This easy-to-grow succulent has spiky, freshy leaves. The sap is used to soothe burns skin irritations.
HOW NOT TO KILL
Location – Keep in a room that is 50-75F (10
Wzter-24C). Happy, mature plants will produce yourself flowers.
Light – Place in a bright spot (e.g. a south facing window). It will cope with some direct sun, but acclimate it gradually.
Watering + Feeding – In spring and summer, water when the top 1in (2-3cm) of potting mix has dried out – this may be once a week, depending its position. In winter, water very sparingly. Feed once in spring and once in summer.
Care – Aloes like well-drained potting mix, so add potting sand or perlite when planting, or use cactus mix. A layer of sand on the top will keep the neck dry prevent rot. Only repot if the plant has outgrown its pot. The plant will produce baby “offsets” – these can be left on the plant, or cut off at the base with their roots and planted individually.
SHRUNKEN, WRINKLED LEAVES?
Your plant needs watering.
SAVE IT – Water lightly and mist the leaves. Do the same the following day, and the day after that – the leaves should plump up again. Don’t let your plant sit in very wet potting mix.
LEAVES TURNING BROWN RE, OR REDDISH BROWN?
Your plant could be getting too much sun in the middle of the day during summer, or it may be overwatered. The roots may also be damaged.
SAVE IT – Move your plant to a bright spot with less direct sunlight. Reduce watering. If it doesn’t recover, check the roots.
PALE OR YELLOWING LEAVES?
If your whole plant is pale or yellowing, it has been overwatered, or it isn’t getting enough light.
SAVE IT – Ensure that you are watering the plant correctly (see left). Move it to a brighter spot.
DARK SPOTS? BROWN OR MUSHY LEAVES?
This is most likely due to overwatering.
SAVE IT - Do not water until the potting mix has dried out. Ensure that the pot has drainage holes. Avoid spilling water on the foliage, as it will gather at the base and cause rot.
This delicate, arching fern is quite fussy and can be tricky to grow – it needs moisture, warmth, and a shady spot.
HOW NOT TO KILL IT
Keep it at 60°-70°F (15°-21°C) and above 50°F (10°C) in winter. Place it away from heat registers and drafts. It needs a lot of humidity, so is good for a bathroom.
LIGHT: Keep it out of direct sunlight – about 3ft (1m) from a north window, or in the diffused light of an east -facing one.
WATERING + FEEDING: Water when the top 1/2in (1cm) of potting mix is dry, but let excess drain away – the mix should be moist. Feed once a month in spring or summer.
CARE: Place it on a pebble-filled tray of water and mist the leaves regularly to provide humidity – more often in a hot, dry room. Snip off the old fronts at the base.
FRONDS TURNING BROWN AND CRISPY?
This is due to low humidity, drafts, close proximity to a heat register, bright sunlight, or because the potting mix is too dry
SAVE IT: Snip off the affected fronds. Check that your plant isn’t in too bright a spot, or near the heating. Mist your plant regularly and set it on a tray of damp pebbles. Keep the potting mix moist.
LEAVES TURNING PALE?
If the leaves are pale, your plant may be in too much direct sun – in this case, it may have scorch marks on the leaves too. Alternatively, it could also be in too dark a spot. Your plant may also need feeding.
SAVE IT: Move it to a spot with diffused light. Feed your plant if you haven’t been doing so.
This could be due to under- or overwatering, or exposure to temperature fluctuations.
SAVE IT: Check that the potting mix isn’t waterlogged and make sure your plant isn’t near a heat register or air-conditioning vent.
Incorrect watering is the main reason that houseplants die – particularly overwatering. Here are the best methods to water healthy plants and save wilted ones.
HOW TO WATER IT…
Most plants can be watered from above. If your plant has fuzzy leaves, however, or the foliage covers the potting mix, water it from below to avoid splashing the leaves. Orchids can be dipped and drained – this allows their coarse mix to absorb the right amount of water temperature doesn’t shock them. Its so also worth leaving a bucket outside (if possible) to collect rainwater. Some plants, such as bromeliads, prefer it, as they are sensitive to the chemicals in hard tap water.
Use this method to avoid splashing the leaves, which will create ugly marks and lead to the leaves rotting. Set the pot in a saucer of water for around 30 minutes. Drain any excess water from the saucer.
For most plants, use a thin, long-necked watering can so that the spout can reach the potting mix easily. Water around the base of the plant so that the mix is evenly moist, and allow the excess water to drain away.
DIP & DRAIN
A good technique for watering orchids: place the pot in a container of lukewarm water and leave it to stand for around 10 minutes. Let it drain thoroughly.
HOW MUCH WATER…
Here are some things to consider when figuring out whether your plant needs watering, and how much water to give it.
- Overwatering is the number - one cause of houseplant death. But be sure not to underwater, eathier.
- Don’t water on a fixed schedule – get to know your plant’s needs instead. Most plants only need watering when the top ½ - ¾ in (1-2cm) of potting mix is dry – gently poke your finger into the soil to test it. If a rosette of leaves is will have dry mix.
- Aim to make the potting mix moist, but not wet. Most houseplants hate sitting in soggy potting mix, so always let excess water drain away.
- Potting mix in terra-cotta pots dries out more quickly than that in plastic or ceramic pots; this is because terra-cotta is a porous material.
- Most plants need less water in the winter because they are not actively growing. Some plants need this period of winter rest to reflower.
Urn plants are exotic-looking bromeliads that have long-lasting flowers. The rosette of leaves forms a central “vase” that holds water.
HOW TO NOT KILL IT
Place the plant in a warm room that is 55-81F (13-27C). Good air circulation Is important, so open a window on occasion.
Provide bright light, away from direct sun, which will burn the leaves.
WATERING + FEEDING
Water the central vase, ensuring that the water is always 1in (2-3cm) deep. Use distilled, filtered, or rainwater. Empty and refill the vase every 2-3 weeks to keep the water from stagnating. Water the potting mix in summer if the top 1in (2-3cm) is dry. Allow to drain after.
Provide high humidity if the room is warm – place it on a pebble-filled tray of water and mist the leaves 1-2 times a week.
BROWN, SOGGY LEAVES OR WILTING LEAVES?
This could be crown or root rot, caused by overwatering or poor drainage.
SAVE IT: Check for crown and root rot. Try trimming off the affected areas, treating with fungicide, and repotting in fresh potting mix. For more information, see Plant diseases.
FLOWER OR PLANT DYING BACK?
This is normal.
SAVE IT: Cut away the flower, as close to the foliage as you can, using a sharp knife. Urn plants only flower once, but if you continue to care for your plant, it will produce “pups” (new plants at its base). When they are a third the size of the main plant, cut them away carefully and pot them individually.
The air is too dry or the plant is in direct sunlight.
SAVE IT: Move your plant to a shadier spot and mist the leaves regularly.
BROWN LEAF TIPS
This may be due to hot, dry air, or under- or overwatering. It can also be caused by hard tap water.
SAVE IT: Add more water to the central vase and water the potting mix lightly. Mist the leaves more often. If you think hard water is the problem, switch to distilled, filtered, or rainwater.
Alocasia x amazonica
Elephant’s ears like hot, steamy conditions and have impressive, veined, dark green leaves.
HOW NOT TO KILL IT
Keep the plant at a temperature of 65-70F (18-21C) all year round. Avoid placing it near heat registers, air condition vents, and cold drafts.
Keep the plant out of direct sun in summer – a partially shaded spot is best is best. In winter, move it to a brighter spot.
WATERING + FEEDING
Keep the potting mix moist (but not soggy) by watering lightly every few days. Use distilled, filtered, or rainwater that is lukewarm. Feed once a month during spring and summer. Water more sparingly in winter.
Alocasias love high humidity, so set the plant on a pebble-filled tray of water and mist the leaves frequently. Ensure that the pot has good drainage. Repot in spring, but only if the roots are significantly outgrowing the pot.
BROWN PATCHES ON THE LEAVES?
This is sunburn.
SAVE IT: Move your plant to a more shaded spot, out of direct sunlight.
Caring for your houseplants correctly is the best defense against disease, but stay vigilant! Here’s how to spot and treat diseases attack your plant.
BOTRYTIS (OR GRAY MOLD)
Gray fluff can be found all over the plant, especially in cool, damp, or crowded conditions.
TREAT It: Water your plant from below to avoid splashing water on the leaves or crown. Remove any affected areas, along with any moldy potting mix, and treat with a fungicide. Water and mist less frequently. Improve ventilation.
CROWN AND STEM ROT
The lower parts of the plant are dark, soft, and rotten, due to a fungal infection. It’s usually caused by excess watering, splashing the base of the stems, or cool conditions.
TREAT IT: You can try to save your plant by cutting out the affected area and treating it with a fungicide. Avoid overwatering, and move the plant to a warmer, well-ventilated spot.
Patches of white dust will appear on the leaves. It’s more likely to occur where plants are crowded together, or underwater plants, or in conditions that are too hot and humid. It’s not fatal but it can weaken your plant.
TREAT IT: Remove the affected leaves, and treat your plant with fungicide. Space plants farther apart to improve airflow.
Look for corky growths on the underside of leaves. Odema is cased by waterlogging, high humidity, and low light.
TREAT IT: Water your plants less, reduce the humidity in the room, and move it to a brighter spot.
Thick black fungus grows on the sticky waste of aphids, whiteflies, scale insects, and mealybugs. It blocks light and the plant’s pores.
TREAT IT: Sponge off the mold with a clean, damp cloth and treat the insect infestation.
Signs include mottled, yellow foliage, distorted growth, and white streaks on the flowers.
TREAT IT: A virus would have been transmitted by insects or was already present on the plant when it was bought. There is nothing you can do to save it.
Brown or black spots on the foliage are often surrounded by a yellow halo. Leaf spots can merge and kill an entire leaf. Caused by bacteria or fungi, they are more likely in damp or overcrowded conditions, or if water has been splashed on the leaves.
TREAT IT: Remove any affected leaves and treat your plant with fungicide. Reduce humidity and space plants more widely.
Caused by overwatering, root rot is a fungal infection of the roots that will lead to yellow, wilting leaves that turn brown, followed by the collapse of your plant. Affected roots will be soft and dark.
TREAT IT: Remove the potting mix to check the roots. You can try to save it by trimming off any affected roots with a knife, leaving any healthy , white roots. Then cut the plant back to allow for the root reduction, treat with fungicide, and repot in fresh potting mix and a disinfected pot.
Houseplants can be troubled by small, unwelcome guests that can damage and even kill them. Here’s how to identify the signs of a pest infestation, and what you can do to save your plant.
HOW TO STOP PESTS
The best way to avoid pests is to keep your plant healthy—pests are more likely to attack stressed, unhealthy plants. If your plant does become infested with a pest, in many cases you will be able to treat it with an insecticide, either chemical or natural. Natural products are derived from plants or other natural substances.
Sticky traps are especially good for trapping aphids, whiteflies, and thrips, and can help you monitor the level of infestation.
If you have a lot of houseplants in one place that are all suffering from the same problem, you could try a biological control. These natural products are available by mail order and work by introducing predators (usually invisible to the naked eye) to attack the pests.
You may find signs of these pests on your houseplants. Plants that are particularly prone to infestation will have more details on their care page.
They hide on the undersides of leaves, and clouds of tiny white insects will fly up when your plant is disturbed.
TREAT IT: Take your plant outside and dislodge the insects with a spray of water; you could also dunk the whole plant in a bowl of lukewarm water. A sticky trap hung near the plant will trap a lot of insects.
Also known as sciarid ﬂies, these tiny brown or black insects ﬂy around the plant. They aren’t harmful, but they are annoying. Their maggots mostly feed on organic matter in the potting mix, but can sometimes attack roots. Healthy plants can withstand this, but young or weak ones won't.
TREAT IT: Allow the top 1/2—3/4 (1 -2Cm) of potting mix to dry out before watering—this suits most plants, anyway. A yellow sticky trap will attract the insects away from your plant. Cover the surface of the potting mix with a mulch of ﬁne gravel or pebbles to prevent the gnats from laying their eggs.
Look for brown, white, or opaque meandering trails on the leaves, where the grubs have ”mined” them. There may also be white dots on the leaves.
TREAT IT: Remove the affected leaves. Spray with an insecticide.
Also known as thunder ﬂies, these tiny brown or black sap-sucking insects may be seen on plants that have spent time outdoors. Signs of infestation include dull, mottled leaves, silvery white streaks on the leaves or ﬂowers, and distorted growth.
TREAT IT: Sticky traps – especially blue ones – can reduce their numbers and can help you monitor the problem. Spray your plant with insecticide or try a biological control.
Look for bleached or speckled foliage, webbing between the leaves and stems, and leaf fall. If you look under the leaves with the aid of a magnetifying glass, you’ll see the mites.
TREAT IT: Spray with an insecticide or use a biological control. Spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist your plants daily to raise humidity if the atmosphere is hot and dry. Be vigilant – use a magnifying glass to look for the mites on the underside of leaves.
If your plant has collapsed and you haven’t over-or underwatered it, vine weevil grubs could be the culprit. They’re found in the potting mix of plants that have spent time outside. They munch on the plant’s roots, bulb, or tuber, causing it to suddenly wilt.
TREAT IT: If your plant has been outside in summer, drench the potting mix with an insecticide or biological control in the late summer or early fall to kill any grubs. If they have eaten most of the roots, your plant will not recover.
Also known as greenflies, these can be green, black, gray, or orange. They gather on the tip of the suck sap and secrete honeydew, which is then colonized by sooty mold. Aphids can also spread viruses.
TREAT IT: Rub them off by hand, dislodge with a spray of water, or spray with insecticide. Hanging a yellow sticky trap nearby can help.
These limpetlike insects look like brown lumps on the stems and the underside of leaves. They also excrete a sticky sap, which can lead to sooty mold. If not controlled, your plant will be weakened and the leaves will turn yellow.
TREAT IT: Rub them off, or spray the affected areas with insecticide (don’t spray the leaves of ferns, as they are very sensitive to chemicals). You could also try a biological control.
These white, slow-moving insects coated in white fluff are found in clusters on stems, in leaf joints, and under leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, which then gets colonized by sooty mold. An infestation can lead to yellowing leaves, leaf fall, and wilting.
TREAT IT: Wipe off the insects with a damp cloth or cotton swab soaked with insecticide. Alternatively, spray the whole plant with insecticide once a week. You could try a biological control. Mealybugs are hard to eradicate and it is often simpler to throw away severely infested plants.
International Garden Photographer Contest recently took place with photographers from all over the world - Croatia, China, the Netherlands, Slovakia, USA, Spain, Russia, Ireland and the UK.
Here are some of the most extraordinary and exceptional pictures we would like to share with you!
Unfurling, by Ashley Moore, Kings Canyon National Park, California.
Highly Commended, Photonic Bliss V, by Petar Sabol, Palovec, Croatia.
Highly Commended, On Fire, by Claudia de Jong, Lapland.
2 place, Salad Burnet Flower, by Ian Gilmour, West Yorkshire.
1 Place, Petar Sabol from Gorican, Croatia, with his image Mayflies.
Feed it and love it
You need to do more than just water your plant to keep it alive – most plants need feeding, too. It’s also worth spending a few minutes each week examining and grooming your plant – it will thrive on your attention.
All plants need food to thrive. Carnivorous plants capture prey to feed on, but most house plants will need to be fed. You should start feeding your plant a few weeks after you get it home, or around a couple of months after it has been repotted. In the spring and summer, add a liquid houseplant fertilizer to your watering can – usually around once a month. Be sure to follow manufacture’s instructions and don’t be temped to add extra overfeeding can damage the plant. Its best to feed when potting mix is already moist – that way it will reach the roots directly and won’t drain away. Alternatively, add slow release pellets or spikes to the mix as more low-maintenance approach – they’ll release aa little food every time you water. Don’t feed houseplants in winter, unless they are winter-flowering.
Get to know your plant by spending a minute or two every week examining it and making sure it looks good. This is not only an important way to keep it healthy, but will mean you’ll spot signs of problems more quickly when they occur.
Wipe your plant’s leaves (especially those with large leaves) with a clean, damp cloth to keep them dust-free, as dust can keep light from getting to the leaves. Set palms in a lukewarm shower in winter, or a rain shower in summer. Fuzzy-leaved or prickly plants are best cleaned with a soft paintbrush.
Remove old leaves and deadhead flowers – this will encourage more blooms and will prevent dead petals from landing on the foliage, causing it to rot.
Prevention is better than cure. If you notice that your plant is looking slickly, check your care regimen and look for signs of pests or diseases before they have a chance to cause significant problems.
Sooner or later your plant’s original potting mix will be exhausted, so your plant will need repotting. Changes are that the plant will have grown, too, so the plant will need repotting into a slightly larger pot.
When to Repot
Most plants need repotting when their roots are curling around the edge of the potting mix; carefully remove the root ball to check. When repotting, choose a pot that’s only slightly larger than the previous one – an extra 2in (5cm) in diameter is about right. A much larger pot will house too much mix and get waterlogged. Most plants are happy in multipurpose or potted plant mix, but some, such as orchid and cacti, need a specialized mix. Do not use garden soil. The best time to repot is spring or summer. Some plants can look a little unhappy shortly after repotting, but they should recover – just continue to care for them as normal.
Plants in smaller pots: Repot smaller plants into a new, larger pot, with fresh potting mix.
Plants in large pots: It can be hard to take large, mature plants out of their containers, so “top dress” them instead. Remove the top 2-3in (5-8cm) of potting mix with a small trowel or spoon (take care not to damage roots) and replace it with fresh mix.
How to Repot
Follow the steps to repot your plant correctly. You will need a new pot and fresh potting mix.
- Water your plant the day before you repot it. It will be easier to remove and less likely to be “shocked” by repotting.
- Add fresh potting mix to the base of the new, slightly larger pot.
- Holding your plant upside down around the base of the stems, tap it out of its pot.
- Set your plant in the new plant. Leave space between the surface of the potting mix and the top of the pot.
- Add potting mix around ball, firming it in gently.
- Water your plant, allowing any excess to drain away.
After repotting your plant, continue to care for it as normal.