How to Read Your Houseplants

Emmaline Harvey
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houseplants on saucers

You may talk to your houseplants while you care for them, but did you know that if you pay close attention, you can understand what your plants are telling you? Learn how to help them flourish by translating your houseplants’ signals.

If your houseplant’s leaves begin to turn yellow along the sides you must resist the urge to add water in hopes that will fix the problem. This is your plant’s way of telling you to stop watering.

The No. 1 cause for common houseplant problems is overwatering. Only water enough to keep the plant’s soil moist — not wet — when lightly pressed. Check that the pot is draining properly, and water when the soil feels dry to the touch.

If the base of your plant’s stem is soft or mushy, you’ve definitely been giving it too much to drink, and it may have developed root rot as a result.

Remove the plant from its container and check to see if the roots have black tips with slimy decay. If the damage is not extensive, your plant can still be salvaged. Lightly knock out the soil trapped in the root ball and replant in fresh potting soil that drains well, then follow the watering instructions above.

Watering Houseplants - SS - 300x300Dry and brittle leaves are indications of the opposite problem – your plant is thirsty! Thoroughly water until the excess drains from the bottom of its container, then observe normal watering habits moving forward.

If your plant looks healthy but its growth appears stunted, examine its environment. Houseplants love bright rooms full of indirect sunlight. Your plants will love living in rooms with eastern exposure, just remember to keep them far enough away from the window so that they won’t feel the cold.

Rotate plants in their containers every few days so they get exposure from all sides and don’t start growing toward the window.Plants in Window - SS - 300x300

Houseplants enjoy environments that have 50 percent to 70 percent humidity, and temperatures in the 60-75 degree range.

Move your plants away from vents, fans or direct heat sources, and cluster them together. Mist lightly with water every few days to add humidity.

Should your plant have brown leaves even after you’ve addressed all environmental problems, it is likely hungry. Nutrient deficiency is easily treated with fertilizer. Follow the label for application instructions. 

The easiest message to read from your houseplants is when they’re hosting unwelcome guests. You’ll see webbing, white fluffy or brown objects, or sometimes sticky substances on the leaves.

Spider mites, mealybugs, and scales are extremely common for most houseplants. The good news is they are easy to kick out! Read here for specific details. 

Still feel like your plants speak a different language? Try some of these can’t fail houseplants that require minimal effort.

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!