Tropical plants are good choices for indoor gardening because of their easy care. Most of them have the same basic needs as other house plants. They also have some of the same needs as far as signs to look out for in a plant that’s sort of crying for help. Just as you’d troubleshoot other situations in your life, caring for plants requires the same. No worries though; you can do everything here using your own two eyes.
Troubleshooting Tropical House Plant Problems
Tropical plants are often described as easy indoor plants to grow, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have any problems caring for them. Tropical houseplant care can be challenging, especially for some of the fussier types. These are some common problems you might have, and how to fix them.
Dropping leaves Some leaf shedding isn’t something to worry about, especially after a plant has recently been moved to a new environment. But if you’re suddenly losing a lot of leaves on an established plant, the usual culprits are cold temperatures, too much water, or lack of sun.
Dull leaf color When brightly colored plants start to fade and look dull, it usually means there’s a lack of light. Dull leaf color is easily fixed by simply moving the plant to a brighter location. You might also consider adding a grow light if your home is one of a naturally low light environment.
Brown or yellow leaves Brown or yellow leaves are common problems for tropical houseplants. Sun scorch or overfertilizing will contribute to the problem. The most common causes, however, are a lack of humidity or underwatering. You can mist the plants or invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air. More moisture certainly helps us too, so you and your plants get what they need.
Weak, leggy growth Weak or leggy growth is usually a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough light. Plants that aren’t getting enough light will reach for the nearest light source, so you may notice your plant is starting to lean to one side as well. It will look like it’s straining toward a light source. So, move the plant closer to a sunny window or add a grow light.
Droopy Leaves Ironically, when houseplants get droopy leaves, it can be from both overwatering and underwatering. That’s why it’s so important to learn how much water your specific plants need to thrive. Using a soil moisture gauge can help you get the feel for how much of a drink of water the plant needs until you get the hang of getting the right balance. Sticking your finger one inch into the soil is always an old standby way of gauging moisture levels too.
Dealing With Those Pesky Bugs
Inevitably, if you grow houseplants indoors, you’ll have to deal with pests at some point, and dealing with them is no fun. Regularly check your plants for signs of infestations of pests like spider mites. Naturally, you need to be familiar with ordinary plant care for your tropical plants to thrive. Healthy plants won’t usually have issues with pests, but as soon as you notice something, begin treatment immediately.
While chemical pesticides seem an obvious solution, they aren’t as effective on the bugs you’ll probably find. They can also be harmful to yourself or your pets.
Organic neem oil is one natural pesticide solution and works well in getting rid of houseplant bugs. Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil also works good as organic pest control. One simple solution uses what you already have on hand. For instance, you can mix one teaspoon of mild liquid soap with one quart of water to kill bus on contact.
Flying insects like fungus gnats can be repelled and killed using yellow sticky traps or sticky houseplant stakes.
Two Final Tips
Troubleshooting problems is a constant process of paying attention. Look for pests. Examine the leaves (both the tops and bottoms) and any flowers produced by your plant. Check the soil. When you do these things, you can stay on top of problems. Here are a couple of other things to help you along.
What to do about dust It’s a valid question to wonder if plants really need dusting. The answer is yes, they do. Dust blocks sunlight, and plants need sunlight for the process of photosynthesis. Dusting doesn’t require fancy gadgets. For small plants, a gentle spray of water from the faucet can remove dust. The emphasis is on ‘gentle’ and it usually doesn’t have to be done more than once in a season. For larger plants whose leaves can take it, take a damp cloth to the leaves when you notice dust.
What kind of water? Many plants are sensitive to water that contains fluoride and chlorine, common additives to tap water. Buildup of these two chemicals can turn leaves brown. If you already use filtered water, great, but you don’t have to make an investment to avoid the problems associated with chemicals. Simply leave bottles of tap water uncapped for a day or so. Most of the chemicals simply dissipate.
Good care starts with making your plant purchase Remember, the best place to buy any plant is at a good local florist. The plants will be from reliable producers, and as a bonus, your florist can give expert advice on care. Keep in mind if you’re set on buying tropical plants from a garden center, it’s easier to find indoor plants for sale during the fall and winter months. Tropical plants make beautiful indoor plants. So, add a little bit of the tropics to your home with some exotic houseplants. You can start with a couple of easy ones and as you learn more about their care, add to your collection.
Plumeria Botanical Boutique is Battle Creek’s only independent locally owned florist. We’re here to give you the best we can find, whether it’s houseplants or florals. Check out this article on our blog which starts your journey in selecting and caring for tropical plants.