3 Most Common Planting Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Is there anything more disheartening than seeing yellowing leaves or wilting stems on your plants babies?

 

A common question I get from customers and even non-customers is why their plants aren’t thriving in their newly-planted home gardens.


There are endless reasons why a plant may not be growing or doing well, but there are three mistakes that I often see (and mistakes I made when first starting out) that I wanted to share with you.


Here we go!

 

Over-watering

Plant With Root Rot

 

Over-watering is probably the top issue I see for both outdoor and indoor plants. Gardeners typically refer to it as loving your plants too much. If your plant is over-watered, you’ll typically see yellowing leaves - especially if new growth is yellow. You’ll also see brown, moist tips on your leaves if you’ve over-watered. Finally, your plant will likely be wilting even while the soil is moist to the touch. Wilting may be due to damaged roots or a fungal disease like root rot.


Root rot is tough to diagnose, especially in perennial plants, but the clearest signs are the lower portions of your plant stems becoming “mushy”, leaves are curled and/or yellow during the daytime and roots are brown and soggy.


If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, make sure you let the plant dry out completely before watering again. Your plant will recover in due time. If you think you’re observing root rot, you may have to remove the plant entirely to prevent surrounding plants from hosting the fungus. It may be hard, but you’ll likely have to be patient and just let your plant soil dry out, checking back in daily to see if there is any improvement.


Here’s how to prevent over-watering: use a soil moisture meter! I have one for outdoor plants and one for indoor plants that I use (and that we sell!) and it has honestly been a game changer for me. You can also try and manually stick your finger in the surrounding soil to your first knuckle to see if the soil is wet to the touch. If so, don’t water!

 

Not Enough or Too Much Light


This goes for both perennial and indoor house plants. If a perennial plant requires full to partial sun, you’ll need to make sure you plant it in an area that gets 5-6+ hours of direct sunlight per day during your growing season. 


Many houseplants that require bright, indirect light will need to be in areas within 4-5 feet of an east or west-facing window or 3-5 feet from a south or southwest-facing window. 


If your plant isn’t getting enough light, you’ll notice the following things:

  1. No plant growth
  2. Weak plant stems with plants falling over
  3. Lower leaves are yellow or white and fall off easily
  4. Long spaces between leaves
  5. Flowering plants don’t bloom
  6. Leaves may be brown and wilted at the top

 

Plant not getting enough light

 

Getting too much light? You’ll see:

  1. Burnt leaves
  2. Plants wilt during the middle of the day

Here’s how to get enough light: just follow the instructions :). It’s tough not being able to get the plant you want due to a lack of light or too much light, but light is so essential to plant survival that you just can’t ignore it.

 

Below are some useful collections where we've done the work of finding the best plants for certain lighting conditions.


Check out Perennial Plants for Full Sun/Partial Sun


Check out Houseplants for Sunny and Bright Indirect Sun Spots


Check out Perennial Plants for Semi-Shade to Shade


Check out Houseplants for Low Light and Shaded Spots

 

Poor Soil

Pepper plant nitrogen deficiency

 

Both perennial and house plants need constant sources of nutrition to grow their foliage and produce flowers and that starts with the soil. If you think your plant doesn’t have the right nutrients, it is likely because either the ground soil or potting soil is running out of nutrients to supply the plants.


Here’s how to tell if your plant isn’t getting enough Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium (key nutrients for all plants):


Nitrogen


  1. Yellowing of older leaves from interior to exterior
  2. Yellowing leaves starting from the bottom of the plant

Phosphorus (typically hardest to identify)


  1. Purple leaves

Potassium


  1. Brown scorching of leaves
  2. Yellowing between leaf veins
  3. Stunted flower, seed and fruit growth

We always recommend you fold in compost or humus into your garden soil when planting perennial and garden plants in order to add structure to your soil and provide your plant with a slow release of essential nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients that will ensure your plant thrives in all conditions.

 

Compost also ensures water will be retained to feed your roots if you have a sand-based soil and ensures water drainage if you have a clay-based soil.


House plants are slightly easier to ensure good soil by doing two things: starting off with potting soil that is specifically made for indoor plants and repotting every 6 months. 


To choose the right potting soil for your indoor plant, you’ll want to pot with soil utilizing coconut coir instead of compost bark to keep gnats and other pests away from your plant.


Repotting is also essential, as soil mixtures only hold nutrients for 6 months tops. Here’s a good video tutorial on repotting your plants safely.


You’ll also want to occasionally provide water-soluable nutrients to your plants via Miracle Gro or a similar product.

 

For perennial plants, you'll want to fertilize in the early spring and in the summer once new foliage is at its peak and flowering begins to occur. That way you’ll have both an immediate source of nutrition and a sustained trickle of nutrients throughout the growing season.

 

For house plants, you'll want to fertilize with a balanced ratio fertilizer (equal or nearly equal parts Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium) only about once per month. The absolute key, though, is to let your soil dry out for most house plants before you apply water-soluable fertilizer.


That’s it! If you can identify these mistakes in your gardening and take the steps we outlined, you’ll be better off than 99% of gardeners out there.


As always, if you have any questions, just reply to this email or shoot me a note at tj@newleaves.co.


Happy planting!

TJ