I haven’t figured out how to have a plant live for years and years, BUT I know how to kill them, in many ways. So many ways. Below you will find a helpful list of ways to kill your plants so you can hopefully avoid killing plant after plant like me.
*This was not an experiment. Yes, plants were harmed, and many died. Thankfully, I’m not a vegetarian.
1.) Underwatering Your Plants
In case you didn’t know, plants need water to live. This might seem like a no brainer, and SHOULD be easy to avoid, but for some people, it’s hard to keep a plant watered. You want to make sure the soil in your planter stays moist (but not too wet, see #2). Dry soil is the first sign your plant doesn’t have enough water.
Without getting too “sciencey” most plants have a vascular tissue system. It’s kind of like a system of pipes that transport water and minerals throughout the plant. This vascular tissue also holds up the plant. Thus, when a plant doesn’t have enough water the vascular tissue can no longer hold the plant up, and the plant will wilt, or droop. At this point, the plant is still able to be saved with a little water, but it’s on it’s way out if you don’t water it. Without water, the vascular system will continue to fail the plant, causing more droop. And, without any water your plant will die and get crunchy.
Solution: Don’t put your plants in a corner of a room that your never go in. Instead, set your plants by the kitchen sink, kitchen window, or near any other water source. This way, you will notice your plants when they first start to droop, and hopefully not when they are beyond help.
2.) Over watering your plants
I killed so many plants by not watering them enough that now, I tend to over water my plants. Why is this a problem, you might ask? One of two things happens. First, a plant breathes through its roots and soil. If the soil is surrounded by too much water the plant can’t release or take in gases, and it starts to rot. It’s kind of like it’s poisoning itself. The wet soil and roots can also grow a fungus which can also damage the plant.
Over watering seeds
It is possible to over water seeds. I recently found this out when 10 containers of seeds just didn’t grow. That looked great on my kitchen counter. When you over water seeds (especially if it’s outside) the seeds can wash away. Or, you can bury the seed. When a seed is buried, especially if it’s newly sprouted, your new little plant won’t be able to reach the surface and it won’t get the sun that it needs. Lastly, harmful fungi can grow around your seed that can break down the seed’s protective layer, damaging it.
Solution: Make sure your plants have proper drainage. If your pot doesn’t have a hole at the bottom there is no place for the water to go except to stay in the soil. Make sure you have a pot with a hole in it. (And, please, don’t make the mistake of watering said planter with a hole in the pot on some nice furniture without having something under the pot to catch the water. (Many planters come with this, but you could put a plate underneath, buy a plastic dish, or just water the plant in the sink.))
Secondly, leave the plant alone. Maybe you let the soil get all the way dry before you water it. Or, if you have seeds, you can cover the container with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in.
If you have indoor plants, some types of plants can be harmful to dogs and cats, so please, do your research on plants harmful to pets before you purchase. That being said, the only problem I have had with animals was when I had a vegetable garden outside. I know, it’s food, just laying on the ground, ripe and ready to eat, but I grew it for MY family (okay, the kids don’t eat vegetables- but still).
I knew we had deer that run through our backyard, so I took precautions and planted some marigolds on the border of my little 4 x 10 foot garden. I watched as my garden grew, and my first cherry tomatoes were ripening. I went out to pick my tomatoes one morning and they were gone. The deer ignored my marigolds and ate everything I had planted.
I tried bordering the garden with string that the deer would find annoying. They just stepped over it or ignored it. These deer ate everything ripe. Then, Peter Rabbit ate all the leaves and stems that were left. I now completely understand why Mr. McGregorn is so mean to the rabbits.
Lastly, I tried a plastic netting to keep all the animals out. This worked until the plants grew and got all tangled in it.
Any number of insects can descend upon your garden. In the aforementioned story I experienced ants after my plants had been protected from the animals. I tried to get rid of ants the natural way, after all, if I was going to have a garden I wanted it to be organic. So, I looked online for ideas. I didn’t have Borax, I don’t even know what that is. I tried planting mint nearby. Didn’t work. They avoided the rosemary I had planted. In the end I used a mixture of soap and water on the leaves, which I had to reapply after rains or watering the plants. I gave up as soon as we went out of town and I came to to zero plants.
One year, I grew cucumbers that got infested with cucumber worms. Where do these things come from? I went out to check on my veggies and found this giant green centipede looking thing (hard to find a picture of). It was full of water and my once-delicious cucumbers. I couldn’t find a natural way to get rid of them so I just used a pesticide called sevin dust. I didn’t really feel like I washed it off, and it was the opposite of organic. The next year I just decided to not grow cucumbers anymore.
As far as indoor plants go, spider mites are pretty common, and can jump from one plant to another in your house just on the air currents. One day, I looked over at my plant and I thought I had killed it by overwatering it again. I picked up the plant, and the soil was dry. I went to the sink to water the plant, and the light caught these tiny webs on the plant. As I looked closer these tiny tan spots all over the webs were moving. Spider mites. I wiped the leaves, picked off the dead leaves and used a mix of soap and water to get rid of the little guys. Of course, I had too much soap in the mix and burned the leaves of my plant and it died anyway.
Solution: Sevin Dust- a poison that will kill insects and could kill larger animals OR a mix of soap and water. Just make sure have enough water to dilute the soap in your container or you will end up burning the leaves. I suggest looking up a proper mixture.
Yes, sunburn can happen. No big surprise, but I found out the hard way. Succulent cacti are susceptible to this; some varieties are more prone than others.
In college, I had an aloe plant that I kept outside on our patio. The patio got full afternoon sun so I thought it was a great place for my plant. After a few days I checked on the little guy and he was bright red! Since this was the late 1990s, and it would have taken longer to boot up my computer and search the internet on dial up for an answer, I just called my Mom. She enlightened me on this sensitive plant problem, and an easy fix.
Solution: Keep a plant that sunburns easily inside by a window, not outside.
Brawndo: “It’s what plants crave.” In the movie Idiocracy the people water their plants with an energy drink that has electrolytes. They wonder why the plants are all dying.
Solution: Give plants water, not an energy drink.