PLANT TALK: lighting and watering schedules
Welcome to an Oliver and Rust PLANT TALK.
If you are an avid follower on instagram you have been following online with our instagram stories for a year or so on Tuesday's where we talk about various aspects of plant care and how to learn from your mistakes and find your inner plant goddess or green thumb.
If you haven't and this is new to you, that's what we've been doing and it happens almost every Tuesday.
If you miss one on a Tuesday they are usually saved to the "highlights" reel on my profile.
Having said that we thought it might be a good idea to put some of these thoughts down here as well so certain questions that get asked again and again, could have a concrete reference spot to send people to for reading.
I would also like to preface this post and likely all of the plant talk posts with this disclaimer:
I am not a plant expert.
I did not go to school for horticulture.
I am a serious plant lover and collector.
I pay attention.
Through many many years now I have studied plants and killed my fair share back in the beginning.
I now grow close to 100 plants in my own home, plus 100's and 100's every year in the store and have learned what works for different varieties and what doesn't.
There are always different methods that work, and different climates that affect all of this.
For the purpose of our talks, we are dealing with a 4 season climate in Ontario Canada.
We have hot, dry and bright summers.
Cold, wet/snow/ice/whatever, super dark day winters
Wet and soggy dark springs.
Hot and sunny autumns.
Let's get today rolling.
Today we are touching on the lighting issue and what that means
for watering and specifically those schedules some of us tend to lean on.
Let's go back to high school first.
A little photosynthesis lesson.
Plants need light in order to make food and stay green
Here's a really simple chart to help with the visual:
Plants with healthy roots take in water and nutrients.
They suck in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.
They use sunlight to make food and continue this process.
Without UV light a plant cannot make food and therefore requires less water and eventually if this continues an untimely death occurs.
With respect to lighting it is always important to understand how much light specific plants need.
Are they low light [meaning still requiring light, not in a closet or bathroom with no windows!!], medium indirect light, bright direct sunlight?
Trying to force a plant to live in an environment that it is not intended for often also leads to death.
A prime example is succulent plants.
We see all the time especially in the winter months with customers and their succulent plants starting to reach and grow taller and/ or getting mushy.
Just because we love the looks of a plant in a certain location does not mean it will thrive there.
You hear it said many times but knowing the light requirements of a plant and giving it those requirements are your first step to success.
In the summer months this can be easier to achieve as most days are sunny and daylight hours are long.
When the sun is shining from 6am to 9 pm there is a huge window for a plant to suck up UV rays or food and really utilize all the nutrients and water it is being given.
In the winter months or dreariness of spring, when we have cloud cover and many consecutive days of darkness and even so the relative daylight lasts from 8 am to 5 pm, it makes it very difficult for a plant to achieve what it needs in this span of time.
What's a plant owner to do?
Your summer medium bright spot that your prized chinese evergreen or peace lily was amazingly happy in, is starting to give you a bit of grief and now feels more like a low light spot you may consider finding your plant a home closer to a window until the season changes.
This is an easy fix if you have the space to do so.
Many plants are just living through the winter months and not actively "growing"
Smaller houseplants? Pop them directly in your windowsill or on a counter next to a window while you are away at work for the day.
Give the plant a "juice up" day.
Almost like a plants version of a day at the spa.
Invest in a grow light.
You do not need to have some big fandangled shelving unit or big bars of UV lighting.
Through the wonders of technology you can get a grow light CFL bulb from any hydroponic store.
[or check Amazon if no local businesses to support in your area]
These bulbs fit in any table lamp and I'll do you one better.
You don't even have to remember to turn it on if you also get a mechanical plug timer.
Set the timer to come on for your chosen hours [try for at least 8 hours] and your plants are now getting the juice up they need.
You can move your plants under this light and group them together or if your lamp is somewhere tucked away like me [one of mine is in my laundry room and another like below is in our spare bedroom] I just walk certain plants or planters to this light before I leave for work and they stay there for the day.
The lamp above is a table lamp and on a timer and is where all of my orchids spend the winter months as this room is nice and cool and helps promote reflowering.
I also have a myrtle in rehab up here right next to the grow light.
We get questions all the time in the shop on how we are keeping all the plants healthy with only one wall of front windows.
The below is how.
The shop is hooked into many bars of grow lights and clamp lights that we install at night for all of the plants to get what they need.
The light showing in the photo is all from grow lights as this was at night when when the store was closing.
Now with the lighting issues getting solved we wanted to touch on the watering and schedules that go along with getting your plant enough light.
We hear people joke about "water wednesday" or any specific day that they water all their plants on.
This is a great concept as it reminds you to water and take care of your plants BUT [you knew there was a but.....],
it may be more prudent to call it "plant check Wednesday"
It is always important to check your plant soil first before just hammering away with more water.
As I said above your plant is just kind of cruising at this time of year and may not need more water.
It will feel like you're ignoring it and for some that is equal to neglect but, I assure you many plants appreciate the neglect with watering. The top inch to 2 inches of soil in almost all houseplants should feel dry prior to adding more water.
If it doesn't feel dry, LEAVE IT ALONE.
Don't water just because your phone told you to.
Your plant can recover a bit quicker in the sunny months with this habit as it is growing and using its "food" but when the plants aren't getting enough light, the overwatering tends to lead directly to the off ramp of root rot.
If you don't like touching the soil constantly you may consider getting a simple water meter. It's not a perfect fix but it does help you realize that sometimes a plant is still wet down at the roots.
My giant myrtle above was reading bone dry so it was time for a big drink. When using a water meter make sure the probe end of the meter is actually in the vicinity of the roots of the plants. If you're dealing with a bigger pot, putting the meter near the outer rim doesn't give a clear indictation of the soil near the actual living parts of the plant.
When in doubt of the plant still feeling slightly moist, leave the water an extra couple days. Underwatering [unless severe neglect] leads to plant death far less often than overwatering.
Well I think that's a solid start on your path to lighting and water schedules.
Happy growing everyone,