Did you know your houseplant is trying to tell you something? How? What is it saying?
Of course, your houseplants aren’t going to suddenly develop the ability to talk. But they do have ways of communicating with you.
Whether it is I’m cold, I’m hungry, I’m worn out, or I need a drink, they are talking to you. Their appearance is the way they communicate what is going on with them.
A Happy Houseplant
This Nematanthus ‘Tropicana’ is just saying I’m happy, in the right light, and so am blooming. The same for the Tillandsia ionantha below.
The orchid in the middle is sending out buds, so I know it has the right light and care. The dieffenbachia on the right is sending out a new leaf.
Yellow Houseplant Leaves
What is a yellow leaf telling us? Most often, it is telling us it is old and ready for composting. It is making way for new leaves. The plants below are all losing just one old leaf and that is okay.
If there are many yellow leaves, it may be saying, “Hey! You are not the best at keeping me evenly moist.” It may be that the consistency of watering is not there. If a plant becomes too dry, when watered, it usually will recover. The consequences though will be yellowing leaves and brown leaf tips.
If you allow a plant to become too dry, it may have leaves that don’t recover after watering. Did you know that sometimes you can tell a plant is dry by its color.
This calathea (now goeppertia) is telling me to up-pot it immediately. I cannot keep it wet enough to keep it healthy. This curled up leaf is dead. When it is dry, the leaves curl up, but unfurl when I water it. This one did not recover. I will put it in a larger container.
This Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii Variegata’ above is root bound. The roots are coming out of the drainage hole and it drinks a lot of water. Because of the inconsistent watering, it has developed brown tips and leaves have fallen off. I also need to up-pot this plant this spring.
Sometimes and I hope not often, your plant is telling you it has a problem that isn’t from your care. It may have scale, mites, aphids, mealybugs, fungus gnats or some other pest.
Scale, mealies, and aphids leave a sticky, shiny substance on your plant which is an indicator you have a problem. Webbing from spider mites means you have a big problem because they are hard to see in small numbers. Webbing means there are an extensive number of mites.
The appearance of the leaves, bumps where bumps shouldn’t be (scale), white fuzzy stuff on your plant, and flying little bugs are all things that affect your houseplant’s health.
Putting your plants in light that is best for them goes a long way in making sure your plant is healthy and happy. Yet, there can be problems with light that your plant is trying to tell you about. How are they doing that?
This anthurium was placed outside without acclimating it first and its leaves were sunburned. If you take a plant outside, make sure to place it on the north side of your home or under a tree for a couple of weeks. This allows the plant to get used to the higher light conditions.
Remember to turn your plants so they stay symmetrical. They will lean towards the light source, which is called phototropism. Every time you water, give your plants a quarter turn.
This is a sunstressed hoya. That doesn’t mean it has a sunburn. Many people sun stress succulents and cacti to give them a reddish color. It isn’t hurting them and though some think it attractive, others may think their plant is dying.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t bloom. It does.
Brown leaf tips and edges
Often plants show something is affecting them by developing brown tips or leaf edges. These appear if a plant is inconsistently watered. But, there are plants that are affected by what is IN our water.
The calatheas and prayer plants above are in the marantaceae family. They do not like water that contains fluoride. If you live where there is municipal or “city” water, as I do, there is fluoride in the water. This affects these plants. Use distilled or rainwater to water plants in this family. They also do not like to dry out, so keep them moist.
The spathiphyllum in the upper right may have brown ends from inconsistent watering. Or minerals and salts in the potting medium could be burning the tips of the leaves. Make sure to flush water through the plant often and repot with fresh potting medium on a regular basis.
Keep your houseplants healthy and they will reward you with their silence, because they won’t need to tell you about any problems they are having. By keeping a close eye on each houseplant, you will be able to tell when they are “speaking” to you.
Have a great week, and listen to your houseplants. They may be trying to tell you something.
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