I still kill houseplants. There, I said it.
While I don’t consider myself to be an expert, I do consider myself to be a successful plant parent keeping many, many plants alive.
However, even with the knowledge and experience I have, plants die. And I bet even the experts would say the same thing!
In today’s post, I’ll tell you 5 reasons why I still lose houseplants from time to time.
#1 I am a recovering overwaterer
My biggest problem with houseplant care has always been and might always be overwatering. I have mitigated a lot of my overwatering problem by allowing the plants to tell me when to water them because I have proven that I can’t be trusted.
But, those solutions haven’t prevented me from occasionally forgetting my own advice and watering anyway.
My most recent victim is one of my top 5 favorite plants of all time: my Hoya Mathilde.
This spring, H. Mathilde was in the process of pushing its first blooms, which is a huge achievement as a hoya grower.
When Hoyas are producing buds, I become helicopter parent and hover over them like its my job. Consistent watering helps the plant to bloom more successfully, so I am also more attentive to their watering needs.
Unlike many hoyas, Hoya Mathilde’s leaves do not provide a good indicator of when it needs to be watered, which means there is room for interpretation. This is terrible news for someone who is heavy-handed with the watering can.
The good news: my Hoya Mathilde did successfully bloom and produce the cutest, fuzziest flowers.
The bad news: My overwatering problem struck again and by the time it was done blooming, I could tell that something was wrong because the leaves were remaining emaciated after watering.
My prized hoya developed root rot.
While the plant isn’t technically dead, it is chopped up and propagating to create a new plant because the roots were too far gone to save.
Here’s what is used to look like. *sigh*
#2 Some plants just don’t match well with me
Some plants just aren’t suited for me.
One example of this is any type of fern. They slowly fade away, looking pitiful and sad.
While I love the look of many ferns, they prefer I admire them from afar. I think their issue with me is my inconsistent watering practices, which is particularly troublesome for plants that are water lovers like ferns are.
Other reasons a plant may not mesh with me:
- The plant wants more or less attention than I provide it (in terms of watering and fertilizer)
- I just don’t have the right environment for it to thrive (not enough light, humidity, etcetera)
- It just doesn’t like me.
Here’s my most recent fern (Hemionitis arifolia or Heart leaf fern) before it began to decline in my home… It’s so pretty, isn’t it?
#3 Plants get sick and die because they are living things
I can do my very best to eliminate the chance of illness and still have a plant get sick beyond the point of reviving.
Example #1: I had a hoya develop fungus rapidly (pictured below). I decided to dispose of the plant because I didn’t want the fungal disease to spread to others.
Example #2: I had a plant die from a thrips infestation that I just couldn’t get under control. The plant arrived with them.
Unfortunately, having knowledge of what to do in certain scenarios doesn’t always save a plant.
#4 Sometimes it takes more than one try to learn how to make a plant happy
One of the YouTubers I enjoy watching, Danielle Tells, likes to say that she gives herself 3 tries to get the care right for a plant before giving up.
I love this mentality!!
I accidentally killed 3 butterworts/pinguiculas the first time I tried to grow them because I watered with tap water, which is incredibly harmful for them.
Now I’m on my second try with butterworts and it’s going really well because I understand what I was doing wrong.
I also have a LONG history of killing Phalaenopsis orchids. They always slowly declined in my care despite my best efforts.
I stopped buying them altogether UNTIL last summer.
I decided to give orchids another try because I had learned a lot as a plant person during the years I stopped buying them.
Sure enough, this time was the one that made a difference. I’ve now successfully kept a Phalaenopsis orchid alive for over a year and was able to bring it to bloom again.
I just needed a few extra tries to get it right! Here’s a couple of my orchids in bloom right now:
#5 I love to experiment
I often feel inspiration wash over me to try something different and new with my houseplants. Usually it turns out well, but not always. Here’s an example:
I received my Alocasia Frydek in a 2 inch pot. Over the next 9 months, I repotted it 3 times (ending in a 6 inch pot) because it was a beast of a grower and the roots were emerging from the drainage holes each time.
When it came time for the 4th repot, I decided to try going up from a 6-inch pot to a 10-inch pot so it had more room to grow. I knew the pot was a bit large, but figured that as long as I watered carefully it would fill the pot in no time.
Unfortunately I was wrong. My Alocasia Frydek was not happy with so much space and extra moisture. It began to dwindle and I eventually repotted it back into a 6 inch pot and spent several months rehabbing it.
What’s my point?
It is normal and natural for plants to die. No amount of experience or plants will allow us to get to a space where plants never die in our care unfortunately.
Experience does help us to minimize the number of deaths, but plants are living things and life is unpredictable.
So be kind to yourself if some plants die in your care, because we all go through it. It stinks, but these deaths do not have to define your relationship with your houseplants. There is always time to try again or to try a different plant that may be a better fit for you.
Click to read last week’s article: Why are Houseplant Prices So High in 2020?
Want to join me in nerding out on some specific plant species or genera? Check these posts out:
Hoya: For People Who Are Obsessed With Hoyas
Alocasia: Spotlighting Alocasia: Everything you want to know!
Oxalis: Digging into the Weedy, Wonderful World of Oxalis, or False Shamrock Plants
Agave: Why Agave is an Amazing Houseplant AND How to Care For It!
Scindapsus: For people who want to know more about Scindapsus
Schlumbergera: How to Care for a Holiday Cactus
Cacti: 4 Reasons Cacti are Fascinating, Easy Houseplants
Euphorbia: Euphorbia Plants are not Cacti – So What are They?
Epipremnum Aureum: How to Care for Pothos, the Nearly Perfect Houseplant
Moon Cactus: Why is Your Moon Cactus Dying and Can It Be Saved?
What’s wrong with your houseplant? Here’s some posts that can help!
Fungus Gnats: How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats for Good in 3 Easy Steps
Mealybugs: How to Detect and Get Rid of Mealybugs on Houseplants
Scale: How to Identify and Get Rid of Scale on Houseplants
Aphids: How to Eradicate Aphids from Houseplants
Spider Mites: How to Identify and Control Spider Mites
Root Rot: A Simple Guide to Root Rot: How to Identify, Control, and Prevent It.
How NOT to Kill Your Houseplants: 4 Simple Changes I Made to Stop Killing My Houseplants
Does Your Plant Need More Light?: 6 Ways Your Plant is Telling You It Needs More Light
How to Know When to Water: Better Ways to Know that Your Houseplant Needs to Be Watered
Whiteflies: How to Identify and Get Rid of Whiteflies
Leafminers: Coming Soon!
Root Mealybug: Coming Soon!
Fungal Disease: Coming Soon!
Bacterial Disease: Coming Soon!
Want to learn more about houseplant care? Check out these posts:
Lighting: How to Choose the Perfect Houseplant for the Lighting in Your Home!
Bright Indirect Light: Houseplant Care: What is Bright Indirect Light?
Watering: How to Water Your Houseplants Correctly Every Time
Passive Hydro: How to Propagate Houseplants Using Passive Hydro
Potting Mix: What Potting Mix Will Help Your Houseplant Grow and Thrive
Choosing a Pot: Pick the Right Pot For Your Houseplant
Exposing My Mistakes! Sharing My Biggest Houseplant Mistakes So You Can Avoid Them!
Propagation: How to Propagate a Hoya Lisa Cutting in Water
Fertilizer 101: Answers to the Most Common Questions About Fertilizer
Want to learn about botany for plant lovers? These posts are for you!
Why bother with Botanical Latin: Why You Need to Know Botanical Latin When Shopping for Houseplants
Botanical Latin 101: For People Who Want to Understand Botanical Latin
What Causes Leaf Variegation? What is the Cause and Controversy of Variegated Houseplants?
What is Tissue Culture?: Are Tissue-Cultured Houseplants of Poor Quality?