Mistakes, we’ve all made a few (with apologies to Frank Sinatra). If I was writing about my OWN mistakes, this blog post would be a novel.
Some very big mistakes have made the news recently. I haven’t made any quite that big and I’m sure you haven’t either. But I bet you ARE making some mistakes caring for your indoor plants. The most important thing about making a mistake is recognizing it, and learning from it. And not repeating it.
These are everyday principles to our horticultural service technicians at Good Earth Plant Company but we all had to learn these things too. So let me share the six most common mistakes people make caring for indoor plants, and how you can avoid them.
Mistake 1: Choosing the Wrong Plants
Would you plant cactus in Siberia? Of course not. You need to choose plants for the growing conditions in your region: hot or cold, rainy or not, sunny or shady. It’s the same with indoor plants. Not all plants can grow indoors and not all indoor plants can grow anywhere you put them. Interior spaces have their own “climate” requirements.
Most plants considered good choices for indoor environments have a few common qualities:
- They can grow in low light: Most artificial lights cannot match the intensity and quality of sunlight. Even when you have natural light coming in through windows, it will never match being outdoors.
- They tolerate low humidity: The air indoors is usually too dry for plants. Most of the time it’s too dry even for people! Adding plants can help raise the humidity, but your indoor plans should be able to adapt and thrive in a low humidity environment.
- They don’t grow out of control: It sounds great to have a fast-growing plant, but aggressive plants can quickly outgrow a container and exert so much force it breaks, or it runs out of room and dies off.
Mistake 2: Not Enough Light
We mentioned light as part of the first mistake, but there are plenty of plants that make good low light choices. But all plants need SOME light. Even plants that prefer mostly shade need a little light whether direct or indirect light for part of the day. So if you’re in a very dark office space, you might have some limited choices about where plants go. You might consider an alternative like a moss wall that isn’t actively growing and can be placed anywhere to provide a natural element. PS: It’s not healthy for you to work somewhere too dark for a plant to grow either!
Mistake 3: Neglecting Your Plants
You don’t have Mother Nature helping you take care of your indoor plants: no rain, no natural soil and sun helping feed your plants. So you are 100 percent responsible for the maintenance and care and it is twice as important indoors as it is outdoors.
Once you’ve chosen your plants and decided where they will be placed, don’t set it and forget it. Check in with your plants every day. Observe how they are doing. Are the leaves wilting or turning yellow? Do they seem limp? Is their growth non-existent after many weeks? Are there any pests (I’m talking about you, fungus gnats)? Address any problems early. BUT…
Mistake 4: Don’t Love Your Plants To Death
Don’t think because you’re checking on your plants you always need to DO something. Overwatering and overfeeding are the top reasons indoor plants die at the hands of their caretakers.
Mistake 5: Treating Indoor Plants Like Outdoor Plants
We know a thing or two about maintaining indoor plants. We’re professionals, after all. There are several care principles you might find surprising when you’re caring for indoor plants, especially in a challenging and unnatural office environment. For example:
- Plants growing indoors in low humidity need more water than plants growing outside. But it’s a fine line. Soil needs to stay moist but not TOO moist (again, fungus gnats and worse).
- Giving plants fresh air: If you are in an office environment with sealed windows, and no doors or other direct access outside, you and your plants are breathing recirculated air. Yuck. You need to provide them a place to “breathe” real air. With our clients, we’re able to cycle fresh plants in and out.
- Cleaning your plants. Mother Nature washes plants with rain. With indoor plants, you need to gently wipe off the leaves or mist them from time to time to mimic the cleaning benefits of rain. A layer of dust prevents all important light from reaching the leaves. Plus, a dust free plant looks better.
- Please don’t put your indoor plant outside in full sun, ever. Just like you, too much sun exposure will give it a nasty sunburn with scorched leaves. Keep it inside where it belongs.
Mistake 6: People Don’t Have Any Indoor Plants at All!
We spend 90% of out time indoors. Many people spend a lot of time at work. When those workspaces are confined, gray, no windows, no views of nature, no idea whether it’s even light or dark outside, your wellbeing suffers. There’s no doubt about it, research has proven how damaging this is to your health. Thankfully we have reached the point where these kind of soul crushing workspaces are no longer considered acceptable.
Contemporary interior office design incorporates natural light, plants, more color and more ecologically sustainable materials. Even when conditions aren’t optimal, we have so many new ways to incorporate nature. This is one reason why moss walls are one of the hottest trends in interior plantscaping I’ve seen in 40 years.
But no matter what your challenges, it’s at least better to TRY and incorporate nature and plants into your environment, even if you aren’t successful. Maybe you’re got a space that needs artificial plants. They are MUCH improved from previous generations. Maybe you’ll be better off with cut flowers or something you can replace and swap out from time to time. Or maybe you’ll luck out and you find the ONE plant that will grow in a tough spot. Victory! So don’t be afraid to make some mistakes. The worst that can happen besides a dead plant is that you might learn something. So go for it!
And – if what you learn is that you’d rather leave the interior plants to a professional, give Good Earth Plant Company a call anytime. We are happy to help and we never plant shame anyone.