February 23rd, 2021
There are some pieces of gardening advice which will seem incredibly frustrating and confusing, even contradictory. From the ever present “bright but indirect light” needs of seemingly every houseplant to the “keep moist but not wet” advice for watering, instructions can appear to be cryptic riddles
First, most of you’ll know that plants absorb water through their roots. However, what we frequently talk less about is that the roots of the bulk of species also require oxygen the maximum amount as they are doing water. They absorb this through tiny open spaces within the growing media called macro pores. once you totally saturate the compost for long periods of your time , you flood these macro pores, starving delicate roots of their oxygen.
This low-oxygen environment also creates the right habitat for pathogenic microbes to thrive. A double whammy of weakened roots and boosted microbial count can quickly cause roots to rot away. this is often particularly the case for species from more arid parts of the planet that have little or no evolutionary adaptations to those boggy conditions.
Once these roots start dying away, the water uptake to the plant’s leaves is hampered, causing them to display an equivalent symptoms as plants that are underwatered. Therefore, take wilted leaves as just one of the clues in your diagnosis. Does the soil also feel dry to the touch once you scratch the surface? Does the plant feel light for its size once you pick it up? If so, it’s thirsty. If the solution to those two questions is not any , then it’s probably a case of overwatering. Treating this may involve removing the plant from its pot, cutting away any soft, brown or bad-smelling roots, and potting it copy in fresh compost.
The takeaway from this lesson? If unsure , don’t water. Thirsty plants can usually be made happy again in minutes by simply adding water, whereas plants that have had their roots compromised by disease are much harder to coax back to health.
The great news is that generally doing less will offer you better results.