There’s something soothing about having indoor plants in your home or office. Many varieties such as pothos, snake plants and ZZ plants are extremely easy to care for. Even easy-to-maintain houseplants can sometimes struggle under certain conditions, and you may need to troubleshoot some common issues.
When I first became interested in houseplants, I bought a few at a time instead of starting with just one. It ended up being a mistake when repotting the plants. I moved them gently, but quickly noticed the next day that they each had fungus gnats. Houseplants with fungus gnats are a lot like your child coming home with lice.
First, you’ll want to move your affected plants to separate areas so midges can’t spread to nearby plants. I recommend getting a layer of pumice that can cover the ground and leaving it there for a few weeks to treat the eggs.
You will need to trap the adult flies and kill the eggs. While I first tried neem oil, which is generally recommended, I saw minimal success. Neem oil is normally a very healthy way to fight parasites and I always recommend it for less severe cases. In this case, and in many cases where there are too many pests to handle, it is best to use different methods, however. Instead, try using sticky traps near and around your plant. This will trap the adult flies and also let you know if the situation is improving.
I often struggle with yellow leaves on my plants. If you only have one or two leaves turning yellow, you don’t have to worry, but if it happens often, you may be overwatering your plant. Try using the finger test. If the soil is dry about two inches from your finger when you press it in, it’s ready to be watered, but if it’s still damp, it can wait a few more days.
It could also be due to low light, so try moving it to a sunnier area of your home for a few weeks and see if the problem goes away. However, if your leaves turn very pale or white, move them away from that sunny spot as this indicates that they are sunburned.
While overwatering can turn the leaves yellow, underwatering can cause them to turn brown. When you water, make sure the water runs through the drainage holes. This ensures that the whole plant has access to water and not just at the top. You also want to try to water your plant regularly. While you don’t have to be so specific that it’s always the same time of day, you want to make sure you follow a weekly or bi-weekly schedule.
Your plant may begin to stretch in fall or winter. This is when the plant begins to lean towards its light source and turns bright green. Tropical plants or plants requiring full sun that have started to stretch would benefit from being moved to a south-facing window if possible, as they tend to get the most light. You can also try rotating your plant occasionally throughout the week so that all sides get sun.
It can also help to dust our plants from time to time. Just as furniture accumulates dust over time in your home, so do the leaves of plants. If the dust layer gets thick enough, it can prevent the plant from getting enough sunlight and make it desperate for any light it can find.
You can make a few adjustments to your routine and plant care to try to avoid these common problems before they start. Plan your watering schedule well and be sure to research information about your plant before deciding where to place it and how often to water it. Repot your houseplants indoors and keep your plants clean to reduce the risk of pests.
Caring for plants can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby, even when you run into trouble, provided you are properly prepared.
Amy Hartline is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Do you have a question about recycling? Contact her at (706) 278-5001 or [email protected]