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The Do's & Dont's

Hi again! It's totally normal to feel stuck on how to best care for your new plant baby, or maybe you just need a little refresher.

Either way, here's where you can find all the basics on caring for your new plant! 

Please keep in mind each plant has its own personality, like us! So when in doubt do a little research on your specific plant or reach out for help! In other words, don't give up!

First Things First:
Watering!

If you ever get directions to water your plant once every (fill in the blank) days - ignore it. A plants need for water is going to change depending on its environment. If you have AC, if you have a breeze, if it's getting lots of sun or it's in the shade, the type of pot it's in, etc. So, to keep it simple I recommend keeping a close eye on your plant for (at least) the first month of it being in its new home. It also gives you a chance to get to know her! I recommend using the finger method. Quite literally stick your finger in the soil. As a very general rule of thumb, you want the top third to half of the plant to be dry and the bottom to be damp. If it's wet at any point, it's not time to water. The big exception is succulents, if they're indoors you want them to completely dry out in between waterings. Now, if you want to develop a schedule take note of every time you water fir the first month or two and soon you will see a pattern, and thats when you can set an alarm on your fancy phone to remind you when it's time to water. Keep in mind that a plants watering needs change during seasons so, always do the finger check when it's time to water to ensure you're not over or under watering. The quickest way to kill a plant is overwatering or not watering at all.

Finally, when it's time to water I recommend taking it to the kitchen sink or outside with your hose and giving it a good dousing. Run water though her at least three times. Soil never saturates on the first run though and you want to make sure the soil is fully saturated to ensure your plants thrive!

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MY PLANT IS DYING

Take a deep breath! Plants are resilient beings and can come back from the brink of death healthier than ever! If your plant is totally dead, don't sweat it too much, it's a part of the learning experience (p.s. check it's roots before throwing out, they often sprout new leaves)! Don't let a dead plant stop you from trying again! And to answer your question yes, even I have killed more than a few plants.

NOW, let's get to it! First, make sure you're not over or under watering. A quick way to know is checking the soil. Second, soil (p.s. it's soil not dirt)! When was the last time you changed the soil? Did you change it after bringing it home from the plant place? Most nurseries use moss to grow plants. Great for keiki, not so great for long term. When soil runs out of nutrients your plant has nothing to feed her. No food equals death (like us!). One more thing with soil, it can also be pests (little bugs) living in the soil. Fret not! If any of the above applies to you there's a simple solution, change the soil (if it's pests make sure you rinse roots thoroughly before repotting)! Just make sure you're using the right soil for your plant, most of the time in HI you need to add something to the soil to make it drain better. I recommend using coco coir or perlite (you can easily find it at Hardware Hawaii, City Mill, or Low's). Easy way out is buying a water soluble nutrient solution and adding it to your watering routine (this does nothing if it's a pest issue and a risk because nutrients are a whole other thing). Third, pests (little bugs)! Annoying little buggers... Check underneath the leaves, on top, and where the stem of the leaf meets the main stem (a.k.a the nodes). If you find little bugs proceed to the bugs section, theres too much to quickly explain here. Fourth, lighting! Is your plant getting too much or too little light? You can see if it's getting too much by checking for burning on the leaves. Knowing if it's not getting enough is a littler trickier, usually you want to check all of the above and if none of those are the issue it's probably low lighting. You can also tell by it dropping lots of leaves quickly or a lot of spacing in between leaves in new growth.

The DONT'S
 

Imma go ahead and be blunt here...​

  • Don't put your plant in any sort of pot without drainage (no holes in the bottom). Plants need drainage, especially in Hawai'i where it's hot and humid. The only exception is when you're putting a plastic pot (that has drainage) into a decorative pot. I would also recommend not using pots with dishes (water catchers) attached to the bottom. The drainage tends to clog easily which quickly equals no drainage.

  • Do not ignore pests for long once you notice them, especially if you have lots of plants. A small pest issue can turn into a big one fast. To avoid spread (at the minimum) make sure you quarantine your sick plant baby from the healthy ones. To avoid them coming at all, try taking a preventative measure on pests by checking for pests before bringing a new plant home and/or using a preventative spray. To take it to the next level give your plant a plant bath (refer to the pests section for more info)!

  • If you notice your plant is growing in peat moss, which is very common when buying from places like Home Depot, Low's, and high-volume nurseries or plant shops, change the soil within a month of purchasing. If you bought your plant from me and we potted your new baby together, ignore this! Just to be clear, Sphagnum moss is not the same as peat moss, I recommend taking a moment to do a quick online search and see the difference between the mosses, their difference is easy to spot. Nursery mosses are not meant for the long term and have zero nutrients and will kill your plant no matter how good you've been about caring for her.

  • DON'T GIVE UP! Even if you've killed a plant, or a few, or more than a few.... It's all a part of the journey! Plants in our homes are propagated and grown for our pleasure. It's not like you poached a plant or are saving a dying species so, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the process!

Time to talk about pests...

I choose to take an all-natural approach to pests, everything you read here will fall under non-toxic prevention and treatment. Having pets (or children) in the home makes this a safer option. Also, using toxic pest prevention leaks into our beautiful earth and has a deeper effect than we tend to realize.

First things first, pests are a part of our natural ecosystem and are bound to appear at some point in your plant journey. Being someone who at any point in time has hundreds of plants I have to deal with them all the time and it can feel like Whack-a-Mole. BUT fear not, for the average person who does not have hundreds of plants it tends to be a lot simpler. The point of this story is, I recommend trying to build a relationship with pests and accept they'll be coming and going, most of the time they won't kill your plant (unless it becomes a major infestation). Pests tend to be more annoying to us than the plant. In other words, it's not your fault and don't freak out! There are lots of steps you can take to ensure you keep these little beings out of your home and off your plant. 

Prevention is key!

The best thing you can do is ensure you don't get pests is make sure you're not brining them in on a new plant. Although nurseries, and even me, do our absolute best to make sure there are no pests. As I mentioned above in my own journey, we're not fool proof and it gets tough when you have hundreds of plants. First, before you bring a new plant baby home do a visual check. Look under the leaves and over, in the nodes (where the leaf meets the steam), and at the base of the plant (where it's growing from the soil). Look for evidence of pests. Evidence can look like white fluffy like residue, tiny bugs anywhere on the plant, sticky droplets of residue, tiny black dots on the leaves, lumps and bumps that seem out of place on the stem, excessive holes or yellowing in the leaves, tiny bugs flying above or in the soil. If you see any of the above fret not! It's still okay to buy the plant and bring her home, just make sure to treat her once you do and keep her quarantined from other plants for a few weeks. If the plant is over run, meaning you see more than a few pieces of evidence here or there, I would recommend letting someone know in the shop and picking a different plant. Second, even if you don't see any evidence, treat your plant as soon as you get home and keep her quarantined for a few weeks. Pests can be invisible to the human eye, you can miss seeing them, or there can be eggs lying dormant. 

STEPS TO PREVENTATIVE TREATMENT:

  1. Give your plant a good shower once you get home. Use a hose (or sink faucet head) and spray each nook and cranny of your new plant baby. If you don't have a spraying faucet head or hose use your fingers and gentely wipe each leaf under some running water. 

  2. Spray the top and bottom of each leaf, the stem, node, and all nooks and crannies of the plant with an all-natural plant pest spray.

    1. If you don't have any on hand, worry not! It's easy to make your own at home! Take Castile soap (Dr Bronner's Peppermint soap)  or Dawn dish soap and dilute with water in a spray bottle. Roughly 2.5 Tbsp per gallon. If you want to step it up a notch, there are other things you can add to the mix! Of course, there is good old Neem oil. In addition to Neem, there are various Essential oils you can add that repel and kill the little buggers. A few options include Peppermint, Rosemary, Clove, and Citrus Oils. In an average 16 oz spray bottle I would add at least 10 -15 drops. If you are adding multiple oils I would add roughly 5 drops of each oil. FINALLY...The last step to creating your own pest-prevention mixture is making sure you mix it! Shake it good and when you think you've shake'd it enough, shake it some more! Make sure you shake it every time you use it! Side note: don't add essential oils without soap, the oils need the soap to do what they need to doAfter spraying the plant baby with the solution, don't rinse it!

  3. Leave your plant further away from your other plants, until you're sure there are no pests. Unless you wanna live on the wild side! If I'm being honest I have so many plants I do my best but often after taking preventative steps I put my babies wherever I have room and keep a close eye on them from there (BUT this is only after doing a thorough check for pests).

My Plant Definitely Has Pests...

First, if it's a REALLY bad infestation the easiest thing to do is let go of the plant. Donate her to a fellow plant enthusiast who likes a challenge, leave her on the side of the road for a fellow plant nerd to pick up, or throw her away. I know it's taboo but, I'm here to remind you it's okay to let go. Now, if you're stubborn like me and like a challenge or you spent a pretty penny on this plant baby, deep breath! There are plenty of steps you can take before letting go. *Side note: I am not suggesting letting go right off the bat but, for many with busy lives or tons of plants it can be the best option and I wish someone told me this early on in my plant journey. You're not a bad plant parent by choosing to let go of a plant.​ 

Second, patience and commitment are key when dealing with pests. To put it bluntly, a one-time treatment is not going to work with all-natural solutions. Pests have various life cycles so, it's important to keep up with treatment for roughly a month. 

Now! Lets get down to business:

STEPS TO TREATING A PEST PROBLEM:

*These steps follow a general rule of thumb which will work on most pests if all steps are followed, some stubborn pests will take time or perhaps a different approach and in this case I would recommend doing some research to figure out which pest is bugging your plant and go from there.

  1. Rinse, rinse, rinse! Shower your plant and use your fingers to remove any pests that are visible to you. Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies of your plant baby. For more detailed instruction please refer to step one of prevention. 

  2. Dilute Rubbing Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide in a spray bottle (1/3rd to 1/2 Alcohol or Peroxide in water). Next, spray each nook and cranny of your plant, top, bottom, nodes, and stems. Allow your plant to sit for roughly 30 minutes. 

  3. (*Optional) Plant bath time! Fill your sink with water and add Castile soap or Dawn Dish soap, about a Tbsp worth, and mix it up. To spruce it up a bit also add some Peppermint Essential oil or Tea Tree oil (only add Peppermint oil if the soap you're using does not have some already, such as Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile soap). Now, give your plant a bath! I know it sounds funny, but it works! Ensure all parts of the plant are fully submerged in the water and gently move your plant around. Then, if possible, let your pant soak for roughly fifteen minutes, probably only five if you have to stand there and hold the pot out of the water. If you really want to take it to the next level (or you have a pest that lays eggs in the soil and roots), remove all the soil off of your plants roots by rinsing all the soil off with water (best done outside with a hose or over a bucket of water to avoid clogging a sink). Follow up by soaking the plant, roots and all!

  4. Shake off all excess water from the bath, do not rinse the leaves, then let the plant dry off. If you removed the soil from the plant repot in new soil.

  5. Almost there, I promise! Once your plant has dried, spray all nooks and crannies with an all natural pest spray of your choice or your homemade mix (instructions for homemade mix can be found above in pest prevention step two).

  6. TADA! the heavy work is done! Follow up by spraying the plant once a week for about a month. If you see any pests when spraying wipe off with a paper town with some rubbing alcohol on it.

YOU DID IT!!!

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