4 Ways to Kill a Houseplant

12/26/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Houseplants

Most houseplants are resilient, but there are common mistakes that will do in even the most reliable types:
dead houseplantPlant killer #1 – Transport the new plant from the nursery to your home in the trunk of your car on a cold winter day. Many houseplants are seriously damaged if the temperature drops much below 50°F. To protect a plant, place it in a cardboard box and close the lid, or wrap it in newspaper or paper bags. Then place it on the front seat of a heated car.

Plant Killer #2 – Allow the pot to sit in water collected in the drip saucer. This results in high concentrations of soluble salts in the soil. An excess of salt weakens a plant and makes it more susceptible to attack from insects and disease.

Plant Killer #3 – Repot the plant in garden soil. Garden soil hardens when stuffed into a pot. The result is poor drainage and lack of oxygen, a houseplant death sentence. Always use high-quality packaged potting mix labeled for houseplants.

Plant Killer #4 – Plant in a container with no drainage hole. Sooner or later, the plant will suffocate. If you have a favorite decorative pot that lacks a drainage hole, plant in a smaller pot that drains and place it in the non-draining pot.

What should you do if a plant just doesn’t work out. It may be the cat relentlessly chews on the leaves, it’s too messy or it’s plagued by aphids? Toss your troubled plant on the compost heap or throw it away, then treat yourself to a replacement. Houseplant are relatively inexpensive and easy to start over with.