6 Popular Tips That Are Actually Killing Your Houseplants

If there is one thing you learn pretty quickly when you bring a houseplant home, it’s that not killing your plant often turns out to be a lot harder than you thought it would be. And that’s just keeping it alive.

If you want a thriving, growing plant that requires time, effort and knowledge.

In a world where information, especially bad information, spreads quickly and easily, it’s only a matter of time before we encounter terrible plant advice.

Or sometimes, we pick up bad habits as a new plant owner and only realize it after we’ve successfully killed our plant.

It’s time for some tough love.

I’ve rounded up a few of the worst internet advice and plant killers in the hopes that we can put these tips or practices to bed once and for all.

1. Watering Your Plants with Ice Cubes

Orchid with ice cubes on top of it's soil
Can you hear that? It’s the sound of your tropical orchid’s aerial roots screaming from the frostbite.

Can we please let this “hack” die already? (Like so many orchids watered with ice cubes.)

I see this advice all over the internet, and I cringe every time I think of some poor tropical plant whose roots are about to get shocked with ice water.

Take a moment and think about this tip logically – the plants we bring into our homes are almost always some tropical or desert-dwelling plant. They’re just not exposed to the cold temperatures associated with snow and ice. They wouldn’t survive.

Letting an ice cube melt over them is going to cause damage to the plant over time and eventually kill it.

I promise you, in the time it takes you to dig the ice cube tray out of your freezer and crack a few cubes out of it, you could have as easily filled the watering can with water. You’re not really saving any time, and in the end, you’re causing harm to a plant you’re trying to keep alive.

hand holding watering pitcher and watering ZZ plant

Save the ice cubes for your drinks, and water your plants with room temperature water.

2. Growing Epiphytes in Soil

Small schlumbergera growing in crook of tree
Do you recognize this popular epiphyte growing in the wild?

I can think of several epiphytes that are popular houseplants. The problem with this is nine times out of ten, when you buy them at the nursery, they’re grown in potting soil.

The other problem is that most beginner houseplant owners have no idea what an epiphyte is and how that changes their soil needs.

An epiphyte doesn’t grow in soil.

In their natural habitat, an epiphyte grows in the crooks of trees or in rock crevices where a bit of organic litter has collected. These plants don’t develop large, underground root structures like, say, a tomato, but rather they take in most of their water and nutrients from their leaves and roots that grow above ground.

These roots are usually called aerial nodes.

Epiphytes also use these aerial nodes to help them cling to and climb whatever surface they happen to be growing near.

Tillandsia growing on side of tree
Once you see an epiphyte in the wild you begin to understand why they are so unhappy in a pot with soil.

A few common houseplants that are epiphytes are Christmas cactus, orchids, staghorn ferns, bromeliads, hoya and tillandsia (air plants), to name a few.

Close up of orchid mix
This is a standard orchid mix. You will notice it is more bark chunks than soil.

Most epiphytes spending their life in potting soil eventually succumb to root rot. The weight of potting soil can also compress their roots and eventually kill them.

If you have any of these plants growing in a pot with potting soil, the best thing to do would be to repot it using an epiphyte-specific potting mix, like an orchid mix and add a little sphagnum moss.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *