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Killing your Plants Part Three
Mistakes are gifts. We learn from them and then we rejoice. – Richelle Goodrich
It’s easy not to remember, not to learn the lesson, not to take due care or to do the same nonsensical things over and over again; as Jim Rohn said “If it’s easy to do, it’s also easy not to do.”
What follows is a summary of yet 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 – 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 these final do’s and don’ts that follow will help.
TEMPERATURE – too HOT or too COLD
a) Do not place a container next to a heater or radiator or stove (yep, people do put plants in their kitchens). Next to direct heat, the plant will react badly, wilt, burn and most likely die.
b) Intermittent heat will lead to dehydration and probably overwatering as you misdiagnose the problem.
c) Container plants in general prefer even temperatures (especially house plants) and around 70F is fine. Your plant will be as comfortable as you are with the ambient temperature.
d) Air conditioners dry out the atmosphere which in turn affect plants placed nearby. As mentioned elsewhere using a mister will help, but move the plants away from direct cold and dry air.
e) Check the care instruction card for the advice it gives on optimum temperatures for your plants.
f) Protect your containers against frost … cover them up with fleece, move them inside, put up wind shields, whatever. Frost will kill plants so if you live in a ‘frosty’ area, take action beyond just holding thumbs.
a) When a plant outgrows its pot, the roots circle around inside the pot and start to restrict themselves. This is known as being root bound or pot bound.
b) Container plants can become root bound or pot bound as they outgrow their current pots. The ratio of roots to soil becomes too large as the roots displace the soil, plants seem to dry out more quickly and/or water either passes through before the plant can benefit or it gets ‘stuck’ and root rot may occur.
c) Leaves turn yellow for several reasons but one of them is when it is time to repot into a bigger container with fresh soil.
d) Another sign for repotting is that the roots start growing out of the drainage holes or over the top. By the way, never buy plants that have roots in this condition – they will be stressed and not worth it (even if they are on sale).
e) However, roots need to be contained so do not plant a seedling in a huge pot and expect it to grow while you just wait and do nothing. Only go one pot size up when repotting (or split the plant if this is possible (agapanthus does this).
f) Never repot while the plant is in bloom – you don’t want it to die do you?
FERTILISER – too much or none?
a) If you never feed your plants, they will survive, all else being equal, but they won’t perform as they should. Not feeding is not a mistake that will kill your plants but it would be a pity given that you made a commitment to yourself to have plants in your space. If fertilisers or other soil conditioners are out of reach for some reason, then just repot your plants in good composty soil at least every 18 - 24 months.
b) Because plants rely on their soil for nutrients they may also need supplements for them to grow, produce fruit, blooms and seed. Watering removes a lot of these so regular replacement becomes necessary.
c) Using a balanced plant-appropriate fertiliser or food is easy enough. What makes it difficult is that we don’t read the advisories, we tend to ignore the instructions or think that doubling up of adding more-than-they-say is better (won’t the plant respond more quickly?). Only feed the plant according to the instructions – read the label and then feed as noted.
d) Choose the right fertilizer for the right purpose and plant group. Fertilisers come in all sorts of guises, some are specialist, some liquid, some are better for leaf production, some for fruit or blooms.
e) Feed regularly and not now and then when you remember. Only have one person in the home responsible for feeding your plants, preferably you. This way there won’t be duplicate action and mistakes made.
f) Over-fertilizing our plant will kill them slowly.
a) When you go on holiday or intend to be away for some time, make arrangements for someone to come in to check your plants.
b) Invest in self-watering pots or set up your plants so that there is a source of water that they can draw on as necessary while you are away.
c) Every living thing needs care and if you are too busy or just not into plants it would probably be better if you didn’t have them than keep them and neglect or ignore them. Throwing away the dead ones and replacing them with new ones to ‘kill’ is not right. It drives me crazy … I know someone who does this.
a) Not having the right tools for the job, using a kitchen spoon and fork may help but are not the best choice. Nurseries sometime have second-hand-departments where good bargains can be found if finance is a problem.
b) Not having the right environment or basic materials we need for what we want (space, sunshine, water restrictions etc.). What is, is, not what you wish it were.
c) Growing things you don’t like eating or flowers you don’t like trying to keep up with the Jones’ will be a waste of your effort. Just grow what you like and your plants and veggies will respond.
d) Forgetting that plants will grow as they do, that they shed spent leaves and blooms, they can be untidy – and they do not always suit home decor or soulless modern steel design. It would be a mistake not to know what kind of plant you’ve just bought.
e) Pets and gardening needs planning. Digging? Chemicals? Poisonous plants? Consider these.
***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 Two we covered: Drainage; Light; Low Humidity; Reading Care Instructions, Shock, Change and Moving and Pests/Diseases.
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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