Once you look after house plants for a while, you get a sense of what might be wrong and how to correct it. By following a few rules and taking time to inspect your plants on a regular basis, many potential disasters can be avoided. Try to develop a routine for examining your plants when you water them. It will only take a couple of minutes but will repay you with attractive plants that can last for years.
Before you start
- Always note the name of a plant when you buy it. That way, you can find out its likes and dislikes.
- Always get a new plant home as quickly as you can in cold weather. Never leave a plant in a hot car.
- Always act quickly if you see a problem. It may mean the difference between restoring a house plant to health and beauty, or losing it.
Often a new plant takes time to settle in, and may drop a few, but if it seems to go downhill from the moment you get it home, double check light, heat and . Some symptoms may have several, or even opposite, causes. For example, Fuchsia leaves will fall off if the plant is over- or under-watered. A second symptom often helps you decide what the exact problem is.
Wilting leaves usually mean underwatering, but may mean waterloggedmixture. With thin-leaved plants, it could be too much heat and light, and not enough . Check, too, for rot and pests such as eelworm and vine weevil.
- Curling leaves which fall prematurely may mean draughts, not enough heat or overwatering. Pests called rollers may be the cause.
- Loss of variegation may mean poor light, but plants tend to ‘revert’ to their all-green form, unless all-green shoots are cut off.
- Lower leaves turning yellow and dropping is natural with some plants, especially if old or recently repotted. If several leaves turn yellow and fall, it may be overwatering, too cold or draughty.
- Leaves turning yellow is caused by lime in the mixture of lime-hating plants, or hard water.
- Brown tips and edges may mean dry air or under-watering, or possibly bruising by passers by.
- Holes, tears and notched edges are usually caused by chewing insects: caterpillars, weevils or earwigs.
- Blotches or spots have many causes: water splashed on leaves, pests, diseases, too much sunlight, overwatering, or watering with very cold water.
- Sudden loss of all leaves is usually due to a severe drought, major change in the temperature, cold draught or sudden increase in light.
- Lack of growth may be due to the time of year— most plants slow down in winter or to the plant itself – many are slow growing naturally. Otherwise, it could be lack of food, light, heat or over-watering, or the plant may be in need of .
- Stunted growth may be caused by root pests and diseases, such as virus, or sap-sucking insects, such as red spider mite, or .
- Tall, spindly growth is almost always due to lack of light. Overfeeding a plant in winter is a common cause.
- One-sided growth is due to light coming from one direction only. Regularly quarter-turning plants on a windowsill corrects this.
- Complete collapse may be due to overwatering, which causes root and rot; underwatering; a sudden ; or root pests or diseases.
How to maintain humidity
The air in a centrally-heated home is usually too dry for sensitive plants, and species needing high humidity can die without regular mist-spraying or a moist pebble tray.
Take a pot a few sizes larger than the plant pot and line it with moistened peat. Bed pot in it and keep peat moist. Create a micro climate for moisture-loving Plants bythem together. The air around them will retain humidity. Spray them daily in warm summer weather. Many plants like to be mist-sprayed. Lukewarm rainwater or distilled water is best.
- Is the plant meant to flower? Ferns never flower; some plants, such as , never flower in the home.
- Is the plant mature? takes a few years to reach flowering size.
- Is it the right time of year?
- flowers all year, but Jasmine flowers only once a year.
- Is there enough light?
- Too little light prevents and Pelargoniums flowering.
- Are you over- ? Many bulbs and Pelargoniums flower better when hungry.
- Are you under- ? Medinella and need heavy feeding to flower.
- Does the plant need to be potbound?
- and Olivia flower better when pot-bound.
- Is it too old? Young plants of flower better than old ones.
- Is the plant infested?
- Thrips destroy or damage Begonias, and .
Flowers fade too quickly
- Are the flowers meant to last?chimines have naturally short-lived flowers, but should go on for weeks.
- Many of the serious effects of over- or under-watering can be forestalled by a modest investment in a moisture meter.
- Is the air too dry? Azalea, and Calamondin Orange flowers fade and drop in dry air.
- Is it too hot? Polyanthus, and need cool temperatures.
- Is it too cold? Lantana and Chenille Plant need high temperatures.
- Is the potting mixture too dry? Italian Bell Flower, Azalea and Paper Flower need a steady supply of water.
Buds drop off
- Were the buds showing colour when you bought the plant?ll-green buds often flail to open.
- Is the air too dry? See above. and Cyclamen need moist air for buds to open.
- Is it too hot? See above.
- Is it too cold? See above. buds need warmth to open.
- Is the potting mixture too dry?
- Was watering erratic? This causes to drop buds.
- Is the potting mixture too wet? drop buds it too dry or wet! Is there enough light?
- Did you move the pot? drops buds if moved.
- Was there a dramatic temperature change? Few buds can tolerate this.
- Is it infested? See above.
- Is it in a draught? buds can’t stand draughts.