Best Practices For Growing Container Plants
Why is my plant dying!!!!???? Ever had this problem? You venture out to your local garden center, not a big-box store (sorry, I had to), and you buy yourself a cute, little container plant. You get a pot, buy fertilizer, and put it all together in the perfect spot in your home. Then it dies. Yes, it dies. After all the love, fertilizer, and water you showered this plant with, it just up and craps out on you. It’s a tale too often told, but I swear, it can be prevented. If you do your research and learn about your plant’s likes/dislikes and requirements, and you follow the basic guidelines I’m about to teach you; you can be spared of this heartache and frustration.
Soil For Container Plants
Media is the “dirt” you are about to place your beloved plant in. Do not use soil from your backyard. Chances are it has clay in it. Clay does not drain well and is not a preferred media for container plants. Go to your local garden shop and pick up some potting mix. It will have components like pine bark, peat moss, and maybe some perlite that aid in soil drainage and nutrient retention. This is key to growing healthy plants.
Watering Container Plants
Most people overthink watering… “Should I do it everyday or maybe every-other day, and how much water does it need each time”? First of all, know your plant’s water requirements. That last sentence can be translated, “Google your plant and see what wikipedia says.” Some plants love wet conditions; others prefer dry environments. Find out what your plant needs. A good rule to think about when watering is this: you cannot overwater a plant in a single watering. If you were to pour a gallon of water into a gallon container…the plant would survive. It would only hold a fraction of the water you poured in it and the rest would drain out. If you were to do this everyday, then yes, you would be overwatering your plant and problems would arise. Overwatering on occasion (like the gallon in a gallon scenario) is actually a good thing. Container plants have a tendency to build up soluble salts from fertilizer in the soil that need to be leached out. If salt levels rise too high, the plant has difficulty taking up water and nutrients from the soil. Get your finger dirty! You cannot tell if the soil is wet or not by looking at the surface of a pot. Wind and sunlight can dry the media on the surface and deceive you into thinking the plant needs water. Stick your finger into the soil to see what’s going on beneath the surface. It is important to let soils dry a bit between waterings, but there is no clear-cut rule; you’ll have to experiment with your plants to discover the best practices. BUT WARNING! Don’t let your media dry out completely. If your media dries out completely it become hydrophobic or water-repellent.
Fertilizing Container Plants
A common mistake is over-fertilizing plants. Many think that if a little of something is good then a lot of that something must be better. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read, and follow, the directions on the package of consumer fertilizers. Not only does adding too much fertilizer waste money, but it also is dangerous (sometimes toxic) to your plant. Fertilizers can raise the pH in soils and add salts. These things are good in the right quantity but can lead to nutritional problems and, at worst, death if overused.
Best Location For Container Plants
The location where you place your plant is also an important factor. Once again, it is required that you do a little research to know your plant’s sun needs. If you place a full sun plant in a north-facing window or on the north side of your house, it will not flourish like it could if it was getting its preferred time in the sun on the south side. Be mindful of shade trees as well. You could place a potted plant on the correct side of your house, but if it is under a shade tree it still won’t be getting the right sun exposure (still talking about full sun plants).
These are just a few examples of “things to consider” if you are a chronic potted-plant killer. Change your ways or I’ll make an emotionally charged commercial set to a Sarah McLachlan song about plant abuse. (yes, I do love animals)