The Perfect Match
Anyone who cares for houseplants has probably lost one or two. It’s not that they're hard to grow, but every houseplant has a unique set of needs and every home gardener has different habits. Sometimes the two just don’t match up. If you think that you're simply incapable of keeping a plant alive, think again! Here are the top reasons that houseplants die, and a plant that can survive—or even thrive—in each of those conditions.
Not Enough Sunlight
Plants need sun to survive. When they don't get enough light, their leaves turn yellow and stems weaken. If your home lacks natural light but you still want to add a touch of greenery, consider Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant, which grows well in extremely low light. As a bonus, ZZ is also extremely drought-tolerant. Simply place the plant wherever you’d like, and water it once every week or so.
Dry and Neglected
When you’ve got a million things on your plate, it’s easy to forget about watering your houseplants. If you're the type who sometimes goes a week or two without reaching for the watering can, why not grow a cactus? Echinopsis, also called hedgehog cactus, is one of the easiest cacti to grow. They love bright light and dry air, and, of course, they need very little water.
Too Much Water
If you can’t keep the watering can away from your plants, you've probably lost a few plants to overwatering. While most houseplants require adequate drainage and a chance to dry out a bit between dousings, Cyperus alternifolius, also known as umbrella papyrus, does not. Plant this grassy wetland native in acidic peat moss, in a double-walled pot that retains moisture.
Death by Pet
Many plant lovers are also animal lovers. Unfortunately, household animals aren't always kind to plants. If your cat digs up your greenery, you may just decide to abandon indoor gardening altogether—but don't give up so fast! Pelargonium, or scented geranium, a genus that contains hundreds of species, features a fragrance that humans like but pets avoid. Keep it in a bright room where you can enjoy the pleasant citrus scent. But keep in mind that many houseplants, including pelargonium, can be toxic to pets if ingested. It's always best to keep your plants safely out of reach and to do a little research before introducing a new plant to your home.
There’s a narrow margin for error when you have kids and plants in the same house. Whether your toddler is grabby and curious or your tween has hit that clumsy phase, kids pose a very real danger to plants. The best way to keep everyone thriving is to stick with plants that can stand up to kids. Tillandsias, also known as air plants, definitely fit the bill. These plants literally grow in the air, surviving on humidity and bright, indirect sunlight. They can be hung safely out of harm's way in the bathroom or kitchen, or you can hot-glue them to virtually any surface to make fun, creative living craft projects.
Houseplants need to be repotted when their soil degrades into dust or when they become rootbound—when their roots outgrow the pot. Rootbound plants typically become weak and can eventually die. If you have a history of letting plants languish in overcrowded conditions, maybe it's time to try a different plant. Phalaenopsis, commonly called moth orchids, prefer to be rootbound. Though they won't survive in the same pot forever, moth orchids can go up to two years or longer between repottings.
Maybe you buy only the cheapest potting soil, or maybe you don’t fertilize regularly. Or maybe you do both. There are serious consequences to undernourishing your plants, which can die from lack of nutrition or poorly drained soil. But if you can't commit to regular feedings, set yourself up for success by choosing a plant like Philodendron hederaceum, or heartleaf philodendron. This vining plant thrives in a wide range of container situations, including moist or dry conditions. It maintains its beautiful glossy green or variegated foliage with relatively little tending, and seldom requires feeding or repotting.
Even some of the toughest houseplants can be attacked by bugs. If you've lost plants to ravenous insects in the past, try growing snake plant, or Sansevieria trifasciata. Snake plant is easy to grow and as tough as can be. Its thick, leathery foliage is impenetrable to common houseplant pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, and aphids. It is also tolerant of drought and puts up with a wide range of light conditions.
Plenty of gardeners have a green thumb outdoors but struggle to keep plants alive inside. Part of the problem could be dry indoor air. If the air in your home is consistently dry, Beaucarnea recurvata, or ponytail palm, could be the answer. Adapted to grow in arid locations, it needs bright light and should be watered every three to four weeks.
Like animals and people, plants can suffer from diseases. Infections are most likely to occur when a plant is stressed by poor growing conditions, although even a seemingly healthy plant can pick up fungal or bacterial diseases. If you tend to lose houseplants to disease, try a disease-resistant plant next time, such as Aglaonema commutatum, also known as Chinese evergreen. It tolerates a wide range of growing conditions without suffering ill effects. While no plant is completely immune to diseases, Chinese evergreen is rarely afflicted.
Happy and Healthy Houseplants
Select the right ones, and even the brownest thumb can grow house plants.
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