Fact or Fiction: Plant Myths Debunked Part 3

We’ve all heard plant advice that seems a bit “old school,” or even just a little strange. Is it all true? Partially true? Total nonsense? Luckily, we at HPH are always interested in investigating common plant myths, or odd care instructions, to find out what’s fact and what’s fiction. You can check out our other rounds of plant myths here and here!

Fuzzy Leafed Plants Cannot Get Any Water on Their Leaves

Everyone has probably heard that if they get even a single drop of water on one leaf of their African Violet that it will just cease to exist. One moment alive, the next a pile of mush. Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme, but still we tend to worry about getting water on those leaves. If you think about it, though, these fuzzy leafed plants exist in the wild where it rains on them. If just a bit of water caused a leaf to instantly turn to mush, those plants wouldn’t have survived. If you spill a little water on your AV, don’t freak out — it’ll be okay!

Plants Only Release Oxygen, not Carbon Dioxide

This is the flip side to the myth that we addressed in our first Fact or Fiction post. Plants actually release both O2 (oxygen), and CO2 (carbon dioxide), depending on if they are photosynthesizing or not. During the day most plants will absorb CO2 and emit O2, and at night when photosynthesis has ceased, they do the opposite.

Baking Soil to Sterilize it is Necessary

Should you bake the brand new potting soil that you purchased? Maybe you’re worried about fungus gnats or other bugs and want to make sure they’re not living in your soil. Baking it will definitely sterilize it, but that also includes killing off all of that beneficial bacteria that you actually want. It can also make the potting mix hydrophobic depending on what the components are, and that’s no good at all.

There are Plants That You Cannot kill

We keep seeing posts in the House Plant Hobbyist Facebook group talking about the “10 Plants That Even YOU Cannot Kill!” The problem with these is that the title and information tends to be extremely misleading. We have a lot of members who are just starting out in the hobby, and it’s important for all of us to remember every plant can be killed. Trust us. It’s happened to all of us at least once. More than likely it has happened to all of us multiple times whether that was because we were just starting out, the plant arrived unhealthy, or it was just a type that is known to be a bit… dramatic.

Pre-Measure the Amount of Water to Give Your Plants

For some reason we’ve seen people talk about how someone told them to only give [insert specific plant type here] one cup of water every time they water it. This is not good advice and you should not follow it. The best thing to do is to water the plant until you see water coming out of the drainage hole at the bottom, or however much that specific plant needs. This can be affected by the seasons, humidity, temperature, how much sun it gets, how large the pot is, etc.

Carnivorous Plants Can be Given Raw Meat

While it might seem like a fun idea to drop a bit of raw ground beef into your Venus Fly Trap to watch it close, it’s actually no good for your plant. Imagine your carnivorous plants in their natural habitat — they’re not going to be catching a bit of chicken or some hamburger. So if you really can’t resist the urge to feed your carnivores, remember to give them the things they have evolved to eat.

All Plants Putting out Pups are Happy

When we see our plants flowering or putting out pups, we’d like to think it’s because they’re happy and thriving. Unfortunately, as we covered in the last fact or fiction post, flowering can be caused by stress, and the same is true of pups. Consider bromeliads, which are popular for their long-lasting, colorful blooms — once the plant is done blooming, the mother plant begins to die and puts out pups.

All Fertilizers are the Same

Fertilizers come in different forms, with different formulas depending on what type of plant they’re for, and in different concentrations. The three primary components of fertilizer are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K), and you’ll see fertilizers list the NPK ratio on the label (10-10-10 for example). Despite the fact that not all fertilizers are the same, most of our indoor plants benefit from a balanced general fertilizer. (To learn more about common fertilizer ingredients, click here!)

Commercial Brand Cactus Potting Mix is Good

We’re not saying it’s all bad, just that we wouldn’t take it right out of the bag and use it for our cacti. A lot of commercial brand cactus potting mixes will hold too much moisture and not drain well enough. You can always put your own additions in to help. To make a really coarse, well-draining mix that your cacti will appreciate, add coarse sand, perlite, or pumice into a light, porous potting soil. Your cactus collection will thank you! (If you want to know more about about what the different types of soil amendments, like perlite and pumice, click here!)

You Must Re-Pot Every Year

You can if you want to — maybe you want to take advantage of a really pretty new pot you found — but there’s no hard-and-fast rule that you have to re-pot on a schedule. Rather than marking your calendar, you can often see when a plant is telling you it needs a bigger pot. If your plant is drying out suspiciously fast, growing slowly or not at all, or poking roots through the drainage holes, it’s time to take a loot at the roots to see if it needs a new pot.

If you’ve got questions about plant care myths, want share pictures of your plants, check out pictures of other people’s plants, or just chat with like-minded plant people, check out HPH on Facebook!