Outdated Plant Care Advice to Avoid for Healthy Houseplants

Outdated Plant Care Advice to Avoid for Healthy Houseplants

I. Introduction

Many common tips for caring for houseplants are actually outdated and need to be rethought for the best results. This video will discuss 6 outdated plant care tips that many people still follow, but that may be doing more harm than good when it comes to helping your plants thrive.

Below is a table summarizing the tips that will be covered:

Outdated Tip Better Approach
Repotting annually Top dressing with compost
Pots without drainage Careful watering
Rotating weekly Letting plants face one direction
Remove yellow leaves Accept natural leaf cycle
Low light for all plants Give lots of light
Frequent fertilizing Focus on providing good light

Following these outdated tips can lead to problems like overwatering, root rot, uneven growth, and poor plant health. By rethinking traditional wisdom and taking a more flexible, plant-focused approach, your houseplants can thrive and grow to their full potential.

II. Repotting Plants Annually

One common tip is to repot houseplants every year in the spring. The idea is that this will reinvigorate the soil and give the plant a new lease on life. However, yearly repotting may cause more harm than good.

The Problems with Repotting

  • Disturbs the roots each time the plant is removed from the pot
  • Stressful for the plant to be repotted so frequently
  • Messy and time consuming process
  • Can damage delicate roots and set the plant back

Repotting also removes old soil that still contains beneficial microorganisms and nutrients. These microbes help decompose organic matter and recycle nutrients for the plant's roots.

While the soil does become depleted over time, especially if fertilizer isn't applied regularly, repotting annually is often excessive.

A Better Approach: Top Dressing

Instead of repotting each year, an easier approach is to top dress plants with fresh compost:

  • Requires no repotting or root disturbance
  • Simply mix compost into the top few inches of soil
  • Compost contains microbes and slowly releases nutrients
  • Can be done annually or whenever the plant needs a boost

Compost provides an infusion of nutrients and microorganisms without stressing the plant. It's like giving the soil a healthy reboot.

Below is a simple table comparing repotting and top dressing:

Method Pros Cons
Repotting Fresh soil Stressful for plant
Stimulates new growth Root damage
Looks nice Time consuming
Top Dressing No disturbance to roots Need access to compost
Quick and easy May not give "fresh start"
Adds microbes and nutrients

How to Top Dress Houseplants

Follow these steps to top dress your houseplants:

  1. Obtain high quality compost or purchase from a garden store.
  2. Remove the top 1-2 inches of soil from the container.
  3. Mix a 1/2 to 1 inch layer of compost into the remaining soil.
  4. Replace the top layer of soil mix over the compost.
  5. Water thoroughly to settle the compost and distribute nutrients.

The key is to not bury the base of the plant's stems too deeply in compost. Leave some original soil near the roots.

When to Top Dress

Some guidelines for timing your top dressing:

  • Each spring before the main growing season
  • When repotting into a larger container
  • If plants show signs of nutrient deficiency
  • After 2-3 years in the same container

Pay attention to your plants. Top dress whenever they need a nutrient boost based on appearance and growth. Yearly is a general guideline.

So in summary, forget repotting annually. Top dress your houseplants with compost for an easy nutrition boost without disturbing the roots. It's an organic, plant-friendly way to keep your indoor jungle thriving!

III. Pots Without Drainage

A common myth is that growing houseplants in pots without drainage holes will lead to inevitable root rot and death of the plant. But with careful watering, pots without holes can work just fine.

The Theory Behind Drainage Holes

Pots with holes in the bottom allow excess water to drain away after watering. This prevents overwatering and allows oxygen to reach the roots. Too much moisture deprives roots of air and encourages fungal diseases.

So drainage holes help prevent root rot issues. That's why most plastic nursery pots and traditional advice favor pots with holes.

But lack of drainage doesn't automatically doom a plant. With an understanding of soil moisture and controlled watering, you can use a pot without holes successfully.

Making Hole-less Pots Work

Here are some tips for using pots without drainage holes:

  • Choose a potting mix that drains well, with perlite or bark chips added. Avoid dense, water-retentive soil.

  • Water carefully and only when the soil is partly dry. Check moisture levels with your finger.

  • Use a moisture meter to determine when watering is needed. Insert into the drainage hole (if possible) or bottom of the pot.

  • If the pot lacks holes, water over a sink and discard excess water that drains out the bottom.

  • Add rocks, pebbles, or packing peanuts at the bottom of the pot to provide a reservoir for excess moisture and create air pockets.

  • Repot promptly if you notice yellowing leaves, poor growth, fungus gnats, or other signs of trouble.

With vigilant watering habits and soil that drains fairly quickly, non-draining pots can work for many houseplants.

Advantages of Traditional Nursery Pots

For beginners or plants prone to issues, traditional plastic pots are safer:

  • Drainage holes prevent overwatering mistakes and soaked soil

  • Roots recover better if issues do occur

  • Can monitor moisture through holes and weight of pot

  • Provides experience before graduating to non-draining containers

  • Cheap and easily obtained

So use what works best for your skill level and each plant's needs. Just don't believe that no holes always equals dead plants.

When to Use Non-Draining Pots

Some plants that do well in pots without holes:

  • Snake plants: Tolerant of wet soil for short periods

  • ZZ plants: Store water in rhizomes so cope with moisture

  • Pothos: Fast growing and not fussy

  • Philodendrons: Many tolerate dampness pretty well

Choose hardy, forgiving plants if experimenting without drainage holes. And monitor soil moisture closely! Non-draining pots take more work but can enhance your plant display.

IV. Rotating Plants Weekly

A commonly recommended tip is to rotate houseplants weekly so they grow evenly on all sides. However, for some plants, rotating disrupts their natural growth pattern and can do more harm than good.

The Theory Behind Rotating

The logic behind rotating plants is that it ensures even exposure to light from all directions. This prevents one side of the plant from becoming lopsided or growing towards the light source.

Even growth results in a fuller, more attractive plant. So rotating helps achieve this by exposing all sides to equal light over time.

Problems with Frequent Rotation

While this theory makes sense for some plants, others have a natural growth pattern that works best when facing one direction.

Frequent rotating disrupts the following plants:

  • Vining plants like pothos and philodendrons - they climb steadily in one direction.

  • Monstera deliciosa - leaves point downwards naturally and twisting disrupts this.

  • Aroids - many members of this family grow best shooting leaves from one side.

For these plants, leaves that develop while facing a different direction end up skewed or misshapen. This gives the plant an unbalanced, disorderly look.

Leaving the plant to face one optimal direction results in proper leaf orientation and form.

Determining a Plant's Best Direction

Consider the following when determining the ideal direction for your houseplant:

  • Where is the main light source? Face the plant towards the brightest area.

  • Are there any aerial roots or climbing stems? These likely form the "back" of the plant.

  • Does it have a natural front vs. back appearance? Face the "front" outward.

  • Are the leaves arranged in any particular pattern? Mimic this direction.

Plants often look best when their natural growth pattern and structure isn’t disrupted.

When to Rotate Plants

Rotating is still helpful for plants that don't have a fixed direction, such as:

  • Ficus
  • Ferns
  • Palms
  • Crotons
  • Peperomia

And even vining/climbing plants benefit from occasional rotation, just not as frequently as once per week. Monitor their growth and only rotate as needed.

So consider your plant's specific needs. Don't assume all houseplants require weekly rotating. Pay attention to their natural direction and growth habits for optimal results.

V. Yellowing Leaves

When houseplant leaves start to yellow, it's common to assume the plant is dying and the end is near. However, yellowing leaves are often just part of a plant's natural growth cycle and not a cause for alarm.

Why We Worry About Yellow Leaves

It's understandable why yellowing leaves cause concern:

  • We associate yellow with disease, decline, and death in plants
  • May indicate underwatering, overwatering, or improper care
  • Appears like the plant is losing its leaves and failing

So it's easy to go into panic mode when you notice those sickly yellow shades.

But in reality, yellowing is part of the plant's natural aging process.

Understanding Leaf Senescence

The cycle of leaf drop and replacement is called "leaf senescence."

What happens during leaf senescence:

  • Lower and older leaves yellow as chlorophyll breaks down
  • Plant absorbs nutrients from aging leaves
  • Yellow leaves drop off
  • Energy is focused on new leaf growth
  • Younger, healthier leaves replace old ones

This process allows the plant to conserve resources and sustain active growth. It's essential for the plant's development and survival.

Some signs senescence is the cause:

  • Older, lower leaves turn yellow first
  • Yellowing progresses slowly up the plant
  • Remaining leaves still look healthy

As long as the overall plant remains vigorous, yellowing lower leaves is no cause for concern. It's just the natural order of things. No need to panic!

Causes of Abnormal Yellowing

Yellowing related to stress, disease, or improper care include:

  • Underwatering - yellowing of all leaves at once

  • Overwatering - mushy, translucent leaves

  • Pests - chewed, spotty leaves

  • Diseases - unusual spots, rust, or growths

  • Poor light - pale color, weak growth

With these issues, yellowing is more widespread and accompanied by other symptoms of ill health. Entire plant declines, not just older leaves.

Caring for a Plant During Senescence

No special care is needed for a plant going through natural senescence:

  • Leave yellowing leaves be until they drop
  • Continue normal watering and lighting
  • Monitor for signs of overall decline
  • Prune dying leaves if unsightly

The plant will replace leaves on its own schedule. Just meet its basic needs during this transition.

Don't fear yellow leaves - appreciate them as a sign your plant is naturally aging and evolving! It's all part of the cycle of growth.

VI. Low Light for Certain Plants

There's a common misconception that plants like ZZ, snake, and pothos need only low light levels to survive indoors. But all plants, regardless of type, require sufficient light exposure to truly thrive.

The Misconception About Low Light Plants

Certain houseplants have a reputation for tolerating low light conditions:

  • ZZ plant
  • Snake plant
  • Pothos
  • Cast iron plant
  • Philodendron

These are often labeled "low light plants" since they can survive in dim corners and neglected areas that would kill other plants.

But just because they can endure low light does not mean they prefer it or will fully flourish without adequate sunlight.

Light Requirements for Growth

All plants need light for the process of photosynthesis. Light is energy!

With insufficient light exposure, plants show issues like:

  • Small, pale leaves
  • Leggy, weak growth
  • Sparse foliage
  • Dwarfing
  • Failure to bloom
  • Premature leaf loss

Plants stretched towards light sources become unattractive and unstable. Their growth and health declines.

Even "low light" plants will struggle and eventually die without enough light. They just take longer to show adverse effects.

Maximizing Light for Houseplants

The more light your plants receive, the better, within reason. Some guidelines:

  • South facing windows give the most light

  • West and East facing windows also work well

  • Move plants within 3 feet of windows if possible

  • Rotate plants between bright and dim areas

  • Use supplemental grow lights if natural light is inadequate

  • Note signs of insufficient light and adjust location accordingly

Aim for 12-16 hours of sunlight daily, even for "low light" plants. This fuels the best growth.

Finding the Right Balance

With very high light levels:

  • Leaves may sunburn or bleach
  • Require more frequent watering
  • Growth stalls if light is excessive

Find the "sweet spot" where your plants get sufficient but not scorching light. Observe their response and adjust as needed. But maximize light exposure within limits.

Don't confine plants to dark corners based on misconceptions. Analyze their true light needs for optimal plant health.

VII. Fertilizing

It's often touted that houseplants need frequent fertilizing, or else growth issues will result. But in reality, light exposure is far more important than fertilizer for healthy plants.

Applying fertilizer provides nutrients like:

  • Nitrogen - promotes lush foliage
  • Phosphorus - supports blooming and fruiting
  • Potassium - aids overall plant vigor

With regular feeding, plants have the nutrients required for optimal growth. It prevents deficiencies and supposedly leads to stronger, more beautiful plants.

This is why most sources recommend fertilizing houseplants every 2-8 weeks during spring and summer. Slacking on fertilizer seems like a recipe for failure.

The Bigger Impact of Light

While fertilizer provides nutrients, think of light as the actual energy source that powers growth.

Without adequate sunlight, plants lack the means to convert nutrients into new plant material through photosynthesis. Fertilizer alone cannot compensate for insufficient light.

Prioritizing light exposure over fertilizing will lead to healthier plants. Some reasons why light is so crucial:

  • Drives photosynthesis and food production
  • Stimulates blooming and fruiting
  • Encourages bushy, compact growth
  • Produces vibrant leaf colors
  • Strengthens plants against disease/pests
  • Critical for all stages of plant growth

Light is the true fuel for plant growth. Fertilizer merely provides some of the raw materials plants need.

Consequences of Missed Fertilizing

What happens if you skip fertilizing for a while?

  • Slowed growth and smaller leaves
  • Paler color
  • Increased susceptibility to pests/disease
  • Greater vulnerability to stresses
  • Leggy, sparse appearance

Signs of deficiency will eventually show, but not overnight. A temporary lapse in fertilizer is not instantly detrimental, especially for mature plants.

Prioritize giving your plants abundant light exposure. Then supplement with fertilizer to take their growth to the next level. But light remains the most essential ingredient.

Here are some reference links I can include in the conclusion:

I can incorporate these references into the conclusion section to provide supporting resources for the key points made:

  • Evaluating when traditional tips are ineffective based on plant signs
  • Adopting a flexible, plant-focused approach to care rather than rigid tips
  • Caring for plants based on variety, environment, age, and observed needs
  • Adjusting your care regimen based on the plant's direct response


Why is top dressing better than repotting annually?

Top dressing with compost replenishes soil nutrients without disturbing roots like repotting does. It’s less stressful for plants and provides a slow, steady release of nutrients from the compost. Repotting should only be done when truly necessary, like when a plant is severely rootbound.

How often should I top dress my houseplants?

Top dress once a year in spring, before the main growing season. You can also top dress whenever plants show signs of needing a nutrient boost. Pay attention to leaf color and growth rate.

What type of compost is best for top dressing?

Use high quality, organic compost from a garden store, or make your own compost if you have the means. Avoid compos with chemical additives. Compost made from a mix of plant materials provides the best nutrition.

Is it really okay to use a pot without drainage holes?

Yes, a pot without holes can work, but it requires more attentive watering habits. Check soil moisture frequently with your finger and use a moisture meter to determine when the plant needs water. Allow the soil to partly dry out between waterings.

Should I repot my plants into pots with drainage holes?

If your plants are thriving in their current pots without holes, no need to repot them. Just be very careful about watering to avoid overwatering. Repot into a container with holes if the plant starts declining.

Why doesn't my monstera need to be rotated?

Monsteras and other vining plants grow best when stability allows them to climb steadily in one direction. Rotating disrupts their natural growth pattern. Find the optimal direction for the “front” of the plant to face and leave it there.

How can I tell if yellow leaves are from under or overwatering?

Underwatering causes yellowing of all the leaves at once. Overwatering leads to translucent, mushy leaves that eventually drop. Evaluate the appearance and feel of the affected leaves and the overall watering habits to distinguish causes.

IX. Conclusion

Caring for houseplants often involves following commonly accepted tips passed down over time. However, some of this traditional advice may be outdated or counterproductive for indoor plants.

By rethinking conventional wisdom, we can refine our care practices to better meet the needs of our plants.

Summary of Outdated Tips

Some plant care recommendations to re-evaluate:

  • Repotting annually - Top dress instead to refresh soil
  • Avoiding no-drain pots - Can work with careful monitoring
  • Rotating plants weekly - Only some plants benefit from rotation
  • Removing yellow leaves - Often natural senescence process
  • Low light for all plants - More light promotes growth
  • Rigid fertilizing schedule - Prioritize proper lighting conditions

Rather than blindly following these tips, observe your plants and adjust care accordingly. Their needs may defy generic recommendations.

Signs Tips Aren't Working

Notice if your plants show:

  • Wilting, drooping leaves
  • Loss of leaves or leaf yellowing
  • Sparse, weak growth
  • Stunted appearance
  • Signs of pests or disease
  • Overall decline in health

This indicates the care practices are ineffective. Troubleshoot the issues and change your approach.

A Flexible, Plant-Based Mindset

Caring for houseplants is an ongoing learning process. The ideal care regimen depends on:

  • The plant variety
  • Its age and stage of growth
  • Your environmental conditions
  • Observing the plant's needs

Rather than prescribing rigid tips, be flexible and responsive in your care. Pay attention to each plant and adapt as needed. Over time, you will discern what works best for your indoor jungle.

Houseplant care should center around the plant's needs, not arbitrary rules. By observing your plants and adjusting your approach based on their response, you can help them thrive indoors.

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