PHOTO: PEXELS/HUY PHAN
Gardening can be a therapeutic activity - that is until your anxiety gets the better of you when your beloved green babies show signs of poor health, and you can’t quite figure out what went wrong. Thankfully, it doesn’t take rocket science for plants to live their best lives. And to be honest, your favourite philodendron or alocasia isn’t all that different from us - here are a couple of quick tips to help them thrive.
1. Acclimatisation is important
Ever brought home a seemingly healthy plant from the nursery, only to have it deteriorate within a week? Well, it could be an acclimatisation problem. Just like how we would need to gradually adjust ourselves to an entirely different climate whilst abroad, plants need time to get used to their new environment too.
To quicken the acclimatisation process, don’t endeavour to repot it immediately - simply let your new plant hang out for a couple of days in a cool spot with good airflow and no direct sunlight (lest it burns). And don’t panic if older leaves start to yellow - sensitive plants like alocasia tend to do that when in shock. Let it do its own thing and it will bounce back soon enough.
2. They love a good drink
It’s no secret that plants need hydration. However, most plant parents face the issue of not knowing just how much they should water. Issues such as root rot and yellowing or browning of leaves usually arise when there’s too much or too little water provided. Combat the issue by using pots with drainage holes, and let the potting media dry out between waterings. If a potted plant feels significantly lighter than it does when fully saturated with water, or if its leaves are beginning to curl inwards, it’s probably time for a thorough drink.
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3. Feed them well
Have you noticed signs of stunted or slow growth in your plants? Or are they not flourishing like they used to before? If you’ve had your plant for a long time and never tried adding any plant food, it could be a sign of nutrient deficiency. Just like us, plants need their fair share of vitamins to do well too. So if you’re facing this problem, simply add a quick dose of a suitable fertiliser and let it work its magic. A fuss-free option would be a slow-release fertiliser like Nutricote - you’ll only have to replenish it every two to three months or so.
4. Give them space to grow
Another plausible reason for stunted growth is a root-bound plant where the roots are starting to coil around the pot excessively. This simply means that the root system has outgrown its existing pot, and has no more room to grow. In that case, all you’ll have to do is repot the plant in a bigger pot and fill in the gaps with more potting mix - just take care not to damage the existing root ball.
PHOTO: UNSPLASH/KELLY SIKKEMA
5. Provide good airflow
Circulation of fresh air is probably one of the most underrated factors for happy plants. A consistently damp garden with little to no airflow is prime real estate for pesky pests, mould and even fungal diseases. Also, it’s tough to get rid of these problems in their entirety once they have settled in, and it’s likely a matter of time before the other plants in your collection get affected too. Save yourself a headache by using an overhead or oscillating standing fan if you can, or simply by opening your windows and letting a gentle breeze in.
6. Consistency is key
Once you’ve figured out what your plants need to grow well, you’ll want to keep things consistent. For example, if it’s doing well by your windowsill, don’t shift it to a dark bathroom. Whilst they can handle a little neglect every now and then, plants don’t appreciate sudden and drastic changes in environments.