The ABC of plant care
all you need to know about watering
Most plant owners become concerned that they are not sufficiently watering their houseplant, but in the plant world there is a tendency to overwater! This can be far more damaging to your plant health than having a slightly dry houseplant. The most accurate assessment of a plant’s need for water is through the old weight test. Pick up the container of the plant and see how much it weighs; the lighter it is, the more it needs a drink. Unless noted otherwise, most houseplants would prefer being slightly dry than soaked. During winter months, a plant typically only needs watering a few times a month. Placing a tray underneath the potted plant’s container is the best way to catch that excess water and prevent unnecessary mess. Purchasing a simple spray bottle (these are cheaply available almost anywhere) is also helpful to prevent overwatering. A light misting once or twice a day is generally beneficial to your houseplant’s health. Remember that we’re trying to duplicate the natural environment for these plants, and that requires humidity and misting. Click here for more information.
Although plants carry out photosynthesis to produce the sugars they need to survive, there is a more direct form of nutrition to maximise houseplant potential. Providing fertilizers to your houseplants ensures they remain happy and healthy.
Nutrition can be delivered via a granule that breaks down over time, or it can be added more directly via a water soluble fertilizer. Generally, granules need to be applied once every few months, while water soluble fertilizers should be applied every fortnight or so. Again, read the instructions on a specific fertilizer to see what is recommended.
give the right amount of light
When it comes to houseplants, light is just as essential as water! The amount of light required varies by species: Houseplants typically require high light (six or more hours a day), medium light (four to six hours a day), or low light (less than three hours a day). Plants will either require bright or direct light (sunlight from a south-facing window), indirect or filtered light (sunlight through a curtain or light from a bulb).
If plants don’t get the light they need, they won’t necessarily die, but they will stop growing and may begin to look unhealthy. When in doubt, always consult the label. If it says “full sun”, put the plant where it can soak up all those rays. Where the label calls for “bright indirect light” it translates as “put your plants where they can see the sky”. In these cases an open sky means a healthy plant.
It all starts with the soil
The first step towards healthy plant life is the soil. The best growing media is soil-less and is a combination of equal parts peat moss, vermiculite/perlite, and compost. When a healthy base is established the other parts become far easier.
the right temperature
Aim to keep the plant in a warm environment with sufficient air circulation, and periodically rotate it to ensure consistent growth. During the winter months, keep plants away from the cold draft areas in the house. The warmer it gets for houseplants, the happier they are, so try to remain vigilant when it comes to placement.
Airflow is the third element that is key to healthy plant growth. Still air can cause a host of ailments in your houseplant and creates leave-clogging dust. To ensure houseplants remain healthy you should periodically, and gently, dust the plant’s leaves so they can take nice deep breaths.
Now that you’ve mastered the basic conditions, the next challenge is to avoid the common mistakes. Just remember, it’s not just newbies who struggle with this, many seasoned plant owners can benefit from a refresh to prevent bad habits.
What to do if your plant has got
What are aphids?
Aphids are small, pear shaped insect that belong to the family Aphidoidea. Aphids, even referred to as pear aphids, are small sucking insects that can be found in all kind of colours. They cause damage to your plants by sucking sap from plant leaves, stems and roots. Aphids reproduce themselves quickly and travel rapidly from one plant to another, which unfortunately gives them great potential of becoming a persistent pest. But do not worry: aphids are relatively easy to control.
What do aphids on plants look like?
Aphids on houseplants are most commonly green, but also come in purple, white, grey and black. They are generally 5-7 mm (1/8 inch) long and usually cluster on the underside of (new) leaves – or attach themselves to tender new stems.
If you suspect that your plant is suffering from an aphid infestation, be sure to check the underside of the leaves of your plants as aphids love hiding there! They are often clustering on new growth, like young stems and new leaves.
How do aphids damage your plants?
Aphids pierce the stems and suck the nutrient-rich phloem sap from the plant. This phloem sap contains lots of sugar, vitamins and minerals. A feast meal for the aphid, but not so much for your plant who does need those nutrients herself. Aphids are especially keen on young leaves that are still growing. If your plant is heavily infested, the leaves of your plants will curl, wilt or turn yellow.
After enjoying their feast meal, aphids need to ‘pee out’ all that plant sap they consumed. They do so by secreting a sugary liquid called honeydew, so called aphid pee. This sticky liquid is rich of sugar and attracts ants, hoverflies and parasitoid wasps. Fortunately, when aphids infect your indoor plants, you probably don’t have to deal with these kind of insects. However, honeydew can also encourage the growth of fungus. This is obviously something you want to prevent as fungi can prevent plant growth. Luckily, aphid control is rather easy and can be done all naturally!
How to get rid of aphids on your indoor plants?
If you spot aphids on your indoor plants, it’s time to take action. An excellent natural way of aphid control is to nurture and pamper their natural enemies. Simple, effective and environmental friendly.
Did you know that ladybugs are the natural enemies of aphids? Both grown ladybugs and ladybug larvae (baby ladybugs) feed on aphids. Ladybug larvae do only want one thing: to become a grown ladybug. And in order to become one, they need to eat a lot. The larvae actually have an insatiable appetite and they just love aphids! The result? happy ladybug, happy plant!
This is a tricky one. If your plant’s leaves are falling off, this can either be a sign of underwatering or overwatering. To make it even more complicated, there are other reasons why your plant might be dropping its leaves, such as plant diseases and too little – or too much – sunlight.
Fortunately, if your plant sheds a few of her leaves, it does not automatically mean she won’t survive. Our tips below will help you get your plant back on her feet!
Leaf drop due to too much or too little sun
Exposure to sunlight does not only have an effect on our mood, but it can also affect the mood of your plants. Plants convert sunlight into energy, so a lack of sunlight can cause your plant to feel a bit down and to lose her healthy color. The leaves become lighter green or pale and your plant may stops growing. Does your plant look a little pale? She will cheer up if you move her to a sunnier spot!
When your plant is exposed to too much sun, leaf scorch or sunburn can occur. Just like our skin, the leaves of the plant will dry out and change colour. Your plant will eventually drop her affected, yellow leaves. Do you spot brown spots or does your plant have dried out ‘papery’ leaf tips? If so, move your plant a bit further away from the window and out of the direct rays of the bright sun.
Leaf drop due to too much or too little water
If your plant gets too little water, she weakens. Her leaves turn yellow and she stops growing. Eventually, she will start to shed her leaves.
If the top layer of the soil looks dry, please do not grab for the watering can immediately. Sometimes, it just looks like your plant is thirsty while she actually isn’t. By giving her more water, you will actually make it worse as overwatering will cause the roots to rot.
Simply dip your index finger deep into the soil to check how thirsty your plant really is. If the soil around your fingertip is moist, sit back as there is no need to water her yet. Is the soil really wet? Gently remove the plant from the pot, pour away the excess water and make sure to move your plant to a pot with a drainage hole. If your finger comes out clean and the foil feels dry, then it is definitely time for drinks!
Leaf drop due to pests
Leaf drop can also be a sign of a pests in your plants. Aphids, spider mites, thrips and mealybugs are sneaky pests that steal important nutrients from your beloved plant. Due to the lack of nutrients, your plant will become ill and her leaves will curl, turn yellow or brown and eventually fall off. So when you notice that you’re plant is dropping her leaves, always check carefully if you see small bugs within the soil or on or under your houseplant’s leaves. In our other PLNTSDoctor articles, we explain how you can identify and get rid of those pesky pests in your plants.
Make sure to remove any fallen leaves as these dry and shriveled leaves are a feast for certain pests. If you do not remove the infected leaves, you will only attract more of those little sick makers.
Is your plant craving some extra nutrition? Why not spoil her with our plant nutrition! Our plant power food gives your plant a real boost and will make her shine as never before!
Keep in mind..
Every plant is unique, so before you treat your plant to some extra water or put it on a diet, always look up the specific needs of your plant. Check the label of your plant or look her up on our website. In the product description on our site you can read whether your plant loves the sun or prefers the shade, and whether it drinks a lot or prefers to drink in moderation. Can’t figure it out? Please get in touch, we love to hear from our community!
Have you noticed brown spots on the leaves of your plant? This can happen for a number of reasons, but it often has something to do with your watering habits. Other possible culprits are pests or (other) diseases.
Brown leaf spots
Overwatering and underwatering are the most common culprits of brown spots on your houseplant’s leaves. Dark, brown patches all over the leaves are often a sign of overwatering. If you on the other hand give your plant too little water, the leaf spots usually are yellow or lighter brown. When you give your indoor plants too little water, those clever ladies drop some of their leaves to save energy and to conserve water!
You can check the water levels by dipping your finger deep into the soil. Does your finger come out clean? Then it definitely is watering time! If the soil around your finger is moist, she is fine and not thirsty yet.
Brown leaf tips
Do you notice brownish, burnt spots or brown tips on the leaves of your plant and is she placed close to a sunny window? Then your plant is probably placed too close to direct sunlight: just like us, plants can actually get a sunburn if they spent too much time in the sun! The burnt leaves will dry out, scorch, and change colour. Give her a new spot with a little less direct sunlight and give her some time to readjust. Remember that the crunchy, brown leaves will not recover and turn green again, so it’s best to trim the edges or remove the whole leaf.
Do you see brown, dried leaf tips but is the sun nowhere to be seen? Brown spots can also be caused by low humidity, for example, when the heating is turned on during winter and fills your home with warm, dry air. If the humidity levels are too low, the tips of edges will brown, curl and eventually drop. The easiest way to increase humidity is misting your green roommates with water from a spray bottle. Did you know that grouping your plants also helps to increase humidity? Luckily, social distancing is nothing your plants need to worry about!
Plant diseases and pests
Do you notice grey or white speckles on the leaves of your plant? Then you are probably dealing with a fungal or viral disease, such as aphids, spider mites, mealybugs or thrips.
Viral diseases are often caused by insect parasites that take nutrients from your plant, causing your plant to weaken. This nutrient deficiency does not only make her a little hangry, but also ill. As a result, small spots or blotches appear on the leaf of your plant, gradually increasing in size until the entire leaf changes colour and dies. Check out our other PLNTSdoctor articles to identify and treat the pests in your plants.
What are mealybugs?
Mealybugs, even referred to as ‘millie bugs’, are white fluffy bugs who look like tiny balls of cotton wool. Like the aphid and other insect pests, the mealybug steals important nutrients from your houseplants by piercing a tiny hole in the leaf. Then the mealybug sucks out the nutrient-rich sap, robbing your plant of essential nutrients. This weakens your plant and can cause her to die.
Mealybugs are not that picky and can infest all kind of houseplants. If you have a severe mealybug infestation, getting rid of these pesky pests can be tricky. However, do not worry: if you spot them in time, you can effectively control mealybugs on houseplants.
What do mealybugs look like?
Do you spot fluffy wool-like white stuff on your plant? They’re probably mealybugs! Mealybugs are up to 3-5 cm and can easily be seen with the naked eye. Grown mealybugs secrete a white, wool-like wax layer that’s used for protection while they suck out the plant juices.
Mealybug larvae are pink, orange or yellow in color, but as soon as they grow and start feasting on your plant, the small mealybugs will also start secreting this white waxy coating.
Do you think your plant has mealybugs? Isolate infected plant immediately to prevent further spread.
How do mealybugs damage my plants?
Mealybugs pierce small hole in the leaves or stems of your plant so they can suck out the sap from your plant. This nutrient-rich sap is called phloem sap, and is high in sugar, vitamins and minerals. Mealybugs love this sap, but so does your plant. The more mealybugs suck plant fluids from your houseplant, the more malnourished your plant will look.
After the mealybug has enjoyed its feast, it pees out the plant sap again. This sugary insect ‘pee’ is called honeydew. Honeydew attracts not only insects such as wasps and ants, but even mold benefits from this sugary substance. To prevent your plants from getting mold, mealy bug treatment is important.
How to get rid of mealybugs in houseplants
One way to get rid of millie bugs on plants, is by simply spraying them off your plants with a blast of water. Check back after a few days to see if any new eggs have hatched.
Another safe and effective way to deal with mealybugs on your houseplants is by biological control. Nurturing and pampering their natural enemies is a natural and environmental way to get rid of mealybugs.
Lacewing larvae are the natural predators of mealybugs and have an inexhaustible appetite! They will happily help you get rid of those maddening mealybugs.
Lacewing larvae can be purchased online. Simply release them on the leaves of your plants and they will do the job for you – just let nature take its course!
Do you see powdery spots on the leaves of your plant? Then you are probably dealing with the fungal disease powdery mildew. Below, we explain what powdery mildew exactly is and how you can get rid of powdery mildew.
What is powdery mildew?
Powdery mildew (Erysiphales) is a fungal disease that can affect all kind of plants. Mildew starts of as small powdery white spots, usually appearing on the upper part of the leaves. It steals nutrients from the plant and causes her to become weaker.
Due to the white colour of the powdery spots, powdery mildew is sometimes nicknamed ‘white mold’. Mildew produces spores that form a network of fine white threads in and on the leaves of your beloved plant. This can cause the affected leaves to turn yellow or brown and eventually die.
How to prevent powdery mildew
Like other types of mold, powdery mildew is generally caused by poor air circulation and thrives well in warm, humid weather. To prevent powdery mildew, we recommend watering your plants in the morning instead of the evening so your plants can dry during the day. Ensure the soil is well-drained.
To ward off this frustrating fungal disease, it is also important to improve the air circulation in your home. Regularly open a window to bring in fresh air. And guess what, air purifying plants are also great natural air cleaners – sounds like another great excuse to buy more PLNTS, right?! Just make sure not to place the plants too close together in order to allow air circulation.
Does the white mold grow on the underside of the leaves of your plant? In that case, you are probably dealing with downy mildew instead.
Powdery mildew treatment
To prevent powdery mildew from spreading further, it is important to remove the brown, severely infected leaves. Also, isolate your infected plant immediately. This will prevent the spread of mildew to your other houseplants.
The easiest and cheapest way to get rid of mildew is one for which you probably already have everything you need. Mildew is effectively controlled with… milk! Milk contains proteins that mildew does not like. Mix about 40 parts milk with 60 parts water and spray on the mildew-infested leaves of your plant(s). Reapply this milk treatment until the leaves of your plant look healthy again and the mildew is gone. You got this!
If small, black bugs are flying around your plants, they’re probably fungus gnats. Below you can read what fungus gnats are and, more importantly, how you can get rid of gnats in your houseplants.
What are fungus gnats?
Fungus gnats – also referred to as soil gnats or dark winged fungus gnats – are small greyish-black flies with long wings that are often found flying around your indoor plants. Adult gnats lay their eggs (and many of them at once!) in the top layer of the moist soil of your plants. The fungus gnat larvae eat the hair roots of your plants and reproduce themselves extremely quickly. Meaning that in no time, you have not one but many gnats terrorizing your beloved plants.
How to identify fungus gnats
Fungus gnats look like fruit flies, but gnats have a more distinct black color and are – opposed to fruit flies – not interested in the overripe bananas in your fruit bowl, but attracted to your beloved plants. Fungus gnats are most active during the beginning of spring and the end of summer and love damp, moist soil.
You’ll see fungus gnats flying around your plants, particularly around the top of the soil. Fungus gnats are tricky to get rid of, but the tips below will help you deal with them – and prevent these annoying soil gnats from coming back!
Get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants
If you notice that one of your plants is infested with gnats, you should isolate the infected plant so the gnats won’t spread to your other green friends.
Even though an adult gnat only lives for around 1 to 2 days, fungus gnats reproduce extremely fast. Female gnats lay over 200 eggs in one go, meaning that those tiny soil flies can become a pretty persistent problem in no time. So how to get rid of gnats in houseplants?
- Dehydrate your plant
Fungus gnats are attracted to damp soil, so it is important to never overwater your plants. We recommend choosing a pot with a drainage hole that allows excess water to seep out of the pot, which prevents the plant from root rot.
Have you already spotted gnats flying around your plant(s)? Stop watering the infected plant so the soil can dry out. Gnat larvae need moisture to survive, so they will die in dry soil. Also, dry soil will discourage adult fungus gnats from laying their eggs. Once the soil has dried out, we recommend changing the soil. Carefully clean the roots of your plants (and the pot!) and pamper your plant with new, clean potting soil.
- Scatter sand on top of the potting soil
Top dress a layer of white sand (such as play sand) on top of the potting soil. The layer of sand is unappealing to the gnats and prevents them from laying their eggs. The layer of white sand also robs the larvae of nutrition-rich damp soil. Make sure to scatter a layer of sand on all of your plants. If not, it is likely that you’ll simply shift the problem to your other plants.
- Use nematodes
Have you already tried all of the above, but are your plants still terrorized by fungus gnats? Then buy nematodes for fungus gnats.
Nematodes for fungus gnats
Beneficial Nematodes (Steinernema feltiae) are microscopically small, work-like parasites that can’t be seen with the bare eye. Nematodes are the natural enemies of fungus gnats and will seek out and kill fungus gnat larvae in the soil. Depending on the level of fungus gnat infestation, with the help of nematodes you will get rid of fungus gnats within a few days (a light infestation) up to 2-3 weeks (a persistent plague).
First, slightly moisten the potting soil of your houseplants. Then dissolve the nematodes in water and pour this mixture onto the wet potting soil. Make sure to keep the potting soil moist. If no more gnats are present, the beneficial nematodes will also die off.
Beneficial nematodes are harmless to people, pets, animals and of course your plants!
What are spider mites?
Spider mites are mites that look like tiny spiders. Spider mites are no true insects, but arachnids, meaning that they are related to spiders. The most well-known (and most annoying!) spider mite is the Tetranychus urticae, also referred to as red spider mite or two-spotted spider mite. Spider mites reproduce rapidly, causing lots of damage in a short time. We will show you how to stop these little bastards from infecting your plants and how to prevent future breakouts.
What do spider mites look like and how can you identify them?
Spider mites look like tiny moving dots and live on the undersides of leaves of plants. They can spin webs, just like other spiders, however the webs of spider mites are more cloth-like rather than netted.
When spider mites infest plant leaves, they damage the plant tissue. Small, lightly coloured dots or stippling will appear on the tissue. This causes discoloration, and as the spider mite population grows, the leaves of your plant will turn white, pale or yellow and eventually fall off.
As not all spider mites spin webs, it can sometimes be difficult to identify infestation. Therefore it is important to not only look for delicate webbing underneath the leaves and in the corner of the stems, but also for other signs. The best indicator of spider mite infestation are the tiny white, yellow or tan stippling marks on the leaves of your plants.
Spider mite treatment
Do you suspect that your plant is affected by spider mites? Immediately isolate the plant and remove the infested leaves. Then, use a safe and natural biological control method to get rid of those mites.
The use of spider mite predators is an effective and environmentally friendly method for spider mite treatment. Fortunately, spider mites have several different natural enemies. These natural enemies for spider mite control include ladybugs, predatory mites and lacewings. They all love a bunch of spider mites for supper!
Predatory mites and other insects for spider mite treatment of your indoor plants can be purchased online. Simply release them into the pots of your plants and they will do the job for you! The spider mite predators will consume the spider mites and do not pose any danger to people, pets or your plants.
What are thrips?
Thrips (Thysanoptera) are tiny, slender insects with bristle-like wings. Because they can fly, they are very mobile and can easily head over and infect your other plants. These tiny flies feed by puncturing the plant tissue and sucking out the cell contents. Thrips can basically be found on any of your houseplants. They just love all kind of plants – the more the merrier!
What do thrips look like?
Thrips are extremely tiny, barely visible insects that are found on the top of the leaves of your plants. To the bare eye, they look like super tiny specks or stripes. Thrips are not the only insects that leave black spots on the leaves of your plants, so use a magnifying glass to make sure it’s thrips you’re dealing with.
Adult thrips have a brown or black body and are 1-2 mm long. Thrips larvae are orange, yellow or green in colour and approximately 1 mm in size.
How do you detect thrips on plants?
Thrips are mainly found on the growing point of plants, for example under the leaves, on the sprouts of plants and in flower buds. Thrips ‘scrape of’ plant tissue, damage the leave and suck up the sap. This nutrient-rich sap is a real feast meal for the thrips, but it’s much less of a feast for the plant. The plant loses its nutrients, which causes aesthetic damage like silver speckling on the leaves. If you notice those unappealing silver-grey spots on the leaves of your plants, it is very likely that your plant is infested with thrips.
Besides causing aesthetic damage, thrips can also transmit plant viruses. Luckily, your indoor plant are less likely to get affected by plant viruses transmitted by thrips than flower or vegetable crops. But since viruses can cause your plants to die it’s important to identify and get rid of thrips on plants.
Thrips control: how to get rid of thrips
Thrips are quite difficult to control as they have become immune to many commonly used pesticides. Thrips thrive in lower humidity levels, so increasing humidity and using a plant mister on your plants leaves can help you control those terrible thrips. Another effective way to get rid of thrips is through biological control. – lets nature do its work! Assassin bugs like the Reduvius persoatus and predatory mites are preferred predators for thrips control.
Predatory mites and other bugs for thrips prevention and treatment can be purchased online. To prevent thrips, simply release the mites in the pot of your plant to decrease the chances of a thrips outbreak. Your plants will be forever grateful for your loving care!
Do you all of a sudden notice yellow leaves on your green beauty? Yellow leaves can mean different things, such as nutrient deficiency, overwatering or underwatering, too much light or too little light or a pest infestation. But do not worry, our PLNTSdoctor will help you diagnose what’s up with your plant so you can fix her!
Why do plant leaves turn yellow?
Yellowing leaves on your beloved houseplant can be traced back to a number of conditions, so you cannot always immediately tell what’s wrong. Do however not automatically assume the worst: an odd yellow leaf here and there is pretty normal and just part of life. Some plants, such as the Alocasia, regularly shed an old leaf when they grow a new one. By doing so, your plant actually provides herself with new energy so she can keep herself healthy – that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
So the occasional yellow leaf is nothing to worry about, but if you see numerous yellowing leaves at once, your plant probably isn’t feeling that happy after all.
Yellow leaves due to overwatering or underwatering
If the leaves of your houseplant are turning yellow, underwatering or overwatering is often the culprit. Watering your houseplants helps them create energy through photosynthesis, so if you give her too little water, the plant lacks energy and weakens. She stops growing and drops her leaves to conserve water. Before the leaves drop, they wilt and turn yellow.
If you, on the contrary, overwater your plant, she cannot get rid of the excess water. Consequently, the roots will “drown” and start to rot. This too results in discoloured yellow (or brown) leaves.
Want to check if your plant is thirsty or still good? Always look beyond the top layer of potting soil! Sometimes the soil only appears to be dry, while she actually has wet feet. Carefully lift the plant out of her pot to check if she’s left sitting in a saucer filled with water.
The so-called ‘finger test’ is a quick and easy way to check whether you’re underwatering or overwatering your plants. Simply stick your index finger deep into the soil to see if you should water your plants or not. If the soil around your finger is moist, do not water her yet. If your finger comes out relatively clean and the soil feels dry, then she needs water. Be careful not to give her too much water at once!
Remember: all PLNTS are unique, so before you put her on a strict diet or treat her to some extra water always look up the specific preferences of your plant. Check the label of your plant or look your plant up through the search bar on our website to how much water she needs.
Yellow leaves do to a lack of light or too much sunlight
Too little sunlight can also cause your plant to discolour. Just like us, our plants start looking a bit pale when they hardly see any sunlight. If you notice that your plant’s leaves are turning pale but you’re sure that’s she’s not getting too much or too little water, try moving her closer to the window so she can catch some extra sunlight. This will certainly make her look better and give her a healthy green ‘tan’
Is your plant exposed to a lot of sun but do her leaves turn yellow? Then she probably has a sunburn. Too much direct sunlight hitting the leaves of your plant can cause brown patches on parts the leaves and brown edges on the leaf tips. The damaged, burnt leaves dry out, turn yellow and finally fall off. Try moving your plant to a new spot, out of the direct rays of the sun.
Yellow leaves due to pests and other plant diseases
Yellowing leaves on houseplants can also be caused by a virus, pests or other diseases. Spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and thrips are small plant parasites that damage your plants by nutrient withdrawal. They steal the nutrients from your plant, weakening her and causing damage. As a result, her leaves turn yellow and curl upwards. Eventually she will drop the damaged leaves. When you notice small bugs flying around your plant, always isolate the infected plant.
Check out our other PLNTSDoctor articles to identify – and treat! – the pests in your plants.
Yellow leaves due to nutrient deficiency
Even if your plant isn’t suffering from any plant diseases, they can still use some extra vitamins from time to time. We recommend giving your PLNTS some extra plant nutrition on a regular basis. This plant power will not only help into a strong and healthy plant, but will also make her leaves shine again!