One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is to invest in things that last. Whether that’s well-made furniture or textiles that won’t shred after the first wash, waiting and saving to get something that will last for years has been worth it. When I was younger I was an impulse buyer, scooping up little things here and there in what was probably a misguided attempt to build an
insta-home that felt filled and finished immediately. But I’ve learned that that most homes are never “finished” and most of the spaces we look at and love right away took decades to evolve and get there. So these days I’m all about finding ways to preserve the things I already have and fix, rather than replace, pieces around the house to not only save some money, but teach myself some new household skills. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on how to fix things around the house.
A few weeks ago I did a post on how to know
which plants will do best in which parts of your home, and I got a ton of follow-up emails from readers asking, “Yes, but how do we keep them alive after that?” It made me think about my own struggles to turn my black thumb into a green(er) one and the lessons I’ve learned from making sure my plant investments stay alive. So today I’m going to walk through some of the common problems with houseplants and how to fix them. In every plant’s life a little over-watering, aphid and bug and mold drama might fall, but you don’t have to toss your plants — you can save them (and your money!) by bringing them back to life and health. xo, grace
This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!
OVER-WATERING: Let's start with the error I'm most guilty of - one too many visits with the watering can. I treat plants like members of the family and like to visit them throughout the day to see how they're fairing. No matter what they look like, I'm always convinced they need more water. Usually, they don't. HOW TO TELL IF YOU'VE OVER-WATERED: The leaves of your plant will look wilted even though the soil is moist. They'll also start to look pale yellow or have brown tips. Those are classic signs of over watering.
: If you notice these signs, back off of watering your plants a few days until things dry out. Then slowly ease back in, making sure you water slowly and let the plant absorb, rather than flooding it. [Photo
Anna's Home Tour
UNDER-WATERING: Do your plants' leaves suddenly look crispy and dried but they're not burning up in too much light? You're probably not giving your plant as much water as you need. Even the crispiest and saddest of plants can be brought back to life with a little love and water.
: Depending on your plant type, introduce your plant to small doses of water, waiting for it to thoroughly soak through. I like to fill up a sink and let the whole pot and plant sit in it (especially for terra cotta pots) so it can absorb moisture from the bottom of the plant, too (through the hole in the pot bottom). Let your plant fully absorb as much water as it can before it starts to release excess water from the bottom of the pot in a steady stream. Then place back in its spot and keep an eye on the leaves to make sure they don't get crispy again. [Photo from
Nina's Home Tour
APHIDS: Ugh, I hate aphids. If you turn over your plant leaves and see tiny clear/white bugs crawling around, you've got 'em. I once grew lettuce in my window, grabbed a handful to eat and didn't realize the bottom was covered in aphids. Not my finest moment.
: To rid your plants of aphids, physically remove as many as possible by brushing or shaking them off. Then use a spray bottle with water to spritz off any hangers-on (they're sticky). Then fill that spray bottle with 4 cups of water and 4 drops of dish soap. Spray the leaves (make sure to get the under sides!) with the solution and rinse it off with clean water after 2 hours. Repeat every few days until your infestation is under control. [Photo from
Amy and Erich's home tour
POWEDERY MILDEW: I've lost more than a few wonderful plants to powdery mildew (RIP, Blackberry bush) because I didn't know how to properly manage it. But here's how to tackle the problem if you see spots of powdery mildew pop up on your plant leaves.
: First, isolate your infected plant before it spreads. Outdoors, ideally, if that's an option. If the mold is only on one section, you can prune it off to prevent major spread. Then mix 1 tbsp of baking soda + 1 tbsp of
+ 1 tsp of liquid soap + 1 gallon of water. Spray down your plant every week until the mold is gone. (You can also buy commercially-made sprays for this) [Photo from Michelle's home tour]
FUNGUS GNATS: The name alone sounds gross, but these little gnats can crop up and destroy the root of your plant, killing it for good.
: To keep them from killing your plants, if you spot gnats hovering around your plant, it's probably due to over-watering, as they love moisture. Swat away and kill any adults you see flying around and then, to kill the larvae in the soil, let the plant dry out and sit in as much sun as that type of plant can handle. Let it dry out until you can stick your finger in at least an inch and feel that the soil is barely moist. You want to really dry it out so the larvae die. This is the most common issue I deal with and I promise you can beat the gnats! [Photo from
Andrew and Gemma's home
OUTGROWING ITS POT: If you're lucky and your plant grows for a long time, it will probably outgrow the pot it originally came in or was potted in. You can tell when this is happening when it looks like it's busting at the seams and when the plant gets fully watered by still wilts (it doesn't have enough soil to pull moisture from).
: To fix your growing plant, water it well a day or two before and then re-pot it in a pot that is slightly larger (
here's a great how-to
), making sure you're gentle with the plant and give it plenty of fresh soil that is already moist. [Photo from
Michelle's home tour
OTHER COMMON ISSUES AND THEIR CAUSES:
-Spindly Plants: Typically caused by the plant not getting enough light. Move to a brighter space.
-Weak/No Growth: Usually this is an issue of not enough light or too much water. Move to a brighter space to dry out.
-Dropping leaves: If your plant is losing leaves, it usually needs less water and more light.
-No flowering: If your plant is supposed to flower and isn't, it's often because it needs more light.
[Photo from our
DIY hanging planter project
Have any other questions? Leave them in the comment section below and I'll tackle them one-by-one! :)