Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
This post is dedicated to Lily, Lazarus, Nathaniel and all the other plants who lost their lives on that windowsill in 2007.
A few years ago, I went travelling for a few months and left all my pot plants with my good friends Lemmy and Uke. I won’t lie, I was overly attached to those plants. There were about 10 of them including Lily, a peace lily that my parents had bought me on my first day at university and which had astonishingly survived 10 years. Lazarus was a pelargonium that I’d nearly killed a number of times but it had always come back to life. And there was Nathaniel, a mystery plant that my friend found abandoned in a stairwell and nursed back to health. I asked about Nathaniel so often that in the end she gave him to me.
(It’s definitely normal to name your plants.)
Anyway, fast forward six months… I came back to Lemmy and Uke’s and found that they’d killed all of the plants. Even Lazarus. He wasn’t coming back this time.
It turned out that both of them had been so keen to water my plants that they’d probably have been better off leaving them in the bath. The soil had gone mouldy, the roots rotted away and it was too late to save them.
If you don’t want to go through the same trauma that I did, then look up the required watering frequency of your plants and then set yourself reminders on your phone (or use a low-tech calendar on your fridge!). You can also consider growing plants with similar watering schedules next to each other, and using more bottom watering (watering the tray the plant is sitting in).
More pricey high-tech options are also available. Take a look at the Lechuza sub-irrigation system that doubled the size of my Benjamin tree. The system consists of trays, special granulate that retains and releases the water gradually, a pot and a water reservoir. After your plant establishes the root system you can gradually reduce frequency of watering, relying on water level indicator and topping it up with fresh supply of water every month or two.
Other options include watering sensors such as Plant Link or Koubachi water sensor. This smart watering sensor (available from 69 Euros) will enable you to know precisely when it is time to water your plant and even notify you via a mobile app.
If you are doing it low-tech, keep an eye out for signs of overwatering, like yellow leaves (especially lower leaves), a wilted appearance, rotted or stunted roots, lack of new growth, young leaves turning brown, green soil (due to algae), or your husband standing next to it with a watering can… for the 100th time that day.