How do I stop killing my plants?

If you are hopeless with plants and cursed with the touch of death, fear not.

If you’ve been spending 90% of your life in your house during this pandemic and your space is feeling dry, a great way to feel more comfortable at home and bring life into your space, is plants!

They have a revitalizing energy about them, a mesmerizing appearance, and create a lush and inviting atmosphere. If you don’t feel like decorating, or know how to, boom, get a plant! It’s easy, classy and won’t clutter your space, like material items tend to do. And a great form of self-care, is to take care of something else.

I’ve heard so many people claim that “they just can’t take care of plants” or that they “kill everything they touch.” Obviously- and hopefully, that’s not true. It’s like when people say “I can’t draw,” or “I can’t dance,” and other sillyness like that.

Maybe you can’t draw very WELL, and maybe you are TRASH on the dancefloor…

but you CAN do it, you just need to put some time in, to get good.

Nurseries have been crowded since they’ve reopened and declared as, “essential businesses.” It seems like many people, including myself, have found a new love for gardening as a healthy way of channeling their energy. If you are one of the new members of Plant Parenthood in the world, or are thinking about it, I have some important tips for you before you embark on your journey.

0.5) CARE

The REAL first thing you need to take care of plants is actually an action, you just need to literally care about them. You need to think about them, give them some mental real estate and actually, want to take care of them. If it seems like a chore, then what’s the point? Save a plant’s life and get a Tamagotchi. But most likely, it’s not that you’re lazy, you’re just intimidated by what you don’t know.

1.) WATERING

image via garden365.com

You are most likely over watering them.

Some of us tend to care a little TOO much. When we start off something new, we get excited and have an abundance of energy ready to invest in our new hobby. We also have that need to nurture and watch our babies grow to fruition, sometimes we get a little impatient and eagerly water them, hoping they’ll sprout up before our eyes.

Plants all have different needs for watering depending on the species, but also its location. Is it outside or inside? Is there lots of direct light or a little indirect light? How many hours of sun exposure? How much heat? How much humidity? These are all factors you should take into consideration.

Plants leaves will turn brown or yellow due to overwatering AND underwatering, so you need to do some critical thinking and search your memory banks to determine which one you are guilty of.

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A little hint can be found by feeling the remaining healthy leaves (assuming there are some still). If your leaves feel swollen or squishy, they are probably over-watered, compared to brittle, thin and crispy leaves that come from under watering.

If your plants look like this, this is bad.

My first attempt at growing cannabis lmao.

Feel the soil the day after you water it. If it is still wet and the soil is clearly dark from the moisture, it probably needs more sunlight. If it is bone dry, even an inch or two deep into the soil only a day later, then it might be getting too much sun or heat. A day after watering, the soil should be cool to the touch and slightly moist, but not so moist that the soil is caked to your finger after sticking it in.

For the most part, if just the tips are turning brown, it’s probably overwatered. If entire leaves are dried up, its underwatered.

Watering Do’s and Don’ts

  • Water the soil slowly, carefully and evenly, not the top of the plant.
  • Don’t water at night.
  • Don’t let the pot sit in water, if there is some in the tray.

If you are underwatering them, set a recurring reminder on your phone to water them and then DO IT.

2.) Not enough/too much sun

This sounds obvious but it can end up being a little tricky. All plants have specific amounts of light they require, very rarely can you treat different plant types the same. Unfortunately, you can’t just pick out a nice spot and think “a plant will look good there,” then put a plant there willy-nilly.

Use the old Google machine to find out specifically, the requirements needed for your plant. Hopefully you will know if it is best suited for indoors or outdoors.

With indoor plants, determine how much light it needs and whether it needs indirect sunlight or direct sunlight, there’s a huge difference. Sometimes multiple hours of indirect sunlight can be perfect for a plant, while just one hour of direct sunlight can burn it.

For outdoors, consider the direction your plant receives sunlight from. Is it best lit during sunrise or sunset? The morning sun is usually more intense than evening sun, though the evening sun is usually more dry than morning. What time of the day is your plant in shadow? Maybe it needs more light or less depending on your situation. If it’s struggling, move it and see how it responds.

3.) Not well rooted

A.) If you water your plant and the water runs straight through and out the holes at the bottom, that is not a good sign. You should repot it immediately, because it is showing you the roots do not have a strong hold in the soil and the plant has a weak foundation.

B.) If you touch your plant and it gives way in the soil, and is easily moved, it is not rooted well. A well rooted plant should have some resistance when you give the stem a small push.

C.) The soil itself should not be too firm or too loose. When you press a finger into the soil it should depress a bit, and your finger should be able to penetrate with a gentle twist. If it is packed densely and has a “spongy” feel, it’s probably packed too tight and should be broken up or it won’t allow water or oxygen to flow through.

4.) Rootbound

This is BAD!! You will find this often, when you bring a plant home from the nursery. When a plant overgrows its pot, the roots will wrap around themselves with nowhere else to go. You gotta set those babies free and let them stretch their legs!

If the roots are all matted and tangled up at the bottom, you need to break that ish up ASAP and repot it. The roots should be free hanging and loose when you stick them in the dirt.

If a plant is struggling and you feel that the soil is hard or dense, check the roots. If the roots are bulging up on the surface of the soil, it is probably rootbound and you need a bigger pot.

I learned this tip from the self-proclaimed “gangster gardener,” Ron Finley. He encourages people to grow their own food and eat healthy, creating many gardens in urban, “food deserts,” in LA. He has a MasterClass all about gardening, that is super informative and entertaining, 10/10 recommend.

Yum, what a hunk.

5.) Prune!

This part is overlooked because it seems tedious but it’s actually SO satisfying. If you’re like me and you enjoy watching pimple popping vids, or things getting removed from people’s bodies, I feel like you will enjoy pruning. Clip off the dead leaves, the brown tips or just the bushy, uneven parts of the plant.

It seemed cruel to me at first, but it will leave the plant with room to grow fresh branches and allow it to focus on fortifying the healthy parts, rather than wasting energy reviving a rotting branch or dried leaf. The hanging dead leaves, can also block sunlight from reaching the other healthy leaves.

If there are dead fallen leaves in the soil of your pot, it’s usually fine to leave them because they will decompose and turn into mulch that can help your plants absorb water. You DON’T however, want leaves that will block water from the soil, or blocking sunlight, too much can prevent other small stems from sprouting up at the base of your plant.

Starter Tips:

  • Start with a succulent or cactus.

Succulents and cacti, are super hardy and can survive in many conditions. They need very little water, especially when they’re indoors; once a week MAX. Outdoors, every 1-2 weeks should be fine as long as the soil is dry before you water. Sometimes they can absorb fog, dew and humidity and get their water on their own. Cacti can live in bone dry soil for weeks, just make sure that when you do water its full and thorough. Let the water get deep into the soil so the roots can extend deep as well.

  • Get a snake plant.

I swear, these plants are invincible. We’ve had one in our house in the darkest corner of our living room and it is thriving. Sometimes I have forgotten to water it for weeks and when I return to check out the dust-covered, neglected baby, it’s leaves are still strong, green and perky. You ain’t gotta do sh*t.

  • Learn your lessons

For me, I first had to learn CONSISTENCY. It was hard for me to even remember that I had owned a plant, let alone stick to a weekly schedule. Plants are a great bunny slope teacher of responsibility, you need to keep them in mind and remember that something is relying on you for it’s life! Once you can get past that phase, plant keeping becomes so rewarding.

Now, I have to practice RESTRAINT, from wanting to water them every time look at them. I enjoy taking care of them so much, that I always want to care for them! It’s so hard to NOT water them, or fuss with them and pick them up and examine them from all angles. I’ve become the helicopter parent that texts my plants every hour to see where they are, and asks if they’ve eaten today.

  • Set them up and let them be.

Try not to touch them too much, I love touching my plants and feeling their unique textures, grooves on their leaves, or sometimes smells that they leave on your fingers. Make sure that your plant is hardy enough for you to be fondling them all day, sometimes our fingers can leave destructive oils on the leaves that can disrupt their exterior membranes or unroot them with our fumbling fingers.

  • Love them!

Give them attention, talk to them, look at them, sing to them, whatever you want, just give them literal attention and your conscious energy. Think about the difference you can feel when somebody is really looking at you and paying attention vs. when someone is staring AT you or looking through you.

We’re not so different from plants, they need TLC too. Especially, when they’re taken out of their home, the dirt of mother earth, and relocated into our foster care of our little mobile-home, pots and vases.

Most of plant-care, like so many other things, is trial and error. If you don’t know exactly what your plant needs, then you can take cues from them. They will tell you what they need if you know what to look for. Listen to them and give them what they need and they will show their appreciation in return!

Follow my words carefully, and you can be a swaggy, plant-daddy like me (these are not my plants lol).

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3 Comments

  1. This is so helpful thank you! Any tips on how not to kill bamboo? Looking forward to next weeks post πŸ™‚

    1. Haha succulents are the best to start with bc they are survivors! Just don’t over water it and put it in the sun and it should be good to go, you got this πŸ‘πŸ½

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