When we think of crazy cat ladies, we tend to think of single, middle-aged ladies with frizzy, dishevelled hair, crooked glasses, and a perpetual hunch. They speak to their cats, and react to their meowing as if they can understand what the cats are saying. Some even meow back (Okay, I sometimes do this too). We plant people also communicate with our plants, albeit in a non-verbal language, so as to seem a little more sane. Experienced plant people will know exactly what I’m talking about: Our house plants signal their needs to us so well that at times, it seems as if they seem to have a physiological language that they’re letting us in on. In this post, I’m going to break down some of the messages that our plants send us, and how to interpret them.
In Dr. Who, Lady Cassandra O’Brien iconically yelled “Moisturise me!” whenever she needed manual moisturisation. Our plants will also tell us when they need water, albeit in a less comically annoying and ostentatious way.
Succulents: leaves will feel less plump to the touch, and may physically look thinner too. Should return to normal overnight after watering
Scindapsus Pictus: leaves curl visibly. Should return to normal overnight after a watering
Ferns: crunchy, yellowing leaves. These bad boyes cannot stand dryness at all. They have to be in moist soil at all times. Truly the Cassandra O’Briens of the plant world.
Peace lily: Drooping leaves, spathes on flowers looking a little deflated. Should return to normal 30 mins to an hour after watering
Syngonium Podophyllum: Peripheral or older leaves yellowing and going crisp.
Lucky bamboo: bamboo stalks develop thin wrinkles on them. Should return to normal within a few hours of watering.
Ivy: leaves lose their firmness, and may flop a little.
Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Sarcochilus orchids: roots develop a silvery film that indicate dryness. In severe cases, the fleshy leaves will flop over.
“I’m not vibing with this dry air.”
Calathea and Maranta: Leaf edges begin to brown. Browning may creep inwards causing leaf loss if humidity continues to be too low for their liking. Seriously, these boyes need their humidity. I’m talking pebble trays, misting and humidifiers in medium light. Not sure why some people have no issues with them even though they don’t seem to have a tonne of humidity. These plants are just not for me, since I want to keep them alive, but I also don’t want to rot the wood and plaster in my home.
Ferns: lower fronds begin to brown harden.
Syngonium podphyllum: Leaves become less glossy, texture gets tougher.
Ficus elastica: Leaves develop small cracks.
“Stop hitting me with the hard stuff!”
Some plants don’t like hard water. That is, water with high dissolved mineral content. Tap water is too hard for these plants, and if you find that to be the case, there are a number of ways around it, which I will discuss in-depth another time. For now, know that the easiest (meaning requiring the least amount of action) way around this is to leave your water out for a full day, and the fastest way to get around this is to boil your water, and then wait for it to cool. This is because they’re primarily affected by chlorine, which will naturally return to gas form if left to sit for 24 hours.
Orchids: roots turn brown and solid. The green parts of the root can still uptake nutrients, so don’t cut the affected root off.
Lucky bamboo: leaves yellow, first starting at the tips
Peace lily: Brown leaf tips. Nothing to worry about though, they’re minimally affected.