Houseplants are such a great addition to your home. They bring a sense of calm and add a bit of flair to a space. But sometimes when you get houseplant crazy, you forget that houseplants are living things and need to be taken care of a certain way. Instead of thinking about the things that help a houseplant flourish, people think about where it might look nice in their home or what planter would make it pop. This can often lead to mistakes that can stop your plants from flourishing. Mistakes like not placing your plant in a spot where it’s getting enough light, or accidentally putting it in a drafty area. It’s important to remember that your plant needs certain things to survive so we spoke with Justin Hancock, a horticulturist at Costa Farms, to find out common mistakes people make with their houseplants so you can avoid making them yourself.
Meet the Expert
Justin Hancock is a horticulturist at Costa Farms, a wholesale grower.
Putting It In the Wrong Light
Let’s face it, the way that people describe lighting situations can be confusing. When you purchase a new plant it’ll probably say what type of light the plant thrives in. But what does bright indirect light really mean anyway? Some plants do well in bright light and low light, but very few tags will explain the difference that more light will make: a plant that can survive in low light, won’t necessarily thrive in it.
And then there’s the situation where people will purchase a plant because they think it will look good in a specific spot. But if that spot doesn’t have the right lighting, the plant won’t do well. “When a plant doesn’t get enough light, it’s more susceptible to other problems, including attack from pests and disease," says Hancock. “Get the light right and a lot of the rest of the plant’s care comes more easily. If in doubt, it’s almost always better to give a houseplant more light than less.”
Placing Them in Drafty Spots
“Another way placement can cause issues for the plant is setting it next to the heating or air conditioning vent,” says Hancock. It’s really important to be aware of the drafty places in your home to avoid damaging your plant. “In general, the thinner the leaf, the more problematic this can be for a plant. Exposure to hot or cold drafts like this can cause leaves to yellow, brown, or black and drop prematurely,” explains Hancock.
Regularly Changing the Location
“In nature, plants are rooted in one spot and typically spend their entire lives there. So they’re not used to change," explains Hancock. "Sometimes in our enthusiasm to keep plants happy doing their best, we’ll move them from spot to spot in the house trying to make them happy."
We’ve all been guilty of this at some point. It’s easy to look at a plant and think to yourself, “this would look so much better in my bedroom rather than on the mantel in the living room.” This can be really troubling for your plant as it has already gotten used to its life in its current spot. Before you decide to switch things up, consider the conditions of the other location where you want to put it and how similar they are. When you take into account the conditions your plant would live in when you change its location and the stress it might endure to adapt, it may end up looking its best staying put where it is.
Repotting Too Often or Into the Wrong Pot
When it comes to repotting, it’s really important to know that you’re doing it at the right time and only when your plant is ready. One way of telling if they’re ready is if their roots are growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. You can also tell if the new foliage is tiny or very slow growing. However, it’s important not to size up too much. You really only need about ½ to 1 inch bigger of a pot in diameter. “The potting mix acts like a sponge to hold moisture. The bigger the sponge, the more moisture it holds,” says Hancock. “So going from a little pot to a big pot in one jump can put the roots in a situation where the potting mix holds more moisture than they’re able to absorb in a timely manner, leading to overwatering issues.”