Houseplant myths and why they don't help your houseplants.

You’ve probably heard at least one of these tales, when trying to solve a problem or improve your houseplant care. So today I’m busting some houseplant myths and explaining why they don’t help your houseplants.

There's plenty of (mis)information about houseplants circulating on the internet, and depending on who you’re asking for advice you might be receiving an old wives tale or just plain incorrect information. 

So let’s look at some common houseplant myths and why they don’t help your houseplants. 

Myth 1. Wilting plants are ALWAYS thirsty

This houseplant myth is always a difficult one to debunk because a wilting plant could in fact BE THIRSTY, but it could also be STRESSED! Wilting is a plant's response to stress, which can be caused by much more than a lack of water, too much water, pest attacks or disease could also be the stressor.

It's important to always check your plants potting mix before determining that the plant is in fact in need of water- you can try the finger test (hyperlink) to check whether your plant is ready for a drink.

Wilting can also happen when a plant has had too much water which can remove the oxygen from around the roots and stop the plant from being able to take up more water or oxygen leading to rot due to an anaerobic environment.

So yes, a wilting houseplant might be thirsty, but it't always best to check before pouring it another drink. 

A sad looking peace lily is sitting on a black table, against a an off white wall

This Peace lily does not receive enough light or water.

Myth 2. Houseplants clean the air, or do they?

While it's true that a houseplants natural process of respiration involves them taking in carbon-dioxide and releasing oxygen, trapping VOC’s by transporting them through their vascular system to the roots and converting them into energy with the help of microbes in the soil, there is a limit to what one or two houseplants can achieve in a large space.

This idea stemmed from a 1989 NASA study where the testing was conducted in a sealed chamber, it worked because the area was so small.

Later studies such as this one completed by RMIT university in Melbourne determined that at least 5 houseplants in a 4mx4m room would be needed to effectively reduce VOC’s in a space by 75%.

So yes houseplants can clean the air, but you'd need to have a few to really feel the effects. 

Myth 3. Misting your house plants increases humidity

OK so there is some truth to this houseplant myth, however there is a reason you see houseplant collectors on instagram running humidifiers over using a cute glass spray bottle and that’s because simply spritzing your houseplants once a day is only going to raise the humidity around the plant for about 5 minutes.

Running a humidifier all day long will work to increase humidity but even better advice is to group your plants together where the water they release through transpiration can be shared between the plants.

Most houseplants don’t require super high humidity so don’t be too concerned about investing in expensive humidifiers.

Grouping your plants together also looks good, and in my experience, makes plants easier to care for than when they are scattered around the house. 

Houseplants from above

Myth 4. Putting rocks or pebbles in the bottom of a pot with no drainage hole will let the plant have drainage. 

This houseplant myth is definitely one that will lead to premature plant death. Putting rocks in the bottom of a pot, whether it has a drainage hole or not, is NOT improving the drainage for the plant.

When you learn about soils and how water moves through soil and different soil materials whether that be sand, clay or rocks, you learn how water moves differently depending on what it's moving through. In soil science you learn that water doesn’t move easily from a finely textured layer (potting mix) to a coarsely textured layer (rocks).

So, when rocks or pebbles are in the base of a pot this can actually cause the potting mix to become waterlogged, which is the exact problem you would be trying to prevent.

Simply ensure your pots have a drainage hole and your using a good quality potting mix for best results. You can read my other post here about how to repot your houseplants.

Myth 5. You should water your houseplants once a week. 

Watering your houseplants on any schedule including once a week is a recipe for disaster. Many houseplants including the snake plant have storage organs called rhizomes so don’t require watering as often and prefer to have their potting mix dry out between waterings.

On the other hand, plants such as the peace lily will droop dramatically if not kept in moist and therefore require much more frequent watering.

Its best to get to know your houseplants needs and check their potting mix instead of just watering all your plants on the same day. 

Have you fallen for any of these houseplant myths? Or do you disagree?

I would love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment below and let's chat. 

ebook cover, an image of green houseplants in white pots with the title: A plant for any room, the beginners guide to bringing plants indoors by Rachel Okell Owner and Founder of Our Green Sanctuary. Featuring 5 ways you are torturing your houseplants and how to stop it in one day or less



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About the Author Rachel Okell

A self confessed plant nerd, Rachel loves indoor plants, tropical plants and learning about new plants. Rachel is currently working as a Horticulturist helping people solve problems, pick plants & plan gardens. The best part of her job is being surrounded by plants all day! Rachel has a deep appreciation for all things green & hopes to share her knowledge and passion to help people learn about plants.

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