How to Rehab a Sick or Dying Houseplant
Interview with Katura, from @terracottahotties
Katura grew up with plants in her home, and comes from a family of gardening gurus. She started getting serious about her own plant collection in 2018 when she purchased her first Fiddle Leaf Fig named Harold! Her instagram page is full of gorgeous plant babies, tips & advice for plant parents, and the ultra-inspiring plant rehab series. Oh, and she has also made an appearance in the LA Times... nbd. Needless to say, we could all learn a thing or two from her gardening experience! Let's dig in.
Harold the Fiddle - Leaf Fig!
Are there any hurdles you had to overcome as a new plant parent or methods of plant care that you found particularly difficult at first? We all start somewhere!
"Being a plant parent, you are always learning and overcoming hurdles! My most difficult hurdle would be my Calathea Medallion, the spider mites she brought with her, and Fungus Gnats. However, those hurdles have taught me my most important lessons:
- Always research your plants prior to purchasing them!
- Inspect all your plants before purchasing and be sure to quarantine them when they get home. Pests are not always visible when you are in the nursery!
- Always utilize additional drainage materials when potting your plants.
- Treating spider mites, requires a lot of consistency.
- Its ok if you fall out of love with a plant, like all things, there is also a season for plants."
We totally agree & can help you out with tip # 3... all of our planters have drainage holes and were curated to eliminate overwatering! Check them out here.
What do you love the most about plants/gardening & how does your collection inspire you?
"What I love most about plants is, they teach me how rewarding patience truly is, the beauty of resilience, the true meaning of peace and the importance of reciprocating the same love I give to them, to myself and others. There is a true peace that comes with caring for plants, nurturing the sick ones back to health and watching them thrive when they have received the nurturing needed to get back to their best selves."
We love your rehab posts and the philosophy that most (if not all) plants can be rescued! When you have a plant in need of some serious TLC, how do you determine what kind of care it needs?
"Rehab truly depends on the condition of the plant. A plant in need of rehab is probably receiving too much or too little light, water, humidity, and or has a pest or soil problem. If there are a lot of discolored leaves, yellow, browning or fading leaves, I always check for pests. I also check the soil, how dry or moist it is as well as the condition of the soil. Is the soil mud like consistency or are there drainage materials and a healthy color to the soil? I also inquire with the plant owner, their watering schedule, the amount of light their plant(s) receive and their overall care of the plant. Determining these key things, will tell me everything I need to know, to help rehab the plant."
What are the most helpful resources you’ve found for plant rehab?
"Honestly, Google, the plant community and sometimes trial and error. Plants speak to us, through their leaves, stems and root systems. The cause of a dying plant is usually always the pot with no drainage hole, water, light, pests, humidity, and or soil. Once you determine what your plant is missing, or getting too much of, adjust accordingly."
Need some tools for saving your little plant baby? We've got you. Use our tiny gardening and watering tools& watch your plants thrive!
What rehab project are you most proud of?
"My most proud rehab project would have to be my very first, which was my sister’s Dracaena or Corn Plant. He had a lot of brown leaves; a limp stem and his roots were on their way out. With fresh soil, a bamboo stake to help his stem gain its strength back and a decent amount of sun, he fully recovered within a few months.
Today he is tall and full of new growth. His stem regained its strength back and he’s now standing on his own! His roots made a huge come back and he earned himself a repot just recently! He has been adopted into my hotties crew and is a daily reminder of how rewarding patience truly is."
What is the most difficult rehab experience you’ve had? Any plants that didn’t make it despite your greatest efforts?
"My most difficult rehab was my Calathea Medallion! We could never keep each other happy. She was infested with spider mites, which then, I had no clue what they were. I treated those little boogers up until she left. Her leaves were always crispy, she didn’t like to be dry, but not too wet, perfectly moist, whatever that is. She required humidity, I bought her a humidifier, ran it a few hours, daily and she still hated me.
For weeks, I went back and forth with the decision to either throw her away, abandon her by the dumpster or just let her die on her own. Luckily one of my followers came to the rescue and she was rehomed! Which was the biggest relief, if it weren’t for her, I’d probably still be contemplating her demise. I just couldn’t stand the thought of giving up on a plant.
Surprisingly enough, after her exit, I became more comfortable with letting go of plants that truly could not be saved or that no longer brought me joy. Plants in my rehab that didn’t want to be saved, or the spider mites truly loved them, more than I did. Which included an Alocasia, Lemon Tree, String of Pearls, Hoya Bella, Hoya Curtisii and two of my Satin Pothos. If I’m able to save healthy portions of the plant, for propagation, I try to save as much as I can. But truly, there is no sense of keeping anything, that no longer brings you joy and that includes plants and that’s ok!"
Patience must play a big factor in nursing plant babies back to full health! How long does a rehab project typically take?
"Patience is the key to plant rehab! The time frame truly depends on the plant! I’ve had new growth on a dying plant within a few weeks, by just changing the environment and others have taken up to 8 months to show significant new growth. Every plant is different."
Any tips for someone with a plant that seems on the verge of death and is debating tossing it?
"Absolutely!Check the basics first:
- How often are you watering? Are you checking the soil prior to watering, to determine if the plant is even ready to be watered?
- Check for pests, small bugs, webs or clusters of small insects.
- Check the soil. Are there additional drainage materials, or is your soil some what of a mud consistency? If you’re still using the dirt from the nursery, it’s more than likely time for fresh, well draining soil. Research your plants soil type and repot according to their needs!
- Lastly, be sure your pot has a drainage hole! Those roots need to breathe! No matter how many broken pot shards or other type of drainage materials you put at the bottom of your pot, the excess water still has nowhere to go. Those roots will grow into the excess water and rot over time."
Any words of advice for tiny gardeners? We’re all in this together, after all
"Start small, there is no need to start off with a large mature plant. Do your research, especially the conditions needed for your future plant. Be sure you have the proper lighting and time to care for the plant you’re interested in. If your space does not receive a lot of light, consider purchasing low light plants as well as grow lights to help compensate.
Regardless of the size of your place, there’s always room for plants!
Don’t break your bank! Plants do not have to be extremely expensive. Consider asking friends for propagated cuttings, shopping around before committing to a purchase and check your local grocery store!
Take your time, know and understand your limits, but most importantly, have fun! Enjoy your plants, and give them the space and love they need to truly thrive in your care!"
Thank you so much for joining us, Katura! Your dedication to saving plants & finding joy through that is inspiring to houseplant parents everywhere. Keep gardening on, friend!
Did you enjoy this interview? Check out the rest of our series here!
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