Have you ever brought a beautiful plant home only to have it wither away to a dreadful state within a week or so? If so you are just one among millions to have this unnecessary fate happen to them. This happens to even the greenest of thumbs, as well as to those who are first time plant owners. 'But why?' you ask.
The answer is simple, a plants environment is elemental in keeping it alive. Breaking it into simple terms, if a plant was inside of an air conditioned building for a spell, than planted into the yard and hot sun, it will most surely die. When bringing a plant that was in sunlight into a dark or artificially lit room, it is likely to wither and also call it quits.
Often the change of environments is only one factor in plants dying shortly after buying them. All too often when a plant shows signs of stress we tend to think that watering them is the solution. This is not always right, unless the plant and the soil it lives in are bone dry. The absolute fastest way to kill a plant is to overwater it. Just as the human body is made up of billions of cells, so is the body of a plant.
As water is forced into the root system and into the stem, as well as the leaves, the overabundance of water will cause the cells to burst and become lifeless. The opposite is true of a dried out plant. Have you ever seen a plant shrivel up from being dry only to perk up almost immediately after watering? This is because the cells of the plant were simply dried out, after gaining an appropriate level of water they plump up and retake their natural form causing the plant itself to liven back up.
While water plays an important role in a new plants health, providing it with an environment that is as similar to the one it was in before bringing it home is equally important. Plants that are meant to have full sun, yet are stored in a somewhat shady area when purchased can and will burn upon being placed in full sun. Better to slowly acclimate a plant a little at a time. By placing the plant in early morning sun for a few hours the plant can re-acclimate itself to its sun loving nature.
Yes, full sun plants are constantly being sold out of full shade environments, and it is a leading cause of death in these plants after being sold. A full sun plant can easily survive in the shade for weeks, even months, thus leading to its eventual death if not slowly introduced to the sun. The same is true of a shade loving houseplant, many of them can handle sunlight, yet when placed inside a home after being purchased they often stress and die.
So by carefully watering plants and acclimating them to their permanent environment, many precious plants can be saved. One way to accurately judge if a plant needs watering or not is to let them slightly dry out, this ensures the plant does not have an adequate supply of water deep under the soil. Sticking a finger into the soil is not an accurate way to tell if a plant needs water or not. Water always drains downward and can easily be lurking heavily in the bottom inches of soil. By letting the soil dry to the point it is pulling away from the pot, or the plant shows slight wilting the correct amount of moisture can be provided every time.
Another thing to be careful of when it comes to plants, especially outdoor varieties, is if it is meant for your growing zone. Nothing is more disappointing than to buy a beautiful plant, get it home and have it croak a couple weeks later even when everything is done correctly. Garden centers found at the big box stores we all have grown to love/hate are notorious for selling plants that do not thrive in the zone they are sold in. People continue to get sucked into this scheme because of the pretty blooms, pretty or not, if it is not meant for your zone you are wasting your hard earned money buying plants that are not destined for your zone.
After 3 years of Horticulture classes and owning my own commercial sized greenhouse I have learned many things about plants. I am here to share my knowledge with the world in hopes of saving some plant lives, and money. Until my next 'green' two cents, Happy Growing!