Episode 106: ten commandments for houseplant care

Photograph by Katya Austin on  Unsplash .

Photograph by Katya Austin on Unsplash.

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I continue the theme of houseplants for beginners this week, as Judy Feldstein of Houseplant411.com presents her ten commandments for houseplant care. I also answer a question about watering habits and fungus gnats.

If you’re interested in the brown jug plant, suggested by listener Randall as another super-tough plant suitable for beginners. Its Latin name is Synadenium grantii and it’s very easy to growm but it’s a member of the Euphorbia clan so be aware of its toxic sap.

This week’s guest

Judy Feldstein ran her own interior plantscaping business in the US from 1975 to 2007. Now she offers houseplant growers advice on her website, Houseplant411.com, and she’s also the author of two books: Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants, and the recently published Don't Talk to Me I'll Grow Better: A Guide to Easy Care Houseplants.

Judy’s ten commandments of houseplant care

  1. When in doubt, don’t water! The fatter the leaves of the plant, the less often it needs to be watered

  2. Don’t overfertilise. It’s better to underfeed your plants than overfeed them, as excess nutrients build up on the soil. Plants only need to be fed when they are actively growing.

  3. Don’t rush to repot your plant. Being slightly potbound can help the plant’s soil dry out quicker and prevent root rot. When you do repot, only increase the pot size by a small amount.

  4. Avoid water with too many mineral salts in it, including water from a water softener: rainwater is ideal, or you can use water from an RO unit.

  5. Prune your plants. If you keep cutting back plants, especially vines, that will make them bush out rather than stay straggly. And it also means you have cuttings to give away!

  6. No direct sun. There are few plants you can put in direct sun without having their leaves burned, but the exceptions include some succulents and cacti such as Aloes, and Pelargoniums.

  7. Location. Location. Location. The same species of plant will need different watering regimes if one specimen is in a warm bright spot and the other is cool and more shady. In other words, don’t impose a really strict watering regime where you only water on a set day of the week. Instead, be aware of your plants’ needs by checking the soil.

  8. Examine your plants regularly. It’s easier to treat a pest infestation or disease when it’s newly developed than it is when the plant is close to collapse.

  9. Know whether or not your plant is poisonous. A lot of common houseplants are poisonous, so make sure you know if any of yours are not safe for pets, children or yourself.

  10. Think twice before asking friends and relatives to take care of your plants while you are away. They often kill them with kindness. If you are going away for a week, your plants will be fine without you! Longer than that, you can move them to a low light area and group them together to keep them happy: more sensitive plants can go onto a damp towel in the bath or shower.

Question of the week

Maggie wanted to know whether her watering techniques were helping or hindering her battle against fungus gnats. Do go and have a listen to my fungus gnat episode if you haven’t already: overwatering can exacerbate a gnat infestation, but is not its cause. Fungus gnats will still manage to live even if you let your soil dry out between waterings. The safest and most efficient way to deal with gnats is to use nematode worms.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com.


DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

Join me at Lullingstone Castle in Kent in the UK on September 21 and 22 2019 for Cactusworld Live where I’ll be doing a live recording of On The Ledge and holding a listener meetup: there will be a giveaway of OTL merch, too, for one lucky listener, so don’t miss out!

The following weekend I’ll be at the Garden Museum on Sunday September 29 for their Houseplant Festival: I’ll be helping out with the houseplant clinic, and there’s also the chance to take part in workshops and browse an awesome range of stalls from some of my favourite houseplant shops!


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CREDITS

This week's show featured the tracks Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, A Man Approaches with Bowed Sitar by Samuel Corwin and Water in the Creek by Josh Woodward . Ad music is by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra with Whistling Rufus. All tracks licensed under Creative Commons.

Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.