General tips and tricks on keeping your aroids happy

Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere....


We are fortunate in the UK and EU to be blessed with the joy of all four seasons. For some they will be more pronounced than others. Who wants to live in all year sunshine and tropical conditions right?

When you receive a new plantlovers.eu plant, like us you need to think how I can best mimic or achieve natural conditions to help my new plant baby thrive. We at plantlovers.eu do have an advantage as our growing conditions crafted over 60 years in the industry are optimal.

We however have created this guide as this time of year in an atypical home environment can be quite challenging for those new to the hobby and the experienced alike.




Watering Regime


The biggest killer of houseplants at this time of year and throughout to be honest is overwatering. We will touch on this first. Generally during the winter or more rainy months the ambient humidity in a typical domestic home exceeds 50%. This combined with the lower light levels can mean it may take longer for your soil to sufficiently dry out. Decreased plant growth and dormancy will also significantly reduce the water uptake and transpiration of water via their leaves.

Your climate (how dry/humid or hot/cool your air is and even how bright/dim your light is) will all affect the dry-out rate of your potting mix, so learn to recognise when your potting mix is dry enough to justify another watering. The best method to learn and use is simply lifting the plant and pot. A plant that is ready to be watered will feel significantly lighter. You may also notice that the plant is easier to remove from the pot as the root ball has begun to contract.

Alternatively, if you are a habitual under waterer or more dangerously an over waterer you might want to customize your potting mix by adjusting the ratios of additives so that it dries in about 5-7 days in your conditions. If you find the media is drying too slowly, repot and add more bark and perlite for better airflow; if it’s drying too quickly, repot and add more peat moss or coco coir for more water retention and slowed evaporation. This method is best to apply if you insist on say watering the plant every Sunday because that is your watering day irrespective if your plants need it or not. We know some people like a routine,

We cannot stress enough how the above step is not necessary should you master the art of picking up and gauging the overall “wetness” of the entire root ball and pot. Plants have evolved to cope with sustained period of drought more so than they have for excess water conditions. Marsh and coastal plants aside.

Moisture meters.

Whilst we do not recommend the use of moisture meters. We do appreciate they can be helpful to give you an indication of the potential moisture in a very small or specific area of the pot. The important thing to remember that to get a true picture of the overall moisture you would need to take several readings at different depths and different areas of the pot. This is also assuming that the meter itself is giving an accurate reading in the first place. We firmly believe that the time spent to do this and subsequently make your watering decision, you would be far easier just picking up the plant and making an informed judgement with weight.




Root Airflow & Oxygen Circulation


If your chosen potting media stays continuously moist for too long (say it doesn’t require water for 10-15 days or more), it may need more airflow or you’re risking the onset of the dreaded root rot. This can be achieved with active air circulation (a fan) in your growing space, or by adjusting the potting mix to ensure better drainage. The addition of perlite or orchid bark will generally help you achieve this.

If the substrate in your pot takes too long to dry, it can become hostile to your plant as stagnant or aerobic conditions are a breeding ground for pathogens and this is what causes root/stem rot. If you are new to the hobby the need for oxygen around the root system can be one of your most important learns. Unfortunately, we all tend to learn the hard way.

Newly acquired plants like the one you have just received are the most susceptible to rot and stress-related issues. And again, don’t assume that wetness is the goal, continuously moist and airy is the goal: not too wet, not too dry.




Fertilizer & Nutrition – NPK


All plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and you can provide that with a standard inorganic fertilizer. We generally recommend reducing the amount of synthetic fertilizer by 50% from usual manufacture guidelines.

Beyond using a synthetic fertilizer, organic fertilizers include: bloodmeal (for nitrogen), worm castings (micro nutrients) and many fish based emulsions, all easily available online.

Calcium is a vital plant nutrient, responsible for strong cell health and overall plant vigor; it is also a non-mobile nutrient, meaning the plant cannot pull calcium from older leaves and use it for new growth (like it can do with nitrogen, iron and other key nutrients). All plants need a small but steady supply of Calcium during growth and in most cases Calcium is already available in your potting media if you’re using a high-quality mix. Add Crushed egg shells for an added calcium boost.

However, if you’re using peatmoss or inorganic mixes like perlite/LECA, then the calcium levels can be insufficient and supplementing may be necessary.

We recommend that no fertilizer be given to plants in the winter season as many plants are in a dormant phase. However, if your set up has created almost year-round conditions you can continue to fertilize at a much lower level.

There is no need to repot your plant from plantlovers.eu until it has outgrown its current home. Our soil mix has been specially formulated to provide the essential nutrients your plant needs.




How much light do our Philodendron and Monstera’s need?


Lots of sources online says “low light” and a bunch says “bright light”…so it’s rather confusing right? What makes the topic of plant light more complicated is that our visible perception of light (bright vs. low) is not very accurate in terms of what plants need to grow.

So, let’s take it back to the basics and have a think about our philodendrons in their wild habitat. Many of the plants we stock often grow or climb on trees to reach the brighter spots. They can survive in “low light” but they still get filtered rays of direct sun in nature and many of the vining aroids will actively seek bright light. They tend produce small leaves with large internodal gaps (spaces between leaves) until they reach enough light that fuels better growth, at which point they explode in size and if conditions are right, they’ll even go into bloom.

We have found the best way to get perfect light in your home environment for is to either invest and use LED grow lights (because they emit out a lot of light energy as plant friendly photons, but very little heat), or to position plants near an east or west facing window. South facing windows are a bit trickier due to the chance of prolonged direct sunlight on your leaves, but a screen can be used to reduce the intensity. Sheer curtains are great for this, they let some sun rays reach your plant, but they reduce the intensity and risk of leaf burn.




Unpacking your recently shipped Plantlover.EU Plants and adjusting them to your home


Shipping can be a time of depravation, trauma and temperature fluctuations for your plant in many ways. Your new plant from us has had the luxury of a start in life of optimal conditions in our greenhouses. Your environment may be better or worse, but that still does not negate the need for some tender loving care from the onset. We have seen some of your set ups on Instagram and they are indeed awesome. We have also seen many that have made us weep.

Some plants are tougher than others and will bounce back from even the most stressful situations. Upon receiving your new plants the goal should be to gradually adjust the plant to its new home or situ. That takes place in both the unpacking process and in the subsequent adjustment period.

You may or may not realize it, but a package that has our fragile tape all over it is still often subject to being stacked, bounced and thrown about in the most disconcerting and heart stopping ways once it is out of our care. The unfortunate reality is that when people in the logistics industry have a job to do, they are often more focused on getting the job done quickly to achieve targets than getting it done in a way that might be most beneficial to our plants and ultimately you as a customer. Add to this mechanical sorting centres and miles of conveyor belts. You get the scary picture. With this in mind we currently use DPD whom score an excellent rating of 4.6/5 from over 234,424 reviews on trust pilot. Until teleportation is invented, they are our delivery partner of choice.

You might be surprised to learn that the first thing you can do to help your plant is actually to do nothing. Leaving your package for a few hours for the inside temperature to rise or in some cases fall match your home temperature is a wise start.




The unpacking


Due to lack of accountability from couriers, we as shippers package our plants in a way to best ensure the plant does not move inside the box given this potential mistreatment and roller-coaster journey. It is your job to take that effort to the next level by carefully unpacking your plant.

We may position or fold leaves “up” to keep them protected, but they will usually go back to normal once the plant is set free. The best strategy when unwrapping your plant is to cut away the tape or packaging rather than tear it. Tearing or ripping can cause sudden unwanted movements that can lead to the snapping of a branch or leaf. Losing a branch or leaf may not doom a plant, but if it can be helped, why not allow as much of the plant to remain intact as possible. Sometimes the tape or packaging material will have attached itself or trapped a part of the plant, so it is crucial to be observant in these situations and to have patient hands.

Most plants we send out are surrounded by a clear plastic packaging material. We are making every effort to create what is known in the industry as a humidity cone or dome. As a shipper of predominately larger plants we tend to leave to top open. A standard 3 to 5 working day delivery window normally means complete enclosure is not necessary or practical. After a period of a few days there may be a tendency for the plant or leaves to cling to the plastic. This is pretty normal and pretty impossible to prevent.

Many of new excited customers make the mistake of taking the plant right from this point and putting it into what they read or know to be ideal conditions for the plant. This will often stress the plant and cause wilting or browning especially in our variegated monstera. You must assume that the plant has been used to high humidity for at least the past few days and a sudden drop could cause the plant to lose moisture rapidly from it leaves. That prime bright spot on your south facing window can be a death sentence.

When you receive your plants, they are very likely to have not received any form of light for several days. Think about how your eyes strain when you go from a very dark room such as a cinema to a super bright lobby. Plants feel this strain too. Therefore, you do not want to rush to get the plant into a full sun or intense light position. We recommend you initially start your plant out in ambient room lighting for about a day or so. You can gradually increase the light intensity to the plant’s desired light preference over a few days. Indirect east or west facing light tends to be a safe universal bet. You will be able to gauge your plants requirements by observing its overall form and leaves. Drooping stems and leaves are indicators of low moisture content. You may wish to water the plant if the soil is dry. But if the soil is already moist, your best bet is to control moisture is through adding humidity. A humidifier or pebble trays filled with water surrounding your plant can be an invaluable aid to creating a little moisture rich microclimate.

When considering where to finally place your plant try and keep it away from draughts. Your plant will also not thank you for that little bit of extra heat from your radiator. Radiators are designed to cause a convection current of dry hot air which can literally strip the life from your plant before your very eyes.




Repotting your plant


Another common mistake is that new plant owners make is repotting too quickly. All our plants that we ship are perfectly fine to be left in the existing nursery pot for weeks if not months. It is important to realize that repotting itself can be stressful to the plant and must be done in a timely manner. You do not want to disrupt the root system and cause additional trauma until the plant has shown that it is stable on its own. Once the plant has fully adjusted to your environment, only then should you repot your plant into a container that will allow it to flourish. Use the type of soil and pot that is recommended for that species. We generally recommend leaving your plant for at least a couple of weeks before attempting a re pot.

Usually when you buy a plant, it is a special experience. You may have invested a good deal of money or better yet, you may have been fortunate enough to add an extremely popular monstera variegata to your collection. So, while it may seem like a lot of extra effort, you have a duty to do what you can to can to ensure its chances of survival are high to enable you to enjoy it for years to come.





Contact

Kwekerij Dirk Mermans

Vremdesteenweg 120

2160 Wommelgem

Tel: +32 3 600 70 45

 info@mermans.net

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