I know you’ve heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, when it comes to your houseplants, preventing problems is so much easier than curing them. So here are my six commandments for heading off trouble before it happens.
1. Always use soil that is pest and disease free. I personally wouldn’t mess around with a home brew… buy a quality potting soil that is intended for indoor plants.
2. When you get a new plant, find out what growing conditions it needs. Be honest about the amount of light in your house, and the amount of time you are likely to devote to your plants. For example, if you forget to water, get a cactus. Or if you like to check your plants daily, you might do well with a bonsai. You will have an ongoing relationship with your houseplants, so make sure it’s a good match from the start.
3. Don’t put houseplants where they are likely to be in draughts or extremes of temperatures. Place plants away from radiators, leaky windows, and air conditioners.
4. Keep the plant clean and free of dead or dying leaves. Dust the surface of the leaves occasionally with a soft, damp cloth. The exceptions for this treatment are plants with fuzzy leaves or, obviously, any spiny cactus.
5. If you notice a problem, get an accurate diagnoses before any treatment. It will do no good to spray for bugs if the problem is caused by over-watering! If insects are present and you want to use an insecticide, be sure to use a product intended for houseplants, and follow the directions.
6. Check your plants weekly. If you make it a habit to look at them closely you will be able to stop problems before other plants are effected.
Now, even when you follow these six commandments, sometimes problems will occur… houseplants are living things, and living things are quirky. But you will have done your best by using an ounce of prevention.