A few months ago I went through a “I am killing all my plants” phase. My plants were not doing as well as I wanted and I felt very overwhelmed. I am an over thinker and suffer from anxiety so in reality I actually just killed one plant that was doomed before I brought him home. More on that later.
I was entirely new to caring for houseplants and made a lot of mistakes. The biggest mistake I made was over watering my plants due to poor drainage and low light conditions. It was still winter in Ireland and the UV Light Index is normally around 0 or 1. I would water most of my plants only once the soil seemed dry but still in one go managed to over water. I realised that it can’t be the amount of water or the frequency so I turned to the plant community for help. I learnt that over watering is not only a watering issue, but more a drainage and light combination problem. I learnt all about mixing my houseplant soil with perlite to allow for better drainage, to check the size of the pot my plants are in and to improve their lighting conditions.
With my “Meet The Family” series of posts I will be introducing you to my plants and tell you a little bit more about the story behind each plant. I will also attempt to share more about my plant care, and how the plant responds to the conditions in our apartment.
One of the plants that suffered was my Ficus Elastica Tineke. She was one of the four plants I bought from Hanleys of Cork during a plant shopping trip in January. I found a lot of conflicting information online about the light requirements as some stated they need lower light conditions and others claimed bright direct light. I placed her away from the South facing window so she received low indirect light. Spoiler alert! She needed more bright direct light. This however wasn’t the only problem.
If you read my previous post about repotting you will know I only repotted plants I bought if it looked like it was necessary. I didn’t think to check the soil or the roots as she seemed fine. The nursery mix she was in however did not drain properly and the first time I watered her she almost died. When her first leaf started to turn brown (after about two weeks) I realised something was wrong. Once again I consulted the plant community for advice and most supported my theory that she was over watered.
I removed her from her soil and dumped it. Someone has suggested that it might have been a fungal infection due to misting in a high humidity environment so I wasn’t taking any chances. I put her rootball on some paper towels to soak up some of the water. Luckily the roots seemed fine. I repotted her into my soil mix (cactus/houseplant soil mixed with perlite) and did not water her for about two weeks and I stopped misting her. There was no sign of root rot, but her leaves continued to turn brown. I had to cut away all the leaves except for the top two and the new leaf she was working on. I learned that anything that happens to the plant within the next few days is still due to the damage from before and not necessarily because of the repotting.
The two leaves never turned brown but the new leaf died before opening up. For a long time I didn’t know what to do with her because she seemed okay, but also wasn’t doing anything. I knew she would never regrow leaves at the bottom and her stem would be empty but the new leaf dying made me think this was it. I contemplated cutting the top and propagating, and keeping the bottom to see if it will grow. I really didn’t want to lose her and I refused to give up on her.
A few weeks ago I checked the dead leaf and found that a new healthy leaf was growing underneath! I was absolutely overjoyed! That new leaf has since turned pink but is still growing very slowly. In an attempt to cheer her up I ordered two baby Ficus Elasticas from Online Baby Plants to pot with her. I am hoping it will hide her bare stem and make her look less sad.
Looking back through the photos of when I first got her, I am filled with so much regret and sadness. At least I know some good came out of it, because I learned from my mistakes and it made me a better plant parent. You won’t learn if you never make any mistakes.
What was the biggest mistake you made as a new plant parent? I would love to hear from you. Leave a reply by commenting below!