant care instructions means healthy plants. A lot of trouble went into writing them.

SHOCK/CHANGE/MOVING
a) Plants are permanent ‘creatures’ and once they get settled they like to stay in their places when they’re happy.
b) Plants do not really like change or being moved around too often (as you might rearrange the furniture for instance). If you are moving house, I have heard it said that you need to mark north on the plant pot and wherever you place the pot in your new home or garden, ensure it is facing north as it did.
c) Plants which are being repotted, or seedlings transplanted may be in shock at the changes. Be gentle and careful and if you are dotty like a lot of people are, talk to your plants and tell them what you’re doing.

PESTS and DISEASES
a) Pests multiply quickly. Spider mites, gnats, whitefly, scale, mealybugs, aphids, worms, beetles and more. These no so friendly beings are sent to test us. Remain observant, check your containers, and take action early.
b) Pests proliferate but are easily dealt with timeously. They take time to build up, this is not an overnight situation. Do not ignore the first signs, take action ASAP.
c) Identify the pest or insect and try natural remedies first avoid chemical whenever you can.
d) Keep plants strong and healthy, keep leaves clean and not dusty, feed regularly, use mulch and make sure your containers are ‘happy’.
e) Destroy plants that have been overcome – do not put diseased plant material into your compost heap or Bokashi bin – burn it if you can.
f) If one plant of a selection in a container has been removed, repot the rest in new soil once you have cleaned the container.
g) Constantly check for new infestations.
h) Discard the soil removed, do not add it to your other containers or garden – throw it away.

***In Killing your Plants Part One we covered: Wrong Plant Choices; Container Choices; Placement and Position; Overwatering; Underwatering; Soil and Maintenance.

***In Killing your Plants Part Three we cover Temperature; Roots; Fertiliser; Neglect and General.

Green thumbs abound – and we do not mean to kill our plants on purpose. Enhance your knowledge and skills in the garden, and accept that by making mistakes we learn the lessons we need to learn … even if it costs a lot at times!

What do you want your container garden to do?
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Content copyright © 2015 by Lestie Mulholland. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lestie Mulholland. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lestie Mulholland for details.

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