Very few of us are born with a green thumb—most of us have to learn the hard way that taking care of office or house plants is far more difficult than it looks. I’m a great example of a person who tends to give my indoor plants too much and too little water at the same time. And my office plant that's a low-maintenance succulent is begging me to give it to a plant shelter so it can find a proper forever home.
However, with some hard work, love, and proper care, even neglected plants can make a comeback and flourish. And you can’t deny that there’s something deeply and instinctively satisfying and inspirational about seeing these amazing plants getting back up on their… feet? Roots? Tendrils? Ent-legs? One of those, definitely.
So scroll down for some verdant motivation and upvote your fave before and after pics. We’d also like to hear your opinion about a couple of things, dear Pandas. Have you had any cool plant comebacks in your lives? And do you tend to overwater or underwater your plants? Share your thoughts on growing plants with us in the comments below. And be sure to read on for Bored Panda’s exclusive in-depth interview with Kamilė Trakytė, plant collector, genetics student, and co-owner of the 'Kambarinės gėlės' plant shop that is based in Vilnius.
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According to ProFlowers, it’s always better to underwater your plants than to overwater them. That’s because they recover more quickly from the former than the latter. In other words, an overwatered plant needs way more care and attention from you. And it’s a great metaphor for how an excess of a good thing can sometimes be worse than a lack of it. [Writer tries very hard to justify forgetting to water some plants by pretending to be wise.] But it seems that overwatering is a very common mistake!
Kamilė, who co-owns the 'Kambarinės gėlės' plant shop in Vilnius, told Bored Panda that the most common problems that her clients face are related to just that—overwatering. 9 times out of 10, it’s the main issue they need help with.
“People show their love for plants with too much attention and with too much water. Without knowing the subtleties related to the care of particular plants, it’s difficult to know how little water some of them require,” she told Bored Panda. “People show their love with water, so ironically, they kill their plants with their love.”
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The plant expert confirmed that plants have a very difficult time recovering after getting too much love--I mean, water. “Root rot sets in and it’s hard to save plants that it affects.” Kamilė also pointed out that it’s harder to overwater plants if you happen to live in the sunnier parts of the world. Meanwhile, those of us who live in colder climates always need reminding us to hold our ho(r)ses. (Pun very much intended.)
After the first few instances of being “victims” of overzealous watering, houseplants and greenery tend to find themselves more neglected by their owners. But this is actually in the plants’ best interest.
“I recommend getting to know each plant you grow. The recommendations to water a plant X times every Y weeks are usually ineffective because they don’t take into account the unique conditions in your home. So don’t spoil houseplants with too much water from the get-go. Usually, a plant tells you what it needs: if the leaves curl up, it wants water; if the plant becomes droopy and there are brown spots on the leaves, you’re giving it too much water,” Kamilė told us.
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We were also interested to find out what amateurs (like me) should know about using fertilizer. Well, the plant expert told us that plants can survive without any fertilizer but their ‘health’ will deteriorate the longer they go without it.
“Potted plants get all of their nutrients from the soil we plant them in. They grow in a very constricted space, unlike in nature, where complex nutritional trades occur between different organisms. Every time you water a house plant, some of the nutrients get ‘rinsed out,’ and used up” Kamilė pointed out that if you want your plants to be healthy and to look great, using some type of fertilizer is a must. She also said that fertilizing house plants is a very different thing from taking care of fruit-bearing plants like tomatoes or cucumbers in hothouses.
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The expert noted that universal, all-purpose fertilizers exist for a reason and contain the 3 primary elements needed by house plants: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
“Each of these nutrients has a different function. You can pick different fertilizers that contain varying proportions of these minerals to obtain different results. For instance, fertilizers with more Nitrogen will make plants bear more leaves. While more Phosphorus means more blossoms. But these considerations are secondary: all-purpose diluted synthetic or organic fertilizers do the job they need to do.”
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Kamilė noted that growing plants at home means different things for different individuals. For some, they’re decorations. For others—they’re living organisms that need care and attention because if you treat them well, they reward you by growing and becoming more beautiful. And that brings joy to gardeners, whether they’re amateurs or grandmasters. Or Ents.
“However, if you’re having difficulties taking care of your plants, watching them wither can be a source of stress. Fortunately, in most cases, plants bring us joy. Especially in modern times when we find ourselves further from nature,” Kamilė said.
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According to her, studies show that having some form of greenery at home calms us and reduces our stress levels. What’s more, taking care of plants can be a form of meditation that helps us get away from our jobs and routines.
Kamilė pointed out that because she collects rare plants, her hobby eats up large chunks of her time. However, she finds the caretaking process soothing and she can’t imagine her day-to-day life without it.
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The expert also said that the psychological effect plants have is bigger than the one they have on the quality of air in our homes. “Studies show that it takes around 100 plants in a 10 square meter area to significantly freshen the air there. It’s much easier to improve the air quality in your home by opening up the window.”
“A plant might not freshen your air much, but it will almost definitely bring you joy and calm. And it’ll help you become more disciplined as you take care of it and learn more about it,” Kamilė said. So if you’ve got some withering plants at home, go get them some all-purpose fertilizer and stop overwatering them!