- Plant roots need air to breathe, so over-watering soil can cause them to suffocate.
- Gardening pros say you can avoid drowning your plants by touching the soil before you add more water.
- A misting spray bottle with a small concentration of peppermint soap can keep mealy bugs and fungi away.
Plants need just three things to stay alive: water, air, and sunlight.
So why do so many indoor plants end up dead?
New York City indoor plant expert Matthew Schechter believes everyone should be able to bring a little greenery into their home. Schechter was born into a family plant business — he’s been learning about leaves and roots since he was a tot. Now he nurtures plants of all shapes and sizes, from basic office shrubs to ornate sculptures for red-carpet events and delicate orchids.
Plants aren’t just nice to look at: they can naturally purify the air, have been proven to reduce stress and even stopped crime in one Japanese neighborhood. (A Tokyo district dealing with a surge of break-ins in the early 2000s planted flowers and saw burglary rates fall 80%.)
But Schechter estimated that “99%” of plant owners aren’t doing one basic move — and it’s killing their greens.
Over-watering is more common than we realize
“No one’s checking the soil,” Schechter told Business Insider. “Everyone’s just watering the plants.”
Most houseplants aren’t dying because they’re being neglected, Schechter said. They’re actually being watered too much.
Like us, plant root systems need air to breathe. If soil gets watered too often, plants slowly suffocate and drown. But checking the soil before you ‘make it rain’ on your indoor flora helps avoid over-watering. If the top layer is still wet, that’s a sign it’s too soon to add more moisture.
Master gardener Mary Dyer suggests watering plants after the first 1-2 inches of soil become dry to the touch.