Raising Picky Plants How to love your plants when they don’t want to love you back


Plants can be worse than pets and worse than children. How? One morning they can be perfectly green and have upright stalks and then the next day they are drooping yellow or dead. Just, dead. It can be frustrating, but there are ways to help your green babies flourish no matter what time of the year!

*Please note this post refers to most indoor houseplants, not outdoor!

Most plants come with little cards that state what they are, the amount of water to live, the amount of light to grow and warmth to survive. These bits of information are the key to creating happy equilibriums for your little darlings.


The most common cause of death in houseplants is from over-watering. But under-watering can be an issue too. Plants with lush, thick leaves require more water than plants with waxy or leathery leaves. You should know what your plant needs and remember that the soil should be moist, not soaked! If the dirt is constantly wet it can rot the roots and, of course, kill the plant. If you accidentally do it once, try letting the soil become cracked or lighter in color before watering again. Another backup plan is to re-pot the plant entirely.

Indoor plants need pots with good drainage since they don’t have the natural ground to do the work.

Remember: succulents need periods of dry time between waterings.

Also, use water that is at room temperature, 68F or 20C.


Once again, make sure you look up the kind of plant you’re raising and the amount of sunlight it needs. Fluorescent lights can work as an alternative for some plants if you can’t get your plants into direct sunlight. Flowering plants need about 12-16 hours of light per day and foliage plants need about 14-16 hours.

Plants hate being moved from one place to another, especially if there is any change in the amount of light it receives – or the temperature of the room! I almost lost a money tree when I moved into my apartment in East Lansing from my house in Grand Rapids. The tree had flourished during the summer months on the back deck, but has since been slow growing in my apartment’s living area.


All plants have a natural hardiness level as determined by specific zones according to the USDA (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/). These zones represent the average extreme minimum temperature that your plant can survive. How neat is that? This is important because you don’t want to bring in a lot of tropical plants into your home if you like to keep it on the cooler side and you wouldn’t want to bring in any cold-faring plants if you love to blast the heat.

Overall, it’s important to do your research to find out what kind of plants you can raise into healthy pseudo-members of your household. For most queries, seek out a local gardener or consult the owner of those 20 plants down the road from you. The information to keeping your green friends alive and well is out there, good luck!


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