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1. Over water it. It’s the number one contributor to houseplant death. Far more plants die from over watering than under watering, both indoors and out. What you should do; Stick your finger into the soil. If it’s damp hold off adding water until it’s dry.
2. Provide low humidity. Climate controlled indoor environments from heaters and air conditioning also act as dehumidifiers making average levels well below the 40 to 60% humidity plants prefer. What you should do; Try placing houseplants on top of pebbles in a shallow tray and keep it filled with water as an effective way to provide additional humidity. Make sure the bottom of the pot is not sitting directly in the water. Misting your plants each day can get messy but is also effective. If you will be away for a week or so, make a temporary humidity tent by placing dry-cleaning bags over the plants or place them in the bath tub with a little water in the bottom.
3. Give it very little light. Although some houseplants can survive on just artificial light, they are the exception. In fact, the most important criteria in determining if a plant is suitable for surviving indoors is its ability to survive in low light environments. However, nearly all plants benefit from natural light. What you should do; Some amount of natural light per day is good for nearly all plants. Set them in an area near a south-facing window if possible. Periodically rotate the plant so all sides benefit from the most direct sunlight during the week.
4. Be sure to over-fertilize it. Because these plants typically don’t photosynthesize at the same rates as outdoor plants in a full-sun environment, their supplemental nutrient needs are less. Forcing plants to grow with artificial stimulants under lower light environments places unnatural stresses and can disrupt a plant’s natural cycles and rhythms and deplete reserves. What you should do; To replace nutrients that leech through the soil, feed your plant with a water-soluble fertilizer at half the amount suggested for outdoor plants once or twice a month.
5. Exposure your plants to drafts or direct heat. Most houseplants are tropical. In their natural environments, they thrive in warm climates. However, exposing plants to direct heat when placed near a vent will quickly dry them out. Conversely, cool or cold drafts can be too much for heat-loving plants too. What you should do; Keep plants away from drafty windows, doors and heating vents.
6. Ignore pest problems. Just because a plant is indoors, that doesn’t mean it’s free of pests. Many insects hitchhike into your house undetected under the protective cover of beautiful foliage. In fact, houseplants can be the perfect host for many pests since they aren’t exposed to natural beneficial insects and other predators that would otherwise keep populations in check. What you should do; Most houseplant pests such as mealy bugs, white flies and aphids can be dealt with using a mild soap and water bath or horticultural oil. If weather permits take the plant outside and spray it with the hose or leave it outside and let natural predators do the job.
7. Allow it to become pot bound. Just because that plant you’ve had since college is still looking good above ground, don’t assume all is well below. Eventually roots can become so intertwined within the confined space of a container; water, nutrients and even oxygen can have a tough time getting through. What you should do; Once a year or so, lift the plant out of the container and check the roots. If they’re in a tightly wound in a circular pattern, it’s time to repot into a slightly larger container. Loosen the roots to break up the pattern, refresh the soil and repot.
In spite of a few proven ways to bring houseplants to an early demise, most demand very little to keep them looking their best. With just a minimal amount of care, they can provide years of enjoyment and beauty to any indoor environment.