Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Stop Over-watering Houseplants

Your plants are looking nice, and you think, 'hmmm, maybe a little water?' NO. Step away from the plant. Plants tell you if they need to be watered. So if you're observing the plant and it looks good, watering is the last thing you want to do. Remember, most plants originate from the Rainforest of the world.

Here's a brief story on the age of plants in our world from Science Daily, University of Bristol, article submitted on April 23, 2007.

Earth's First Rainforest Unearthed

The Earth's first rainforests dates from the Carboniferous period, 300 million years ago, when most of the world's coal resources were formed (humanity appeared on the scene about 200,000 years ago in Africa).

The rainforest is composed of a bizarre mixture of extinct plants: abundant club mosses, more than 40 metres high, towering over a sub-canopy of tree ferns, intermixed with shrubs and tree-sized horsetails.

The fossilized forest was preserved following a major earthquake 300 million years ago. The quake caused the whole region to drop below sea level whereupon the forest became buried in mud, preserving it forever.

The fossil forest is the largest ever found, covering over 10,000 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres), an area 10 km by 10 km (which would cover the city of Bristol, UK). The fossils preserve a unique snapshot of what tropical Rainforests were like 300 million year ago.

Source: Science Daily/Universal of Bristol

The article above was referenced because plants have been here a lot longer than humans have. Therefore, when you bring a plant into your environment, give it what it needs and back off. Obviously, there would be no over-watering in the Rainforest, so, as tempting as it may be, don't over-water in your indoor garden.

Over-watering is one of the more common causes of problems with houseplants. Heavy and poorly drained soils are susceptible to becoming waterlogged. Roots growing in waterlogged soil will not survive because they cannot absorb the oxygen needed to function normally. The longer the air is cut off, the greater the root damage. The dying roots decay and cannot supply the plants with nutrients and water.

Inserting one or two fingers a couple inches into the soil is the best way to determine if your plant needs to be watered. If it's moist or damp, do not water the plant.

Plants growing in containers, at some point may become root-bound; they out-grow the pot. When roots have no where to go, this stifles the growth of the plant. The plant will droop or react as as if it needs water but the soil is moist. Simply re-pot root-bound plants into the next size pot and your problem is usually solved.

Use the proper potting soil that drains well, with fertilizer already mixed, such as Miracle-Gro Potting Soil, or Espomosa Organic Potting Mix. These soils are not as dense as outdoor gardening mix and allow proper drainage after watering.

It's also important to use pots that allow the water to drain completely. Most pots have a removable tray at the bottom.

In my trial and error experience with indoor gardening, over the last 30 years, I've found that plants do better if you remove the tray, allow all the water to drain, then put the tray back.

The reason is that sometimes the tray that is attached to the pot can get clogged up thereby not allowing water to drain fully and could lead to the plant suffering. The Dragon Tree pictured above right shows a 14-inch self-watering pot with a bottom that cannot be removed. You could just pour water into the lid but I choose to water the plant from the top of the soil. I'm not a big fan of the self-watering pots because of the fact that the soil always appears to be bone-dry. Therefore, my preference is to water from the soil and allow the water to drain.

If you purchase a decorative clay or ceramic pot with no holes on the bottom, you will need to place small rocks and/or pebbles and even a few sticks at the bottom of the pot to allow for proper drainage. 

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