Fertilizer: Fertilizers can (emphasis on CAN) help your plants grow into their fullest potential.
We always heed a word of caution before laying heavy on the fertilizers in hopes of reviving an unhealthy plant or pushing one to grow beyond it’s natural capabilities. Think nutrients- not food. Fertilizers are like a multi-vitamin, a supplement of sorts to the water and sunlight required to harbor photosynthesis. More often than not, proper high-quality soil, adequate light and following a proper watering regimen is the best route one can take for a happy, healthy plant.
Ok! That said- if you’re still looking to dive into the ever-daunting world of plant fertilizers we do have a few tips. When researching a fertilizer we always recommend high quality components specifically tailored for the plant(s) at hand. The difference between organic and inorganic may be of personal importance, but to the plant they are pure nutrients. Dilute your fertilizer! It’s always best to make sure we don’t over-do it. Gradually stage into adding your fertilizer and stay within the parameters outlined in the chosen product’s directions.
Understanding N-P-K is also considerably important. In short, every fertilizer will have a ratio outlined- N (Nitrogen), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). The higher the number, the higher the specific macronutrient level.
Fertilizing is best done in the spring, when growing season is kicking into gear. Some plants will require more or less of both fertilizer in general as well as specific macro or micro nutrients held within. Do your research!
Root rot is a major concern when dealing with houseplants and is generally always attributed to over-watering in conjunction with poor drainage.
Essentially, too much water is taken in by the plant’s root system causing cell rupture and the subsequent rotting of those now-dead cell systems, which then spreads through the base of the plant disconnecting any remaining live root tissue to the remaining healthy upper plant appendages.
Unfortunately root rot is not something that can be cured or turned back. Generally the only possible course of action would be to attempt to propagate any remaining live tissue areas above the rotted section. One of the main reasons for proper soil type is to allow for adequate drainage that each individual species desires to be fit and healthy. Improper soil can hold excess moisture and continue the water uptake process by the root system for too long of a period.
Generally, any browning or crispness moving from the outermost extremities of the plant (leaves, tips, etc.) can be categorized as Die-Back. Often this can be attributed to lack of water, lack of nutrients or lighting that is too intense. Of course all three of these could be simultaneously working conjunctively in varying degrees to the same result. We usually recommend taking all three into consideration when attempting to diagnose the precise issue.
With tropicals we can pull the plant back slightly, and take extra caution to make sure we’re watering properly and regularly. Cacti follow the same parameters but generally we don’t pull back from intense light and err on rotating the plant 180 degrees and heightening the water regimen if the soil is absolutely dry between waterings.
Now, all that said, we can experience die-back from overwatering as well. It is a bit rarer but if you feel you’ve been properly watering or erring on excessive water take a quick look at the soil. If it’s still quite moist or even wet it may be a less common case of die-back due to overwatering.
Repotting: If you can see roots pushing out of the container or if the plant is awkardly top-heavy or overgrown in general it’s time to repot.
Pot sizing is generally where the process kicks off. We recommend visually sizing the whole ordeal up- we want the root system and weight of the plant to be able to comfortably accommodate the new planter for at least a few years. Some super-fast growing tropicals like to be repotted every 1-2 years, while some cactus can happily hang out for 20+ years in the same pot (with adequate soil, of course).
Once you’ve got your container and plant lined up, soil prep is where we head next. Making sure we use high quality soil specific to the plant in question is of the utmost importance. Either ask or research your plants species to make sure you’re planting in the correct soil type. From there the topsoil rock can be beneficial for cactus and most arid-climate plants as well as some tropicals. Again, it’s always helpful to research your specific species to make sure you’re aware of the post-potting watering requirements as some species prefer to be watered immediately while some need to wait a considerable amount of time post repotting before water should be introduced to the new soil.
Early spring, just before the growing season is the best time to repot nearly every plant that comes through our doors.
We offer plant potting and repotting services in-house. Feel free to reach out to inquire about pricing and turn around times. We especially recommend our in-house services for cactus and large plant handling as it can be extremely easy to damage a mature plant during repotting.
Pests: Of course, pests and disease are a major annoyance- but unfortunately part of bringing the outdoors inside.
We should keep an ever-dutiful eye on our plants to ensure we’re keeping various pests and disease at bay to ensure the longevity of our green buddies.
SCALE: Scale (whether Cochineal or Coccoidea) are little flat white disc-shaped insects that resemble fish scales. More of an annoyance than anything else but if allowed to spread uninhibitedly they can be detrimental to the plant as they essentially sit and slurp all the sugary juices from the tissues of the plant. Scraping these guys off usually works best in conjunction with a follow up dilution of insecticidal soap or horticultural spray.
FUNGUS GNATS: Little fruit-fly lookalikes that hover just above the soil on a particular plant are likely fungus gnats. They typically love moisture-rich tropical soils and feed of the microscopic fungi held within. Fungus gnats are often a sign of overwatering- so cutting back slightly on your watering routing can quickly reduce their numbers. We also recommend a light layer of crushed pumice over the top of the soil with a bit of ant-granules mixed in to make sure the flying gnats can’t return to the soil and their larvae are smothered by the mixture.
MEALYBUGS: Mealybugs. The spawn of Satan himself. These SOB’s are the most serious of the pest covered here. Typically seen as colonies of little white oval shaped tufts, mealybugs viscously suck the life juices out of whatever plant they can colonize and will kill the plant. Luckily, with our strict Phytocertification requirements for the folks we purchase plants from we can ensure no plants from us come with mealybugs. BUT, luckily, if you have confirmed mealy’s on your plant they are actually quite easy to be rid of! They are extremely susceptible to alcohol, so a series of alcohol wipes to clean your plant surfaces and a regular series of alcohol/water mistings will bring your plant back to health. On cacti we recommend a 70/30 ratio of Isopropyl alcohol to water in a spray bottle- misting the entirety of the plant weekly until no insects are visible. Tropicals are the inverse- 30/70 Isopropyl to water to make sure we don’t burn sensitive foliage.
ANTS & SPIDER MITES: Both ants and spider mites can find homes in your plants quite easily from open doors, windows or other plants. To remove and/or prevent ants and pretty much all other creepy crawlers Ant Granules work wonders in both the soil mix as well as a light dusting on top. Spider mites generally hang on the undersides of foliage and are quite small but amass in large numbers. A quick spray with 70/30 ratio water/Isopropyl alcohol once per week will likely solve your problem within the month.
FUNGI: Fungi, moss, lichens and mushrooms (yes mushrooms!) are not altogether uncommon to be seen popping out of the soil in your houseplants from time to time. The symbiosis between all these organisms’ microcosmic ecosystems is perfectly healthy and generally of no concern. If unsightly, feel free to get a good grasp on the fungi in question and pop off to the waste basket.
Most, if not all plants have adequately evolved to protect themselves from predatory creatures (herbivores) over the last 10 million years. Plant Irritant and Toxicity levels are absolutely something to keep in mind when buying new plants as these can affect our little hairy buds.
Most cactus, succulent and tropical plants secrete metabolites that can cause discomfort, irritation and in some cases vomiting if they are ingested- as would pretty much everything currently growing in our yards or parks.
We’re currently working on an in-depth system to note each and every species’ irritant and toxicity levels at both human and pet levels but for the moment we recommend asking or taking a look at the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants to be sure you’re selected the best plant to meet your concerns.