Rookie Mistakes

Rookie Mistakes

Trying anything for the first time likely means that you’ll be bad at it. This goes for houseplants, too, and even people with the most expansive indoor jungles had to accidentally kill a plant for the first time. There are a few mistakes I didn’t know I was making early on in my jungle journey that can hopefully help you learn a little faster, with less casualties. 

Mistake 1 - Not enough water, way too often. 

A common misbelief is that plants need to be watered every day. This leads new plant parents to dumping just a little bit of water into the soil almost every day, a method I used at one point too. 

Roots need both water and oxygen in order for the plant to get what it needs from the soil. Even though it’s not a lot, when there’s constantly water in the soil, the plant is being overwatered and is on its fastest route to the grave. All water and no oxygen eventually leads to root rot, which spreads to neighboring healthy roots if it’s not caught right away. It’s far easier to save an underwatered plant than an overwatered one, so we want to err on the side of thirsty when it comes to watering.

A good guideline for most plants is to use larger amounts of water less often. Let the soil dry out adequately between waterings, and then give it a really thorough soak, continuing for a bit once you see water draining out of the bottom of the pot.

Mistake 2 - Using a pot without a drainage hole

Unless you’ve really gotten to know your plant and can water it spot on, pots with no drainage holes are a risky move for houseplant noobs.

Again, overwatering is a plant’s worst nightmare, which is a lot easier to do if the water you’re pouring in has nowhere to go. For more experienced plant parents it could be manageable. For newbies, I definitely recommend pots with drainage, and when you water, make sure all the excess water drains out.

Mistake 3 - Too much dirt, too little plant

Whether it’s the first plant or the hundredth, plant parents always get stoked picking out the perfect pot. A really common error is choosing a pot that’s way too big for the plant they’re putting in it. 

If there’s way more soil than there are roots, the soil will take longer to dry out. This means that the roots could stay soggy for too long, leading to rot, which you know by now is basically a houseplant’s death sentence.

Plant pots are measured in diameter, and a good rule of thumb is to get a pot no bigger than one or two inches larger than what the plant is currently in. So if you have a plant that’s currently in a 4” pot, don’t get a pot larger than 6” in diameter.

Mistake 4 - Giving up too early

I’ve talked many a new plant parent out of throwing a favorite plant in the trash, reminiscing on plants I wish I’d kept and tried harder to save. If you see a random yellow or wilty leaf, try not to panic. That does not mean your plant is preparing its will. 

A trend of things like that could indicate that something isn’t right, but even then, there are things you can do to address the issue. The root (lol) of your plant’s problem is usually treatable, and your plant can absolutely be saved with a little effort. Don’t let a few brown leaves scare you away from trying.

These are a few of many lessons I learned the hard way early on in my houseplant journey. Thankfully I’ve learned from my early mistakes, and my plants and I have grown a lot since then. I hope you find value in them too and that they set you a few steps ahead in your houseplant journey. 

If you need more support along the way, Slow Green Death would love to hear from you. See the Services page for more information how we can help you help your plants. 

I believe in you, and may all your plants’ deaths be Slow and Green.




Original post date: January 23, 2023

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