Why Do Your Plants Die And How To Avoid It?

Last Updated on June 25, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Do you know how many plants you’ve killed over the course of your life? Do you have the feeling you’re a plant “serial killer”? If the answer is “yes”, this article is for you. You will realize that it is much easier than it seems to grow your plants, just take some care and some basic knowledge.

There are many reasons why we kill plants. But to facilitate its maintenance and to avoid some of the most common mistakes (as in everything in life it’s easier to avoid a mistake than to fix it) I’ve listed here some of the most common mistakes and ways to avoid or amend them. Many of them have already committed, others we have seen commit many times.

Related: Understanding Plant Death: The Most Common Reasons Houseplants Fail

how to revive plants dying

1. Choose The Wrong Plants

How many times have we gone to the nursery and chosen out beautiful plants at random, only to be completely clueless on how to care for them? It does not mean that the plants we select are of poor quality (which might happen) or difficult to care for.

It simply means that we frequently purchase plants about which we are clueless, plants about which we are unclear of their life cycle, flowering and/or fruiting period, and plants about which we are unaware of their light, soil, and water requirements, and as a result, everything goes wrong.

As a result, we gave up and let that plant die because we didn’t meet our expectations for it. So we should avoid buying overly sensitive or demanding plants that do not do well in pots or flower boxes.

How To Avoid This Error ?

We should always know the plants we buy, what their life cycle is (whether they are annual, perennial or perennial), if they work well in pots, if they can stand in the sun, if they prefer shade, what is the period and duration of flowering (in this case this to be significant).

The more information we have, the greater the success in maintaining the plant.

It may be that the plants are not our fault. There are very sensitive plants that really don’t like to be in pots and flower boxes and that don’t adapt to the conditions we have to offer them.

2. Do Not Change The Potted Plant

2 potted plant

Often the plants we buy are at the limit of their capacity to grow in the pot in which they are found. How many times do we leave plants in the pot where we bought them for months on end and then wonder if they die?

Most of the time, the plant needs to be changed from pot when it arrives at home (it is not necessary to be on the same day), as it needs a suitable substrate for its development needs, which most of the times is not the one in which the plant is potted.

On the other hand, the plant needs space to grow and develop its root system, which will allow it to feed in conditions and start to have a healthy growth.

Sometimes we buy plants on impulse and we don’t have a vase or planter or substrate for them at home and we wait to go back to the nursery garden center niagra falls NY to buy.

How To Avoid This Error ?

The ideal is when we buy the plant we buy the substrate and the container straight away, however it is always better to have a small stock (10-15 liters). They are small bags that can be stored anywhere.

If we don’t want to buy containers, we can recycle one we have at home. Wooden boxes, baskets or canvas bags from supermarkets can be a solution for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money.

The container we choose for the plant must be larger than the one where the plant is. Just 2 to 3 cm more in diameter or length is enough. Within 4-5 days we should move the plant to a larger pot and add a good substrate. The plant should always be at the same height as it is in the pot, neither more buried nor less, and don’t forget about drainage.

3. Choose The Wrong Substrate

3 choose wrong substrate

When choosing the substrate, do not choose just any one. Inform yourself! The cheapest is not always the smartest choice. This is a common mistake. Often for lack of knowledge. Like people and animals, plants are living beings that are born, grow and die and need to be fed.

Plants may have different substrate requirements; there are plants that grow better in acidic soils, others that need more organic matter and still others that need poorer substrates.

How To Avoid This Error ?

To choose the appropriate substrate we must know what type of plant we are choosing and use a substrate in which it grows properly. There are substrates on the market for everything: vegetables, cactus and succulents, aromatics, acidophilus plants, flowering plants, fruits, etc.

If you are going to put two different plants in the same pot, for example an aromatic and a horticultural one, choose the most demanding substrate, which in this case is that of vegetables. The best thing is never to combine plants with very different substrate needs in the same pot.

4. Use Wrong Or Excessive Fertilization

fertilize plant

Often the tendency is if the plant looks bad, it is given fertilizer … Often times, when we fertilize, we “force” the growth of the plant and it becomes more sensitive to pests and diseases. The excess of fertilizers can even “poison” the plant and it ends up dying, because we can saturate the substrate with salts.

Potted plants do need to be fertilized. For this we can opt for fertilizers or natural fertilizers such as earthworm humus. In the case of fertilizer, we must understand what it contains, what it is for and how often we must apply it.

We often fertilize the plant during the period when it is in vegetative rest, when it grows less not because it is weak or sick but because it is in a “rest period”. At this stage the plant does not need fertilizers, it needs less water and less hours of sunlight, it is the natural cycle of plants.

How To Avoid This Error ?

We can reduce the need for fertilization if, when planting, we put in a good substrate and choose to put in compost, earthworm humus or some new substrate regularly. When planting, fertilize with earthworm humus or an organic fertilizer that allows the plant to access nutrients as it needs them.

Every 9 months you must re-fertilize. In the case of vegetables and fruit trees, you may need to fertilize more to ensure good harvests (once a month during the production period).

Often the substrates are already fertilized and then we only need to fertilize six to nine months later. A good substrate saves a lot of fertilization. Do not fertilize in winter, even if it does not harm the plant, you are throwing fertilizer away because as the plant is in a resting phase, you will not use it.

5. Plant In The Wrong Season

We often want to plant “that plant” that we saw in the nursery, in the magazine, on the blog on that day or week. I get many questions about planting seasons, particularly winter bulbs (tulips, crocuses, freesias, hyacinths, daffodils, etc).

These are never planted in summer, they need cold to break the dormancy and germinate, so if we buy winter bulbs in spring we can only plant them in autumn when it’s already cold.

We must inform ourselves about the season of the plants. In the case of vegetables, it is absolutely essential to know which vegetables are in the warm season and which vegetables are in the cold season.

In relation to seasonal flowers the same thing, although there may be “out of season” flowers in nurseries as well as “out of season fruit and vegetables”. This doesn’t mean they can handle it abroad. They are plants raised in a greenhouse with all conditions controlled and whose flowering and fruiting are forced.

How To Avoid This Error ?

Most perennial plants (whose life cycle is three years or more) should preferably be planted in autumn or spring. In relation to annual flowering plants, we have to bear in mind that there are autumn/winter flowering plants (which should be planted in early autumn) such as pansies, calceolaria, field daisies, primroses, and the of spring/summer flowering, which should be planted in late spring, such as petunias, begonias, portulacas, cosmos.

6. Water Wrongly

6 water wrongly

For a potted garden, watering is the most time-consuming task (if you don’t want to invest in a small drip irrigation system). We should not forget that plants need more water in pots or pots than when in free land, as their root systems are smaller and this is where the plant accumulates water.

How To Avoid This Error?

You should take some care to water, and whenever you water small and fragile plants with a watering can, you should put a “shower nozzle” in your watering can. Water preferably in the earth (substrate) and not the leaves. Seedings must be watered with a sprayer.

Related: How To Water Succulent Plants Properly

7. Overwater

It has been proven that this is the biggest cause of plant death, plants need water but also air close to the roots. If there is excess water, the plants die from root asphyxia.

How To Avoid This Error ?

Water only when the soil is dry, check with a stick or finger on the surface 3-4 cm. Pay attention to the signals that the plant gives us. If fungi appear or if the leaves start to turn a lighter green or yellowish color, this could be signs of excess water. In these cases, stop watering for a few days and, in extreme cases, change to another pot with a new substrate and ensure drainage.

Related: How to Rescue an Overwatered Plant

8. Water Less

Plants absolutely need water to live. We must be careful and on the hottest days water them abundantly and always at the end of the day or early in the morning.

How To Avoid This Error ?

Learn to notice the signs of plants (fallen and shriveled leaves… it doesn’t fail) and water them before it’s too late. If you notice that you watered but the water didn’t come out of the dish, water until it starts to appear and then stop. Water whenever the substrate is dry.

9. Lack Of Drainage

The lack of drainage kills many plants, because if there is no efficient drainage, any excess water becomes much more serious as there is no way out. The success of the plants starts with the way in which the drainage is done and how the rest is planted, it’s just a matter of maintaining. Vessels often do not have a drainage hole, accumulating water at the bottom and causing root suffocation.

How To Avoid This Error?

This is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, just pierce the vase if it is not perforated and place at the bottom a draining layer of expanded clay, gravel or clay shards from other vases.

Then it is convenient to place a geotextile blanket over it (or in the absence of this coffee filters open to cover the entire surface), this operation gives better drainage and greater longevity to the substrate, which in this way is not dragged so easily, it also has the advantage of the water that may eventually run off can be cleaned.

10. Put The Plant In The Wrong Light Conditions

10 plant in wrong light conditions

Plants have different needs for light and sun. By putting them in the wrong conditions, they may not develop in healthy conditions, develop pests and diseases, and eventually die.

This is a very common mistake. For example, vegetables and herbs generally need at least five hours of direct sunlight a day to produce properly. There are plants such as hydrangeas, azaleas, jars, etc. that prefer few hours of direct sunlight and withstand fewer hours of light. No plant survives without at least 3-4 hours of light a day.

How To Avoid This Error ?

This error is avoided in two ways, first by evaluating the conditions of light and sun that we have available and then by using plants that adapt to these conditions.

Fighting against nature is always an inglorious task and if there is so much variety of plants, adapted to all kinds of situations (except indoor bathrooms without natural light as I have been asked several times in the blog, then only artificial plants)

11. Subjecting The Plant To Stress

We’ve all made this mistake… Buying a plant in the morning or at lunchtime (which we saw in the florist near the job and which was even outside the door), we take it to work and there it passes all day.

Then we return home with her in the car or in transport subject to variations in temperature, light, air currents, squeezing and pushing…

We arrived home and left it anywhere, often even stuffed in the cellophane we brought it from the store. Then we marvel that the unfortunate woman begins to fall off her leaves and that she dies.

How To Avoid This Error ?

Don’t forget that plants are living things and avoid buying them on impulse.

If by chance we do and subject them to all this stress, when we get home we must remove the cellophane (do not change the vase right away, otherwise it is even more stress), we must water it well, spray it and place it in a place with the recommended light and temperature.

Plants often bring labels that help us a lot to take care of them, don’t throw away the label. If the plant is adapting well, two or three days later you can then move it to a larger pot using a suitable substrate for it.

12. On Indoor Plants, Spray Heavily In Winter

Often in summer it is hot and so we have a natural tendency to spray our indoor plants from time to time, in winter how cold it is we don’t even remember.

It turns out that a heated house is almost a desert in terms of air dryness.

How to avoid this error ?

Don’t forget to spray your indoor plants in winter (if they are in heated areas of the house).

13. Throwing Away Plants That We Thought Have Died… But They’re Only Perennials

13 throwing away plants died

When we have a new plant we must be careful to know what its life cycle is like. It can be annual (whose life cycle is completed in one year, such as pansies, petunias, basil, etc.); it can be perennial (whose life cycle lasts 3 or more years – shrubs and herbaceous plants such as marigolds, lavender, etc.).

Or they can be perennial plants, whose aerial part disappears in winter and reappears in spring or summer (such as lotus, jars, peonies).

How To Avoid This Error ?

Know the plant’s life cycle, so that we don’t make the mistake of throwing away a plant that hasn’t died.

14. Change To A Pot That Is Too Big

At least at the end of two or three years we will have to change the pot plants.

We often have the tendency when we change the potted plant to change it to a much larger pot, as we think that this way we won’t have the trouble to change it again so soon.

What can happen is that when moving to a much larger vase or planter, we’re going to have to put in a lot of new substrate (which is fluffy and airy).

It may be the case that the plant has its roots very “loose” with a lot of free space and runs the risk that it will become waterlogged more easily. The plant may not take root and may suffer from root asphyxia.

How To Avoid This Error ?

When changing pots, just change to a slightly larger pot and use a substrate the same as the one in the pot you are going to move the plant from and suitable for the type of plant we are growing.

15. Does Not Control Pests And Diseases In A Timely Manner

15 control pests diseases

Plants in the home, on the balcony or on the terrace are less likely to have pests (usually small animals, which appear in large numbers and cause damage to plants ) and diseases (can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi), because the environment it’s more controlled.

We must be careful to buy healthy plants, pay attention to the signs when choosing them. Stains, spots, dry ends etc. they are never good evidence.

Often the tendency is to attack with chemicals that are not always the most suitable. In the case of vegetables and aromatics, they are totally discouraged.

Related: Managing Plant Pests and Diseases Without Chemicals In Greenhouse

How To Avoid This Error ?

To avoid most of the problems caused by pests and diseases, there’s nothing like preventing them. At least every 15 days, carefully observe your plants, this way you will avoid many problems.

Remove dried and stained leaves and flowers as they can contribute to pests and diseases. When removing the dried flowers also remove the stems where the flowers are and where there will be no more flowering.

In indoor plants, pests and diseases are not very common. However, sometimes too much water (a very common mistake) can stimulate the appearance of harmful fungi or bacteria.

Often, apparently diseased plants do not have pests or diseases, only nutritional deficiencies, lack or excess of water, more or less heat, more or less light, more or less humidity.

With time you will get to know your plants and how to deal with them.

Most of the pests and diseases can be avoided if the plants are in ideal conditions of light and temperature, if they are “well fed” with adequate substrate and fertilization and if they have the amount of water they need.

Related: Top 10 Worst Garden Pests