Fact or Fiction: Plant Myths Debunked Part 2

We’ve all heard certain things about plants that seem a bit “old school,” or even a bit weird. Maybe your great aunt has been watering her plants with Coca-Cola for 50 years and they’re still alive, or the care instructions on your tropical plant’s tag assured you that you can water it with ice. Luckily, we at HPH are always interested in investigating common plant myths, or odd care instructions, to find out what is fact and what is fiction. You can check out our first round of plant myths here!

Adding Coffee Grounds to Potting Mix

This is one of those myths that is partially true. The myth that coffee grounds are highly acidic is just that, a myth, so do not add these to your potting mix hoping to raise the acidity level. In fact, their pH is about 6.5- 6.8, which is pretty close to neutral. They can be mixed into your potting mix to be used as a sort of mild slow-release fertilizer, because they are an organic material, but don’t expect huge results, especially right away. Also, it has been noted that mixing coffee grounds into the potting soil that is used for seedlings can actually inhibit the growth of certain types of plants, such as lettuce. For more info about adding coffee grounds, stay tuned for a future post all about this topic!

The Soil Needs to be Moist

Water is essential for our plants to live happy, thriving lives, and some plants love a lot of moisture, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! Most of our favorite indoor plants want a “light and fluffy” potting mix that allows water to drain easily and allows air to get to the roots. Because roots need air as well as water, sitting in soggy soil for too long essentially drowns your plant, leading to root rot.

Every Plant That is Flowering is Happy

Flowering can actually occur due to stress, not just because the conditions are right or your plant is happy. In fact, stress-induced flowering is fairly common. The type of plant will determine what type of stress causes the blooming — temperature, humidity, or water fluctuations can cause this. It takes a lot of energy for plants to bloom, so it isn’t exactly a good idea to cause stress-induced blooming.

Pots Need Drainage

Fact. Well, all right, not every pot needs to have drainage. You can always save your decorative pots with no drainage holes and use them as cache pots, hiding plain nursery pots inside and bringing them out for watering. Terrarium containers are another example of a pot that doesn’t need a traditional drainage hole — terrariums function via different layers of drainage mediums and soil. If you absolutely must plant in a pot without holes, remember that a little bit of water goes a long way, and you’ll need to be extra careful about how much you water your plant.

Low Light Plants Thrive in Low Light

There are a lot of places in our houses and apartments that are begging for a beautiful plant to liven things up, but just don’t get great light. Snake plants (Sansevieria), pothos (Epipremnum aurem), and ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are often suggested to fill this void, but it would be a mistake to think that these “low light tolerant” plants will thrive in the darker corners of our homes. They’ll survive, but you may want to consider rotating them to spots with better light, or adding grow lights to your indoor plant setup to help them out.

Distilled Water is Good to Use

Distilled water is water that has had everything stripped from it. While that means it doesn’t have anything bad in like chlorine and chloramine, heavy metals, or most contaminates, it also means the good stuff is gone. All the nutrients plants normally get from water won’t be found in distilled. Yes, you can use this, but why would you want to give your plants what is essentially dead water? If you want to know more about the different types of water, such as purified, tap, rain, spring, etc, and which is the best, click here.

Fertilizing a Sick Plant is Helpful

Sometimes when we see yellowing leaves or mushy stems we panic and think it needs something extra to help it recover, and we turn to fertilizer to solve the problem. In reality, lack of fertilizer is not usually the cause of a poorly indoor plant. First, try to rule out pests or diseases, and then it’s time to look at the roots. Very often the problem is in the soil and around the roots with an over-watered plant or compacted soil that hasn’t allowed enough oxygen to get to the roots. Before you turn to fertilizer, assess the state of the roots and your potting mix — it might just be time to mix up a porous, well-draining mix that gives the roots room to breathe.

All Plants go Dormant in the Winter

When we think of plant dormancy we may think of deciduous trees that shed their leaves in autumn and winter. With our house plants, dormant periods are usually much more subtle. You might notice your plant’s growth slowing way down, at which point you can treat the plant accordingly. But very often the stable conditions of our homes mean that our house plants do not experience the same periods of dormancy that they would if they lived outdoors in their natural habitats. Some plants do need to experience dormancy for their overall health, and there are tricks we can use to help them do that even while they live indoors.

Watering Midday Burns Leaves

When you hear the reasoning behind this, it doesn’t seem too silly of an idea, even though it is wrong. The thinking is that if you water midday, any water you get on the leaves will cause the leaves to burn, like holding a magnifying glass to them and letting the sun shine through. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched, but if it were true that would mean that plants outside should be either covered in burns, or just a pile of ash. The sun doesn’t wait to come out until all of the water is evaporated off of the leaves, which means that every plant has had water on it during the midday sun.

Bonsai is a Species

Bonsai simply means “planted in a container.'‘ Granted, most people don’t know this, but still, you see so many different types of bonsai. Basically a bonsai is a potted plant that has been artfully pruned and cared for so it stays small. When we say artfully, we mean it: Bonsai are a gorgeous work of art that take many years to accomplish!

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

― Charles Darwin