MYTHS

If your plant is sick, give it plant food
Plant foods and fertilisers can be beneficial to your plant, but they won’t treat a disease. Plant food is actually most effective on healthy, thriving plants, so save your fertilisers for when your plant is healthy and able to absorb nutrients.

If your indoor plant has a pest, you need to use a chemical pesticide
There are several natural and less-harmful methods of controlling a pest infestation in your plants. Depending on your plant, you may be able to treat the pest problem by spraying leaves with natural dishwashing liquid, Neem oil spray, citrus oil with cayenne pepper mix, or onion and garlic spray.

When your houseplant’s leaves turn yellow, it’s the end
Yellowing on the leaves does indicate a problem with your plant but it certainly does not indicate a death sentence. The most common reason plants’ leaves turn yellow is due to moisture stress – over- or under watering. Yellowing can also occur because of a nutrient deficiency, so you could try giving it some plant food.

TIPS

Your plants like what you like
Try giving your plants a drink of soda water once a week, or the (cooled) water you have boiled your eggs in. Both have nutrient-filled minerals that are good for plants. Schedule an occasional “tea time” for your ferns, gardenias and other acid-loving house plants. Cold leftover brewed black tea is a great addition to your watering can, or work wet tea-leaves into soil to give plants a lush look.

Keep it clean
Give your plants a good clean from time to time. Leaves get dirty and won’t absorb as much light as clean ones, so dusting with a wet cloth can help. Also giving your plants some time in a cold shower can help to wash off leaves, water plants and give soil a good cleanse – helping flush out toxins and other residue.

Surviving a heat wave
Heading away with no-one to water your plants, or just want to make sure your plants have a constant supply of water to survive the heat? Indoor plant pots can be put in trays of water to be kept cool. For outdoor plants, fill an empty wine bottle with water and push the upside bottle down into the soil next to the plant. This ensures the plant has a steady supply of water that won’t be evaporated by the sun.

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This piece first appeared in Broadsheet Adelaide's Autumn print issue.