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Why Your Houseplant Hates You

“This houseplant HATES ME!” We’ve all said it, and at the time, it really seemed to be true. If this is you, and you’re verging on declaring yourself an official black thumb, take heart””it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re growing a tiny succulent or a massive Monstera, caring for plants is always a learning process.  

Why are All My Indoor Plants Dying?!

Often, the blackest of thumbs simply lack a little bit of know-how and hands-on (thumbs-on?) experience. Here are the top reasons your plants aren’t cooperating with you and how you can get them back on your side:

ficus houseplant dropping leaves too much sunlight

Not-Quite-Right Sunlight

The most common reason for a houseplant rebellion is that they’re not getting the right kind of sun exposure. Some plants live their best life in the sunlight, not unlike your snowbird aunt and uncle, who spend their winters baking in the Florida heat. Others prefer a lifestyle closer to that of your sister’s basement-dwelling ex (who you’re not convinced wasn’t an actual vampire).  

It’s fairly easy to recognize a plant that’s getting too much sunlight. Plants, like some pasty Albertans, can develop sunburns. The leaves will look brown or visibly burnt and will often feel as crispy as a Lay’s potato chip. Resist the urge to eat one, and move your poor plant several feet farther away from the window.

On the other hand, plants that aren’t getting enough sunlight could be best described as “˜sad-looking.’ Think faded colours, and even dull or yellowing leaves that should be a perky shade of green. Try moving these plants to a windowsill that faces South or East and watch them come back to life!

yellowing monstera leaf overwatering

The Wrong Amount of Water

As much as I take issue with the whole Goldilocks story (honestly, who has the stones to invade a predatory animal’s home and then critique their breakfast like a foolhardy Gordon Ramsey?), plants really can be that picky about water.

Too much water, paired with not enough drainage, can drown a plant, quickly leading to rotting roots and broken spirits. All plants absolutely need to have an appropriate soil blend and a pot with at least one hole in the bottom for excess water to drain through.

Of course, not enough water is also a problem. Lack of water can stress a plant out, making it vulnerable to houseplant pests, stunted growth, and slow descent to the grave. This fate can be avoided with regular watering, typically whenever the first inch or two of soil feels dry to the touch. This is a guideline, not a rule””the best ways to determine the right amount of water are to read the nursery tag or look up your plant’s care requirements online.

brown spots on leaves underwatered plant low humidity

Wonky Humidity

Tell me if this sounds familiar: your houseplant looks flawless all summer, you’re both living your best lives, and then late autumn arrives, and some kind of bizarre Halloween curse strikes. Despite the shorter days, your plant is acting like it’s been put through a dehydrator””what gives?

Chances are, the dry climate along with your moisture-sucking furnace are robbing your plants of precious humidity. Some tropical plants, like Fiddle Leaf Figs, are especially sensitive to this and will immediately show their disapproval. Fortunately, you can counteract this effect with a humidifier, regular misting, or by placing a saucer filled with pebbles and water underneath your plant pot.

houseplant brown spots on leaves disease and pests

Houseplant Pests

Lastly, it’s very possible that your plant doesn’t hate you””it’s just busy fighting off a platoon of tiny enemies. Houseplant pests are a very real threat to houseplants, and they often strike when you’d least expect it””in the winter! If you’re noticing discoloured spots on leaves and/or stems (evidence of chewing) or other oddities like fine webbing and sticky, shiny spots, you’ve likely got an infestation on your hands.

The good news is that most houseplant pests can be controlled with a combined approach, such as spraying the leaves with water, treating the plant with a recommended insecticide, and hand-removal of adult bugs. If you do find yourself dealing with a pest problem, make sure to move the victim far away from your other houseplants to avoid a bigger battle.

While these may be the most common reasons why your houseplant isn’t cooperating, every situation is unique. Visit a Salisbury Greenhouse location in Sherwood Park or St Albert for personalized advice and recommendations, so you and your plants can live happily ever after.

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