THE HORTICULT HOUSEPLANT HANDBOOK

What to do before you receive your order, once your new plant arrives,
& how to keep it alive.

Keeping your indoor & outdoor plants healthy after reception can be daunting, but if you keep a few guidelines in mind plant parenthood will be a cinch ☼

CONTENTS

BEFORE YOU RECEIVE YOUR PLANTS

Materials

- Potting mix specific to individual plant needs

- Container with a drainage hole

The potting mix you choose should be specific to the plant you ordered. In the description of every plant there is a "SOIL" section that indicates the mix beneficial to the individual plant.

The drainage hole in your container is critical in avoiding the dreaded root rot! Root rot is the easiest way to kill most plants. It is caused by stagnant water at the bottom fvcfč, your pot.

Here at Horticult we ship our plants bare root & without a pot in order to reduce shipping costs. By definition to bare root a plant means to clear soil from the roots to prepare for translating. In our case, we will leave enough soil to keep the root ball healthy on its journey. That is unless you live in a state with strict guidelines for shipping plants, such as Hawaii, in which case we will remove as much of the dirt as possible. 

For this reason, you will need to attain some potting mix & a container with a drainage hole to plant your new plant in! 

 

WHEN YOUR ORDER ARRIVES

Once you have received your order go ahead & plant it in your new pot. Initially your plant may go through a bit of shock from the journey, as well as being in a new space. Allow your plant time to acclimate to its new environment.

MAINTAINING YOUR PLANTS

Generally speaking, these basic guidelines regarding water, drainage, soil, & light will help any plant thrive in their new space.

GUIDE TO WATERING

The amount of water a plant needs is individual to the specific plant. Overwater & under watering are easy ways to harm a plant & can easily lead to their demise. Drainage is another critical factor when it comes to balancing moisture levels.

OVERWATERING

Dun, dun, dun! Overwatering is known as one of the most popular way to kill houseplants. Follow along & you will see that it isn't as terrifying as people make it out to be. After all, a good defense is the best offense! 

 

By definition, overwatering occurs when you water a plant too much or when the growing conditions your plants are in result in the soil staying wet for a prolonged period of time. It is characterized by a number of factors, such as the yellowing of leaves, unresolvable wilting, & stunted growth.

Let's break down overwatering SYMPTOMS with some science, ya dig?

These symptoms are due to the inability of the plants roots to access oxygen properly caused by damage from excess moisture or water-logged soil. Plants need oxygenated air found in air spaces of the soil in order to respire. During plant respiration, plants use sugars generated by photosynthesis, along with oxygen, to produce energy for the plants to grow & thrive!

When roots are damaged & fail to uptake oxygen they are essentially starving the plant, leaving it unable to function properly. When roots fall short in providing nutrients it causes the leaves to turn yellow 🤯. The initial burst of water can lead to edema or blistering of leaves. As time goes on & your plant continues to receive more water, the roots become so damaged they fail to deliver water to the leaves, which causes them to become brown & crispy. Young leaves are more susceptible to drought & will turn brown first. 

NOTE: Take into consideration how easy it is to confuse these drought-like symptoms with underwatering because your plant is suffering from lack of water due to damaged roots. 

Other leaves will become papery & thin. Under normal conditions, leaves are responsible for a considerable amount of moisture loss. This loss of water will cause the leaves to curl. In an attempt to conserve water plants will shed them. 

While it can be fatal it is important to note that overwatering can be easily avoided by proper drainage. In most cases no matter how seldom a plant requires watering, if your soil includes materials that encourage drainage & your container has multiple drainage holes your plant will thrive no matter how much water it receives.

Overwatering PREVENTION

  • Use a well-draining soil

  • Plant in pots with a drainage hole

    • If your pot doesn't have a drainage hole, keep your plant in the grow pot & use your new container as a cache pot or drill holes in it yourself.

    • If it is a larger pot, drill multiple drainage holes.

  • Use porous pots, such as terracotta.

    • Terracotta pots are made of clay, which is a material that allows water to escape through it. This means water is able to leave through the entire pot, rather than only through the drainage hole.​

  • Good lighting​

    • If your plants are receiving increased light they will use the available water in the plant faster.

    • Soil will dry faster. The heat from the light will dry up any excess water more quickly.

  • Avoid cold temperatures & drafts.

    • Evaporation is increased in higher temperatures. It will be harder for the water to evaporate if it is cooler.​

  • Use pots that are just big enough. 

    • Larger pots will hold more water.​

  • Always check the soil before watering.

    • If your soil hasn't dried out to the proper degree wait before watering again.​

The SOLUTION to Overwatering

So you've identified your plant problem -- it's being watered too much. Now what do you do? First & foremost you must take the proper steps in changing your routine. Using what you've learned, figure out a beneficial watering program. & ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the soil before watering again.

If your plant has root rot you'll have to take more intensive measures.

To begin you'll have to identify that mushy roots is your main issue. The only way to do so is to remove the plant from its pot & inspect the roots manually. Roots should be brown or light in color, relatively tough, & firm to the touch. If they are fragile, mushy, brown or black, &/or emit a foul odor then you have a problem. If this is the case, prune off all of the bad roots. To prevent any pests or diseases from spreading make sure you sterilize your cutting device. Then, remove all of the soil & replace with a fresh mix. Read up on care instructions for your plant. Using your experience paired with this new found knowledge come up with a better watering schedule.

BOUNCING BACK from Overwatering

Once you have fixed your problem & your plant has started to show signs of recovery you must be patient! It can take around 6 months for your plant to return to a similar condition it was in before succumbing to overwatering. Sometimes it can take up to 3 months to see any progress at all!

UNDERWATERING

Not watering your plant enough is just as detrimental as watering too much. Finding that perfect balance is crucial for your plant babies to thrive. 

Check Your Plant for SYMPTOMS

Plants affected by under & overwatering have similar traits, by those afflicted by underwatering are easier to identify. Plants that aren't receiving enough water display symptoms such as crispy or curling leaves, wilting, & brown leaf tips.

 

The easiest way to determine your plant is being underwatered rather than overwatered is that is should only be exhibiting symptoms of water deficiency. If a plant is being overwatered it will show symptoms of both.

Underwatering happens when you accidentally overlook your plants or forget to water. This happens a lot when one makes like tree & leafs town or is away from home for a prolonged amount of time.

Pay Attention and Practice Underwatering PREVENTION

Here are a few techniques to prevent your plant from being underwatered.

  • Make sure your plant isn't root bound.

    • Essentially, the plant has been in the same pot for so long that it has filled with roots, so much so that they wrap around the bottom of the pot becoming pot bound. This means that when you water the plant the water is used incredibly fast by all of the roots! To avoid this happening remove the pot (this can be difficult when the pot is root bound, but try to remove it as gently as possible; if it is a plastic pot you may want to cut it off) & check what the root system looks like. If the roots have wrapped around the pot so much that they remain firmly in the shape of the pot, delicately untangle the larger roots & plant in a bigger pot.

  • Avoid excess heat, excess lighting, or warm drafts.

    • Excess heat or too much sunlight will cause the water in your pot to dry the soil out faster than the roots are able to take up the water, resulting in the plant failing to receive adequate water. This leads to the plant showing signs of drought.

  • Make sure you water properly.

    • Be careful to follow the individual plants watering instructions. If they indicate you must water or saturate the soil to a degree so the roots can take up moisture make sure that you give the plant ample water to do so. Note that just because the top soil looks wet does not mean the rest of the soil is saturated. Dry soil can cause water to seep through quickly. If your pot has a drainage hole, your soil is light & full of materials that promote drainage​, & the soil was dry before you started watering, don't be scared about overwatering! Make sure you soak that soil!
  • Make sure you have the correct type of soil for your individual plant.

    • There are tons of different soil mixes that are filled with a wide variety of ingredients which promote an environment specific to certain varieties of plants. For example, a cactus mix is designed for desert succulents meaning it is light & good for drainage, so it will have materials such as sand, perlite, pours rocks, etc. If you were to use this mix with a plant that needs a heavy, organic & rich soil that holds water your plant may show signs of being underwatered even if you have been following a recommended water schedule because the soil is drying out too quickly & the roots don't have time to soak up an adequate amount of moisture before it has escaped the pot.

  • Pay attention to the plant's growth schedule & modify your watering plan accordingly.

    • Some plants take a growth break during ​winter. During this time it does not need to be watered as much as during the summer when it grows at an accelerated pace. 

WHEN IN DOUBT, WAIT TO WATER.

Overwatering is far more detrimental to a plant than underwatering, so when in doubt wait a bit before watering your plants. Although the plant may shed its leaves if you haven't watered the plant enough, the root ball will remain relatively healthy allowing the plant to bounce back much faster. Again, if the plant is overwatered & the root ball is damaged it will have a much harder time recovering.

Ultimately, a balance between watering schedule & soil drainage will encourage thriving plants.

GUIDE TO SOIL DRAINAGE

WHY IS SOIL DRAINAGE IMPORTANT?

As we mentioned earlier, well-draining, organically rich, loam soil is one of the more popular & preferred soil mixes to use while planting. Ensuring your plants are in a well-draining soil is essential to their health. A well-draining soil is one that doesn't drain too fast or too slowly. Rather, it allows plants to absorb the water. If the water drains too quickly, the plants will become dehydrated & die. If the water drains too slowly, the roots will drown in the water without enough oxygen to send to the rest of the plant.

The essential element in well draining soil is oxygen. If the soil is waterlogged, the plants cannot reach the air pockets to receive it. While there may be some oxygen in the water, there is not enough for the plant to sustain life over a prolonged period of time. Even if a plant thrives in water, water-logged soil can be detrimental.

Another benefit to well-draining soil is that it takes more heat to warm up water than it does soil. If your soil is absent of excessive moisture it will heat up faster & your season will be able to start earlier.

Why can plants handle growing in water, but cannot survive in water-logged soil?

We previously mentioned that plants need oxygen to survive, which they receive from air pockets in the soil. Water, similar to soil, has a considerable amount of oxygen running through it. Whats more, when water is circulated it causes more oxygen from the air to dissolve into it, replenishing the oxygen that the plant has already used. 

Alternatively, water-logged soil is full of stagnant water that has very little contact with the surface. The roots will use the available amount of oxygen from the water, but once that water is used up it cannot be replenished. Whats more, the air spaces in the soil are are filled with water, so the air cannot circulate to the roots. This is prime time for bacteria & fungus to attack the roots, eventually leading to root rot.

WHY YOUR POTTING SOIL ISN'T DRAINING WELL

When you pour water into a pot it will flow to the bottom due to the force of gravity. If we pour water into an empty pot it will be expelled through the drainage hole in the bottom (since we are brilliant gardeners & always have a drainage hole in our container). If we fill our pot with an absorbent material, such as a potting mix, a lot of the water will drain out, but some of the water will be retained. A good quality potting mix will allow some of the water to drain, but retain just enough water for the plant's roots to supply the plant with water, as well as oxygen. The reason that your potting mix retains water is because they are absorbent and can wick water upwards, against the force of gravity, preventing it from draining all the way out. The more absorbent a material is, the greater its ability to wick water, the higher the water will rise upwards, & the more water will be retained. 

HOW TO TEST SOIL DRAINAGE IN IN-GROUND GARDENS

While it is easy to determine whether soil drainage is healthy in a container garden, testing in-ground soil is a different ball game. Here is an easy way to figure out if the soil in your yard promotes drainage.

  1. Begin by digging a hole. Your hole should be around 10" - 12" wide & 12" - 14" deep. You can roughly estimate these measurements.

  2. Next, fill the hole with water. Let the water drain completely.

  3. Repeat. Fill the hole with water again. Measure the depth of water that is left in the hole.

  4. Measure the depth of water every 2-3 hours.

The water level of a well-draining soil with drop at least an inch every hour!

HOW TO TEST SOIL DRAINAGE IN A POTTING MIX

Time for another experiment! 

  1. Fill a pot with approxiately 1 quart of your potting mix. Make sure it is dry, & you haven't added any of the drainage promoting materials yet. You want to test the original potting mix before adding anything to see how much of said materials you should add. If you fail to test the original soil & begin adding off the cuff, you may add too much & your soil will end up draining too quickly, which we have determined can be equally detrimental. Follow the rule of thumb, you can always add more later.

  2. Pour approximately 2 cups of water into your pot. 

  3. Measure the amount of water that drains out after a few minutes. 

  4. If the mix is draining adequately, around half of the water should drain out after a few minutes.

SOIL TYPES THAT DO NOT PROMOTE DRAINAGE

In particular, compacted & clay soils can both drain poorly. 

Sandy soils can be tricky, as well.

If you are using any of these types of soil you will have to amend them by adding materials that promote drainage. 

If adding additional materials isn't an option, you can focus on planting varieties of plants that can survive in these particular settings. Desert succulents are a specimen that can survive in sandy soils. Plants that tolerate wet areas may survive in both compacted or clay soils.

IMPROVING SOIL DRAINAGE

Understanding the drainage capacity of your soil is crucial before adding materials to promote drainage. After all, we previously discussed having soil that drains too quickly can be just as detrimental as a soil that drains too slowly.

Add Materials That Help Promote Drainage

Get ready for another science lesson 🦠🧪 Studies behind soil drainage prove you must change the potting medias composition, therefore changing its physical properties, & that will ultimately increase your potting media's draining ability. By adding materials such as perlite, which is made of large particles that have a greater surface area & retains very little water, you will increase the air spaces between particles thus accelerating aeration. This will cause the soil to drain faster than a potting media without perlite, which is made up of smaller particles that are closer together. 

If you're confused or want a more detailed explanation, head over to my blog on soil drainage where I break this process down even farther.

This science disproves the popular notion that simply adding gravel to the bottom of your container beneath the potting mix will help with drainage. Unfortunately, all this measure will accomplish is reducing the pot volume & push the stagnant water that has drained to the bottom of the pot upward where it can reach the roots & encourage root rot.

So, what types of materials will do this?

The main 3 materials include perlite, vermiculite, & course sand.

Other materials are listed after the top 3 descriptions.

  • PERLITE

    • ​What is it?

      • Perlite is a white, porous, & light weight material.

    • How is it made?

      • Perlite is made by rapidly heating volcanic silicate rock to high temperatures above 1,600ºF. Raising the temperature of the rock to this degree causes the water in the perlite to be converted to a gas. The heat makes the mineral softer & it expands like popcorn to 4-20 times its original volume.

    • What is it used for?

      • Perlite is used in potting soils, nursery propagation applications, as a hydroponic growing medium, etc. You can even find fine grades of perlite that can easily fill plug trays (2" containers). 

    • Advantages to Perlite:​

      • Improves aeration & drainage.​

      • Nontoxic, sterile, & odorless.

      • Will not compact over time.

      • Low water holding capacity; water is only retained on the surface & in-between particles.

        • Has a "closed cell" pore structure, so pores don't absorb water.​

      • Light in weight; reduces the weight of potting media while promoting good drainage.

        • Unlike coarse sand which improves drainage, but increases weight & creates less aeration

      • Moderately priced.

    • Disadvantages to Perlite:

      • Is SO lightweight that it has a tendency to ​float to the top of the potting medium during watering.

      • Dusty & dry; dust is harmful if inhaled. Can be avoided by wearing a dust mask when handling.

        • Must be moistened before mixing into other ingredients to keep dust down.​

      • May contain levels of fluoride that may be toxic to fluoride-sensitive plants.

        • Avoid fluoride toxicity problems by keeping the pH above 6, & by not using fluoride-containing commercial phosphate fertilizers, which shouldn't be used to begin with because they're synthetic, not organic certified, & bad for your soil!

      • Can release toxic levels of aluminum into solution when pH is low.

        • Avoid this problem by keeping pH levels 6+.​

  • VERMICULITE

    • What is it?

      • Vermiculite is a light weight, porous material consisting of glossy flakes that vary in folor from dark gray to sandy brown.

    • How is it made?

      • The material is produced by heating chips of layered mica (mineral) to high temperatures of around 1,472-2,012ºF. The heat causes the laminated, plate-like structure to expand, which creates a porous lattice structure with good aeration & water-retention properties.

    • What is it used for?

      • Vermiculite is used to increase moisture & nutrient retention in potting media. Finer grades are used for seed germination & more course grades are used in potting media. Only horticultural grade vermiculite should be used for gardening purposes. Don't use the type sold for construction or industrial purposes.

    • Advantages to Vermiculite:

      • Improves aeration & drainage.​

      • Non-toxic, sterile, odorless.

      • Contains some potassium, magnesium, & calcium that slowly become avilable to plants.

      • Highly absorbent, with a very high water holding capacity, can hold water, nutrients, & air, unlike perlite.

    • Disadvantages to Vermiculite:

      • Easily compressible, should not be compacted or pressed, especially when wet, as this will destroy the structure & reduces the ability to hold water & air.​

      • Less durable than course perlite.

      • The finer grades, used to fill seedling plug trays, have particles which are too small to hold much air or water for developing roots.

*If you are torn between which material to use in your potting mix & would like to read more about the differences, visit the Perlite vs Vermiculite section of our Drainage Blog post.

  • COURSE SAND

    • What is it?​

      • Sand is one of the basic components of soil. It is composed mainly os small particles of silica in the form of quartz. Grains of sand are solid particles which do not absorb water.​

    • What is it used for?

      • Course sand has many uses. It has a large particle size, so it is used as an addition to potting media in order to support drainage. For this reason course sand is commonly used in greenhouse & nursery propagation mixes.  Additionally, it is used to increase the soil weight as it acts as a ballast to help prevent potted plants from being blown over by winds in outdoor plant nurseries. The more popular use is for course sand is in very fast draining potting mixes, such as for cacti & desert succulents, due to its inability to absorb water. Another common use is to top dress lawns, both existing & instant, especially buffalo varieties. 

    • What grades of sand can be used in potting mixes?

      • As previously mentioned, the reason sand improves drainage & aeration is by providing increased pore space due to the size of its particles, so it only works when the particles are larger than those of the medium it is amending. Soil is composed of sand, silt, & clay, all of which has smaller particles than course sand. With that being said, sand should NOT BE MIXED WITH CLAY SOILS. If you add sand to clay soils the fine clay particles will fill the psaces between the sand particles. This will result in a heavier, denser soil with less total pore space than either the sandy or the clay soil alone.   

    • What is the fastest draining potting mix?

      • Cactus & succulent mixes tend to be the fastest ​draining growing media available for pots & containers. These mixes contain between 10-30% course sand, crushed quartz or other crushed rock, & all are very heavy for that reason.

    • Advantages of using Course Sand:

      • Improves aeration & drainage​

      • Non-toxic, steril, odorless

      • pH neutral

      • Will not compact over time

      • Less dusty than perlite & vermiculite

      • Very low water holding capacity, water is only in empty spaces between particles

      • Cheapest inorganic material you can add to a potting mix.

    • Disadvantages of using Course Sand:

      • Heaviest material you can add to a potting mix​

      • Improves drainage like perlite does, but creates less aeration than perlite

        • Does so while also increasing the weight of the potting medium.

OTHER MATERIALS 

  • PUMICE

    • What is pumice? ​

      • Extremely porous igneous volcanic rock naturally expanded by gases in the molten rock. A rock foam of volcanic glass with so much air in the structure that it can float on water.

  • SCORIA

    • What is scoria? ​

      • Scoria is a very porous igneous volcanic rock that naturally expands by gases in the molten rock. It is a basaltic lava rock with small pores that are less than 1 mm in size. This is smaller than pumice, has thicker walls. These characteristics make it more dense, so it sinks in water. The most common variety of scoria used in landscaping is red in color. 

  • PEA GRAVEL

    • What is pea gravel?​

      • Pea gravel are small, smooth, rounded pebbles up to the size of a large pea, naturally shaped by exposure to running water, or through a tumbling process for polishing. Aquarium gravel is similar in size, & both are often used for top-dressing the soil in water-plant pots in ponds & water gardens to avoid clouding in the water.​

  • CLAY BALLS

    • What are clay balls?​

      • Small pumice balls covered in a layer of clay used extensively as a hydroponic growing medium that are relatively expensive .

GUIDE TO LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

In order for your plant to live a healthy & stable life it must sustain a beneficial balance between the amount of light it receives, the amount of water it acquires, & ​the type of soil it is planted in. 

When it comes to light, each plant has a specific amount of light it requires to thrive. Terms such as "indirect light" & "partial sun" are used to quantitate said amount. Let's begin our discussion on light with an explanation of these type of terms.

Before you begin deciding on what plants to choose for the garden in your yard or the container on your patio it is critical that you observe the amount of light the area at hand receives. Determining how much light a space experiences throughout the day & using this knowledge to select plants that will thrive in the space is one of the hardest parts of caring for plants. While there are a number of tools you can use to measure light, the best way to determine how much sun a region will sustain is through mere observation. Ultimately, determining light patterns is really about understanding microclimates in our garden & finding the right plant that will thrive in the right spot.Plants have adapted overtime to favor a particular condition for its best growth. It is our challenge to mimic these conditions as best we can.

HOW TO MEASURE THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT IN AN AREA

  1. Simply monitor your planting area 30 minutes or so throughout the daylight hours over the span of a week or two.

  2. Use these observations to calculate the length of time the space spends in full sun, dappled sun, & full shade. 

  3. Once you have determined the areas light reception, find plants whose light requirements match those of the area. 

 

UNDERSTANDING TERMS REFERRING TO LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

  • Full sun

    • Full sun is defined as direct summer sun for 6 or more hours per day. These hours should be received during the hottest hours of the day, between 10AM & 4PM. Plants that thrive in true full sun include a vast majority of flowering annuals & perennials, as well as most plants found in a  vegetable gardens. With that being said, full sun is tricky to achieve because while some plants need full sun to set buds & flower, some cannot handle the intense heat &/or dry conditions that come with that much sunshine. If this is the case, find an area that receives direct sunlight for a combination of a few of the hottest hours during the day, as well as a few hours of less intense heat during the morning or late afternoon.

  • Partial sun

    • Partial sun & partial shade are often used interchangeably, defined as 4-6 hours of sun exposure per day, preferably in the cooler hours of the morning. The subtle difference is that plants requiring full sun have a greater emphasis on receiving at least the minimal sun requirements of 4-6 hours. These plants need several hours of sun to set flowers & fruits, but are not as fussy as those that need a full day of sun. You may need to experiment to find the ideal spot in your garden for plants listed as partial sun. If the plants in a part sun garden aren't flowering or growing up to expectations, it is probably because they need more direct light.

  • Dappled Sun

    • The term dappled sun isn't use as frequently as the rest. Dappled sun is similar to part shade where the sunlight is filtered through branches & foliage of deciduous trees. Consider that during early spring the areas under a tree receive more sunli​ght than they do in late spring & early summer after the leaves on the trees come in.

  • Shade

    • Shade is about varying degrees of relief from the sun. ​

  • Full shade

    • Areas that receive full shade take in less than 1 hour of direct sunlight each day. It could also be dappled light through a tree canopy for most of the day. Full shade is the result of any structure that casts a shadow & blocks the rays of the sun. ​

      • Full shade presents challenges an area that receives more intense sunlight might not encounter. It is crucial to consider soil moisture when planting in full shade. With little sun to heat & dry the wet soil​ you must factor this in when watering your plants in these areas. Another challenge involves plants in in-ground gardens who are in constant competition with tree roots. Unless you are able to provide supplemental water plants placed in full shade areas should be drought tolerant, as well.

  • Light shade

    • Light shade means to receive 3-5 hours of direct sun in the summer. These locations are sunny enough that many sun loving plants will grow while many shade loving plants can still make it. Keep in mind that morning sun is less intense & cooler than temperatures in the middle of the day, so it is easier on shade loving plants if the sun they receive is earlier in the day, rather than not. Plants that thrive in light shade will burn if pushed to receive too much full sun.​

  • Partial shade

    • An area that receives partial shade is defined as one that receive​s 2 hours of direct sun each day or is shaded for at least half the day. Again, it is beneficial to consider the times of the day the sun is stronger & remember that morning sun is preferred by shade loving plants. Areas of partial shade can be found under or around trees where they can block plants on the floor from receiving direct sunlight. Partial shade is synonymous with cooler morning sun & little to no hot afternoon sun.

  • Dense shade

    • The last category of shade involves areas with no direct sunlight & little indirect light. This would be in areas, for example, under evergreen trees, overhangs of buildings​, under shrubs, under decks, in dark corners, & in the passages between houses. The ground is usually dry & dark from lack of light. This growing condition is the most difficult & limiting. Plant selections are few & far between due to combination of shade, root competition, & dry soil conditions. Decorative mulches or groundcovers are suggested for areas with deep, dense shade.

HOW TO READ A TAG/ONLINE DESCRIPTION WHEN LOOKING FOR LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

There are many parts to the equation that is light requirement. You must consider the sun & shade patterns of your garden or indoor space, as well as the plants needs. This can be confusing as individual plants can adapt to several different light levels. Always remember morning sun is less intense & doesn't lead to scorch or stress, unlike the strong sun during the middle of the day which will. Some plants can tolerate more sun if it is morning sun rather than scorching afternoon sun. 

Tags found in plants or online descriptions of plant needs are there to try to help us figure out the requirements of the plant. More often than not a reference to light requirement will be found. These descriptions might say "sun - part sun, shade." Another description, referencing the same light requirement may read "shade - part sun." So what does it mean when there are more than one light requirement. 

 

The easiest way to read a tag or plant description is understanding the first light requirement listed is the plant's preferred space. If a tag reads, "sun-part shade" it means the plant will grow best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade.

 

Another factor to consider is where the plant was produced & who wrote the description. Full sun in Atlanta may be different than full sun in New York City. Hopefully the description is written with consideration to the USDA zones the plant is hardy in, but that is not always the case.

Source: K-State Research & Extension Master Gardener Johnson County; the Spruce

 

Overwatering

Underwatering

Yellowing of lower leaves

New leaves develop brown tips

Plant stops growing

Watering doesn't resolve wilting

Soil develops bad odor

Mushy, black/brown roots

Leaf edema in early stages


Leaf curling may occur

Leaf drop

Brown tips affecting many leaves

Slow growth & smaller leaves

Wilting improves post watering

Dry soil

Leaves feel papery & thin

Some yellowing then browning leaves

Leaf curling happens earlier

Credit: Smart Garden Guide