In the wild, 99.999% of plants die. On our brief treks through the wild, we see only those few plants that cut to be there for that brief moment when we are.
We see the exceedingly rare individuals that were lucky enough to sprout ideally placed and timed to have the resources they needed to outcompete others and that was unusually lucky and strong enough to survive the stresses of UV radiation, whipping winds, mercurial rains, vacillating temperatures, foraging animals, insect plagues, and an endless barrage of fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases.
Also, the vast majority of those lucky plants that we see there in the wild too will be short-lived themselves. The next time we pass through, it may seem to be the same, but it is an almost entirely new cast of characters.
It is only through ignorance, through not paying close enough attention to see the individuals in the throng, that we can believe the lie that they are enduring.
The truth is that Mother Nature is uncaring, cruel, and merciless. Mother Nature kills just as many, if not more, of the plants in her House as we kill in ours. Mother Nature continually tests and culls, she does not nurture and preserve. The latter is a distinctly human preoccupation.
Plants in the wild are connected to an entire ecosystem that supports them. Also, the flowers that you see in the wild are the ones that survived, you do not see the ones that did not survive nature.
Many People Are Not Good In Growing Houseplants
While houseplants are utterly dependent on the skill and attention of one human, who may or may not have the first clue how to care for a plant.
I was loving and nurturing my houseplants, they were thriving and then they heard me say out loud that I’d lasted almost a year without killing a plant and now all have decided to try dying all at the same time. I give up, they’re just too hard to manage with two small
humans as well.
I still grow houseplants, but I tend to neglect them, and if they still live I buy more of the same kind. I don’t mean to be a serial plant-killer! But I think I’m just so bad at taking care of houseplants.
If I could just leave a glass of water next to the plant and it takes what it needs, that would be great. I’ll even refresh it every day! But ask me to water the plant, they either get a tsunami or spritz. I can never get it right!
Houseplants are completely devoid of context. They’re lonely and they don’t like winter. That is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
My friend who is good at growing houseplants ever told me that I should always check the natural habitat of plants to see their favorable conditions.
For example, cyclamens and lavenders grow wild on dry rocky hillsides in Greece and Spain. So they need plenty of suns, and don’t water them too much! Ferns and African violets grow in shade near water. Most plants don’t like ‘wet feet’ like sitting in water. This is because doing so will cause their roots and stems to rot.
What To Do If Your Houseplants Are Having a Problem?
In common sense, we know all plants need water and sun. It’s about how much of each. Group them so they create a microclimate. And they can’t cope with sudden changes of cold and hot, dry and wet, sun and shade.
So they need gradual acclimatization, what nursery people call ‘hardening up. They also need food. Nursery plants have been beefed up with lots of food and water, so languish when you get them home.
I have learned that if your house plants always die, you should do something about them. But many people including me are wondering what should we do to them. Should we place them next to the aircon or heating? Always sitting in water, or drying out altogether? Place them near a window, with the sun blazing through glass, then freezing at night. Shall we stop feeding them at all?
Well, I did get some great general tips from my friend who seem to be a houseplant expert. She said that if you have the issues below, you should know what’s happening.
- Leaves have brown dry patches: probably too much direct sun – burning them.
- Leaves going pale and yellowish: not enough light, not enough nutrients.
- Leaves drooping: not enough or too much water.
- The plant won’t flower: not enough light, possibly short of nutrients.
Houseplants Dead After 3 Inches Long
For real! I have tomatoes, peppers, beets, chives, herbs and squash, and raspberries that get the right amount of sun, got new good expensive soil, and get plant food and water. Nonetheless, most of them are dead and the rest stopped growing after 3 inches.
I have a pallet wood box with vacuumed-up junk in it, snot tissue, dirt, dog hair, and all the gross junk outside (it was going to be a compost bin to be used for flowers or butterfly-attracting like plants). It is growing a beautiful squash plant. It is huge and thriving!
I planted cat nip and wildflowers and I never water that area. That area doesn’t get any sun because it is growing in such a gross compost bin I don’t know if I can eat the squash growing.
Wind Can Be An Issue
I told my friend about my houseplant that was dead after growing 3 inches long, she told me something that I need to observe.
Plants that are planted inside, tend to get no wind. Without wind, a plant is struggling because it never had to be strong to keep the wind from ruining it.
That is why in the summer putting your plants outside helps them stay alive because they grow strong In the wind.
It is the very reason why when they tried to grow orchards in the greenhouse all the trees died because they didn’t build strong roots to keep upright. There is an entire research project about plants and natural wind and how it’s integral for plants long term.
The plant grass is not a top-heavy plant though, so yeah a fan would keep the grass healthy. But other plants do need outdoor wind. Like anything bigger, the half-foot tall needs wind the build big enough roots to hold the heavy top upright. Otherwise, it starts to lean and get weak. then people have to support them with poles so they can stay upright. When all they needed was treatments of strong wind.
My friend constantly props up her outdoor plants with sticks. They grow strong roots eventually though, as do her indoor plants. They need sunlight, and time, but for sure wind does make them stronger, but natural sunlight and water are far more critical. A fan does work, trees grow strong here and there’s barely any wind ever, a light breeze maybe.
All those plants you see growing, and most if not all other living things, are the ones that survived out of many, many others that were attempted. Not only that, but the conditions in your home are different from those in the wild.
Other precipitation, moisture retention, nutrient content of the soil, fresh air availability, solar exposure, mycorrhizal fungi, symbiotic bacteria, and more all contribute to those plants’ growth.
Those that survive and reproduce generally pass on the mutations that allow them to survive in that particular environment. If you don’t provide all of that, or at least close to it, your plants won’t thrive.
Over- and Underwatering
I have realized that you just have to keep a balance between over-and underwatering, so use pots that either has a hole at the bottom or place your plants inside plastic pots and then into a bigger pot that collects excess water to prevent root rot.
Another thing to watch out for is the pH of your water – if it’s too hard, your plants aren’t getting enough nutrients because of the chemicals in the tap water. It’s a good idea to either use storebought (still) water (except Dasani) or to cook the tap water and leave it out to settle for ~12-24hrs so any chemicals can evaporate before watering.
If your water is too hard, you can add some vinegar to the cooking water to lower the pH – just watch out because if it becomes too sour it will destroy your plant’s roots as well. Use water-testing strips to find out your water’s hardness before and after adding vinegar.
I’ve found that it might also be a good idea to keep plants in unglazed terracotta pots (if you’re not using an extra plastic pot on the inside). My plants’ roots keep growing and I have to trim them twice a year, compared to my mom’s plant which she keeps in a plastic pot and hasn’t had to be trimmed in 20 years.
She said that unglazed terracotta likely lets more air into the soil, encouraging root growth. Idk about whether that’s true, but the plants I keep in glazed or plastic pots never grow their roots to that extent.
To wrap it up,
Plants in the wild: poisonous, covered in thorns, attracting angry wasps to sting you, or even carnivorous on their own
Houseplants: Payback time! Let’s see how you try to kill me with no water!