The 5 Pillars of Plant Health Care

by Lisa Day

Lisa is the owner and founder of Root’d Plants. She has an interest in unique and unusual flora and fauna, specifically how species fit into their niche in situ.

Good plant care can be a mystery to some. Humans are animals and sometimes we fail to relate to our plants and in consequence our plants can suffer. A great example is overwatering. We love to spoil our plants and some think that watering every day is being a great plant parent. Until all their plants die that is! The facebook group 'Crazy Indoor Plant People Australia (CIPPA)' is full of posts from people with suffering plants. This article outlines 5 great habits to have to keep your plants in good health.

1. Know how your plants grow naturally
Plants have evolved to adapt to their endemic environments. They fit in their niche perfectly because over very long periods of time they became more adept to survive there. The best way to supply them with what they need is to do a little research on where they are from and how they grow in habitat. Some plants like to creep, some like to shingle, others want to climb! The plants that love to climb will always do better doing just that. Our Grow Vertical Moss Poles and Our Gentle Garden Moss Poles are the perfect tools to assist these plants to grow optimally in your collection. Fill them up with an airy moisture retaining substrate and your plants will be aerial rooting into them in no time. 

2. Give your plants a prune or a trim
Have you ever bought a pot of Epipremnum aureum (commonly known as Devils Ivy) and ended up with a single vine that is meters in length? Me too! To get the most out of your plants, prune/trim them regularly. Each time you prune/trim off active growth points you can pot them back into the soil to root to become a new plant (you may need specific parts for example, nodes on aroids to be successful - do a little research first). The stem that was cut will also give rise to new growth points (usually multiple) and lead to a much thicker plant with a number of active growth points making your plant thicker in its growth habit. Plants can start to look a bit scruffy and dull over time and keeping on top of trimming will keep your plant looking healthy, shiny and lush. 

Other benefits of pruning/trimming include:
 - removing dead/dying/diseased parts of the plant
 - encourages flowers and the production of fruit
 - control the growth of the plant and shape it how you like it aesthetically
 - strengthens the plant

3. When you see a pest, eradicate it!
When growing plants, unfortunately pests are a given. They are something that you can rarely fully eradicate and if you do it is never forever. Some pests are environmental (occur in some environments more than others), some pests are seasonal (occur at different times of the year) and some pests are just a massive pain in the a$$ (actually all pests). It is important to get on top of pests as soon as you notice them. This will keep them from establishing and infesting the plant as well as stop them spreading to other plants. 

There are a number of ways of controlling pests including pesticides, non-toxic pest control applications and beneficial or predatory bugs. Which one you use is up to you. Create a system that works and stick to it. 

Once a plant is treated it may be good to consider a number of things:
 - are your plants too condensed? Sometimes this can lead to plenty of hiding places and greater numbers of pests
- if you move this plant will it stop any further pest issues occurring. Caterpillar damage for example, very rarely happens when a plant is grown indoors. 
- will improved plant care strengthen my plant and make it less susceptible to pests. Sick or weak plants are more prone to pests.

4. Don't forget to repot or feed.
Plants - especially those grown in pots - need to be fed regularly. The nutrients in the soil diminish over time until there is nothing left. Repotting plants into fresh substrate and feeding them regularly are two things that will keep your plants looking well and growing fast.  

What you feed your plants will depend on the results you want to see and the frequency in which you want to apply it. The Higher the numbers of N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium), the more potent the fertiliser. Most natural, organic fertilisers are in the lower range, whilst higher N-P-K are usually synthetic. Follow the directions given on the label. Slow release fertiliser balls can be great for when you don't want the hassle of fertilising regularly. They usually last 3-6 months.

Organic, compost based soils can also be used as a fertiliser substitute however they normally only last about 3 month before the nutrients have been used up. Repotting is required for a number of reasons, the soil can become hydrophobic or the plant can outgrow its pot. To keep your plant healthy, repot it every growing season, or even twice if your plants is putting in some serious growth. 

5. Keep those leaves clean from residue and dust.
The site of photosynthesis (the process in which plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to create their own energy) is in the chlorophyll, usually found on the top side of every leaf. Thus, for a plant to efficiently make enough energy to keep on pushing out new growth, the leaves have to be clean. Indoors they regularly get covered in dust, so if you can't take them outside to give them a medium pressure hose down then wiping them down with a damp cloth is the next best thing!