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How to diagnose common house plant problems.

 

Okay, so you've got this plant and in the beginning it was all cheery and green and thriving and now uh oh! Suddenly, the leaves are brown, it's drooping and you just can't figure it out! You've tried watering it, pruning it, turning it off and on again and nothing seems to work. 

Worry no more, we've compiled a list of some of the most common house plant problems so you can put your plant back on the road to recovery.

 

 

 Over-watering

Killing with kindness is one of the most common problems plant parents have. I admit, i too have been guilty of loving my plants to death. Too much watering can lead to root rot which can signal game over for your new plant. If unsure, less is more. Better an under-watered plant than an over-watered one. A neat trick is to water your plants until the water begins to drip from its drainage holes. Wait until the top 2 inches of soil (or up to your second knuckle) is dry before watering again. If your plant is at an advanced stage of over-watering and is now suffering from root rot it's best to re-pot. Remove the wet soil and examine the roots- are they brown? are they soft? if so remove all the soft brown roots leaving the healthy ones, place into a pot with fresh soil, water and pray!

Signs to look out for

- Wet Soil

-Brown Leaves

-Yellow falling leaves

- Root rot

 Under-watering 

Some plants are thirstier than others; take a Calathea Medallion for example, she doesn't like her soil to dry out too much and so requires constant attention. Under watering isn't necessarily a death sentence for a plant and is very easily fixed by simply watering your plant until the water floods through the drainage holes. Keep an eye on thirsty plant's soil and touch the surface to see whether it needs a drink or not. 

Signs to look out for

-Wilting Leaves

-Crisp brown edges 

-Dry soil pulling away from pot

 

Too much light

Some plants bask in direct sunlight and some bask in the cool shade figuring out where to place them is a problem most people learn the hard way. Too much light can scorch delicate leaves and leave them looking pretty sad and may eventually spell the end for your plant. To avoid any damage to your plant friends, research the type of environment your plant enjoys and go from there. 

Signs to look out for

-Burned leaves

-Bleached leaves

-Hard dry soil

Not enough light

Plants need photosynthesis to live. This is done by plants converting sunlight into food. Some plants need more light than others, with some even surviving with very minimal sun. 

Signs to look out for

-Yellowing leaves

-Dropping leaves

-stunted growth

-pale colour

 

Temperature

Most houseplants are used to a tropical climate and so its very important you make your home somewhere they feel comfortable. Plants that come from tropical environments require more warmth and humidity than the average household levels. It's best to keep temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius and also keep plants away from any cold draughts or radiators which can dry out their leaves. Increase the humidity by bunching plants together, placing pots on pebble trays with water, or by investing in a humidifier.

Signs to look out for

-Brown Edges

-Wilting leaves

-Flowering plants not blooming

Nutrient Deficiency

Just like people, plants required a set of nutrients in order to be as happy and healthy as can be. Throughout the UK, different water hardness exists. Find out whether you live in an area with hard water or soft water before taking the appropriate steps. Water hardness refers to amount of  dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium in our water system.Not fertlising your plants can rob them of the nutrients they need. Simply feed your plant a nutrient rich fertiliser if it looks like its lacking. It's important to research your plants individual needs before feeding to avoid any unnecessary damage. 

Signs to look out for 

-Deformed leaves

- Leaf discolouration

-Stunted growth

-Yellow leaves

 

Nutrient Overload

Too much of a good thing can also cause an adverse reaction. Fertlising your plants is a great way to achieve fast healthy growth. Fertiliser burn happens when your plant absorbs too many nutrients and salts causing damage to foliage. If you do accidentally over feed your plant, flush the soil with water several times to remove the excess. Remove any burned leaves and scrape any fertliser crust off of the soil's surface.

Signs to look our for

-Wilting Plants

-Burned/scorched leaves

-Yellowing leaves

-Soft brown roots

 

Pests

There's nothing more annoying than pests. Some only superficially damage the leaves whilst others like spider mites, completely destroy them. Common pests include, fungus gnats, spider mites, aphids and mealybugs. There are a few ways these annoying critters can find their way into your home. Buying an infected plant, through small cracks or even on your clothes. They can easily spread from plant to plant if not acted upon quickly, so it's important that you take action as soon as you see any sign of an infestation. Take a look below at our comprehensive guide on how to identify and treat different types of pest.

Spider Mites

The first sign of spider mites is webbing. Look for white webbing on the underside of leaves and between stems. If you believe you have a spider mite infestation it is best to immediately remove and isolate any plants that are infected. Next, wipe down the leaves with a mild soap and water solution before spraying with an organic Neem oil spray which is a natural insecticide. You can mix up your own using:

1L warm water

1tsp Neem Oil

1tsp Mild Soap

Test the solution on one leaf and wait 24 hours before spraying the whole plant to avoid any damage. 

Check for mites and re-apply once every 7-10 days.

Fungus Gnats

Notice lots of small black and brown flies hovering around your plants? Sounds like you've got fungus gnats. They pose no real problem to healthy plants but are pretty annoying so it's best to get rid of them before they become an even bigger problem. 

Fungus Gnats are attracted to damp soil so try to avoid over watering your plants. You can also invest in a sticky trap. A thin sheet covered in a sweet adhesive that attracts gnats. These traps are also good for aphids, white-fly and bluebottles. 

 

Aphids

These tick like creatures are tiny and quite hard to spot. They come in a variety of colours and can spread quickly if not dealt with immediately. Aphids like Spider Mites suck out the sap from leaves which severely damage the plant. Look for small white shed skin, stickiness of the leaf or black sooty mould. If you spot any of these, immediately isolate the plant and hose down in the shower to knock the aphids off the leaves. If the infestation is significant, douse leaves with a Neem oil spray.  

Mealybugs

 If you see cotton like substance on your plant then you may have mealybugs. Like Aphids and Spider Mites, Mealybugs suck the sap out of your plants causing them to turn yellow, drop leaves and stop growing. Mealybugs look like small fluffy ovals and are often mistaken for fungus or mould. Once identified, isolate the plants away from your healthy plants and dab the pests with a cotton bud soaked in 70% rubbing alcohol. This will kill the bugs on contact. To make sure you haven't missed any, spray the entire plant with a Neem Oil Solution, remembering to use a test leaf 24 hours before treating the plant. Repeat once every 7-10 days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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