Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Jana Morning, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
Over or underwatering a plant is one of the easiest ways to kill it. Many new plant owners fail to determine when to water their plant even after Googling its specific needs because it is hard to pinpoint, for example, a snake plant’s watering habits when a blogger advises infrequent watering while in indirect sunlight. But what do you do if your plant is currently on your windowsill receiving direct sunlight?
While learning how to properly water a plant is important, it is also important to learn the signs of over or underwatering. Each plant is different, but there are general signs that most plants display when being mistreated. According to Wallygro, a company that creates sustainable plant products, watering mistreatment can typically be found in the leaves.
Overwatering: Wallygro’s website states that some signs of overwatering include soft wilted leaves, yellow leaves, a foul odor emanating from the soil which indicates root rot, mildew or mold and a soft stem. If any of these signs are present, it’s time for some serious TLC. First, remove the decayed leaves, remove any root rot and refrain from watering for the time being.
Underwatering: Some signs of underwatering include a crisp stem, stunted growth, dry soil, curled leaves and pests like spider mites. Wallygro advises to just give the plant a tall glass of water. In the future, stick your finger about two inches into the soil. If it is dry, then water the plant.
Repotting to the Perfect Pot
Spring and summer are the best seasons to repot plants. So, if thinking about changing a succulent from a plastic container to a terracotta, Florida-based horticulture grower Costa Farms recommends waiting a few more weeks until the weather is a little warmer when it is in active growth.
It is not often that plants need to be repotted but some signs include plant roots growing out of pot drainage holes and water falling right through the pot. Keep in mind that some plants do not mind a cramped pot, but the Costa Farm’s website does remind plant owners to repot when roots become tangled.
How to repot:
- Gently remove the plant from the original pot. Take care to not damage the roots because this could impact future growth. Once the plant is out of the pot, check to see if most of the soil is missing. If so, it’s time to repot!
- Next, find a new pot. Be careful which pot you choose because it will also impact future growth since it can influence water drainage. Costa Farms advises buying a pot that is about two inches wider than the previous.
- Choose the potting soil wisely. Look for indoor fertilizer that will help provide extra nutrients to the plants.
- Once you have gathered all of your supplies, begin filling the pot with soil until it reaches the plant’s stem, also known as the crown. According to Costa Farms, gently pack the dirt until the plant is secure and then water it to eliminate any air pockets.
Temperature and Humidity
A chilly dorm is detrimental to plant growth. London Growth, a company focused on hydroponics and growing methods, explains that to achieve top-quality crops, you must control both the temperature and humidity your plants reside in. So, if you find that your plant is placed near a cold window or a warm radiator, London Growth advises moving it to a more controlled space.
London Growth’s website explains that there are three ideal temperatures that plants thrive which include minimal, optimal and maximum temperatures.
- 75 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for a vegetative state. This stage of plant growth focuses on photosynthesis and storing resources for the flowering stage.
- 82 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for the flowering stage which is where the plant begins to produce more leaves or flowers.
- When the temperature begins to exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit then it is beginning to get too hot for the plant. According to the website, these temperatures can cause the plant to stop performing photosynthesis.
Like temperature, there are also ideal humidity levels for plants; London Growth states it is essential because it provides air moisture to plants. So, if you happen to be one of those students with a humidifier then it’s time to start setting it accordingly.
- 60 percent is the ideal humidity for plants in the vegetative stage. Also, this is still a comfortable humidity range for people, so do not worry.
- 50 percent is the ideal humidity for plants in the flowering stage.
If a humidifier is not available, try spraying the leaves with a water bottle. While this will not get you the same results as a humidifier, it will help the plants retain water and rinse away any dirt or bugs.
Picking the Perfect Pot
Costa Farm’s website provides some great plants for students which include a ponytail palm, money tree, cacti and a lucky bamboo. These plants are great because they are low maintenance and do not break the bank if buying from stores. However, one problem that most plant owners encounter with a new plant is repotting because some require a specific pot to live.
So, if you want your college-dorm-plant to thrive, here are some potting tips:
- Succulents flourish best if placed in a terracotta pot! They’ll look amazing, plus the porosity of the pot helps roots to breathe and eliminate any unwanted minerals in the soil.
- If aiming for a Zen vibe, add marbles into your lucky bamboo vase.
- It is important to find the perfect-sized pots for your cacti. If you place it in a pot too small, it will constrict the roots because there is no space for the soil. If you place it in a pot too large, you are likely to overwater your plant!
- For money trees, find a pot that has at least one draining hole to avoid root rot!
- For a spider plant, it is key to pick a pot that is wider than it is deep. Also, if repotting, do not dramatically increase the pot size because excess soil can lead to root rot.
- Know which plants need to be repotted often and which do not. For example, ponytail palms do not need to be repotted often, so if you keep your ponytail palm in a small pot—it will stay small!
At the end of the day, decorating your dorm space with different plants and pretty pots that match your personal style brings a sense of comfortability, relaxation and an overall feeling of being at home.
Because houseplants are particularly vulnerable during the winter due to their dormancy phase, when plants grow slower and new growth is weaker, it is important to know how to care for your plants and get rid of any uninvited guests.
1. Regular inspection. According to Salisbury Greenhouse, a company focused in greenhouses and garden centres, plant owners should look closely, using a magnifying glass if necessary, to look for any signs of bugs: sticky leaves, chomp marks, fine webbing, yellow spots, and, of course, bugs. Check to the undersides of leaves and the soil itself will help you avoid a detrimental bug infestation.
2. Spray “insecticide” soap. Harsh chemical insecticides can kill beneficial bugs and be harmful to your pets, your family and yourself. To make homemade insecticide, mix mild dish soap and water and then pour it in a spray bottle, only spray it on the underside of the plant’s leaves. When doing this, make sure your plant is somewhere with good air circulation to avoid mildew due to moisture.
3. Alcohol pads. Salisbury Greenhouse’s websites also mentioned that houseplants with thicker leaves can handle a wipe-down using water mixed with a splash of isopropyl alcohol. This also helps prevent fungi and clears dust build-up.
Store-bought fertilizer is used to replace important nutrients your houseplants lose overtime, but before you run to your local Home Depot, there are alternatives that can be found in your kitchen. The website Home Grown Fun provides gardeners tips on how to avoid spending money on harmful chemicals that could potentially shorten the plant’s lifespan.
Coffee grounds: Home Grown Fun recommends coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer for houseplants. Be careful not to overload your plant on coffee because too much coffee can stunt your plant’s growth and cause fungal diseases.
Teabags: Like coffee, teabags also act as a natural fertilizer. So, instead of throwing away that earl grey tea bag, pop it into your plant’s pot. Once placed in the soil, the bag helps promote growth, health and stem strength.
Banana peels: Depending on the size of your plants, banana peels can work as an excellent natural fertilizer that you can find in the Dining Hall. Home Grown Fun states that bananas compost in the soil which help to fertilize the plant. If necessary, you can cut your banana peel into small pieces for smaller plants.
Small amounts of essential nutrients are lost each time plants are watered. Luckily, houseplants rarely, if ever, have to be fertilized during the cold winter months. Fertilize sparingly and remember these tips when springtime is here.