Overheard recently in my plant shop: two ladies talking about the products. One picked up a pot and turned to her friend and said, “It’s very Instagram chic to have a pot like this.” Instagram-chic?
And herein lies the main issue with houseplant culture—people are more focused on the appearance of their plants and creating “chic” images than they are on owning and caring for the plants themselves. This is the first of a series of posts on how social media culture is driving many common houseplant abuses.
First up: Frequent—and unnecessary—repotting
Odds are any Plant Tuber (yes, that is a term now, too) you bring up on YouTube will have their channels flooded with repotting videos. Repotting has become the plant culture’s fireside chat. These videos are often more about personal anecdotes and drama rather than actual repotting and they’re full of inaccurate information.
There are many issues with these videos, but perhaps the most glaring is that they lead people to believe that repotting is necessary, when in fact it rarely is. The most common plant problem I see come through my doors is superfluous and inappropriate repotting. Plants are often potted up in pots several sizes too big, in inappropriate soil, and in pots without drainage.
Many of these Plant Tubers & Grammers flash photos and videos of what they call “root porn” which often shows, you guessed it, roots. What they insinuate with these images is that if one sees roots then it must need to be repotted. Or if there’s roots coming out of the bottom of the pot (image at top), then it must need to be repotted, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Roots seek moisture. Where’s moisture? At the bottom. Because: gravity.
Repotting houseplants often causes stress to the plant. One is changing an environment where they have been comfortably growing for some time to a new environment. Many houseplants have small root systems and don’t need a lot of room. People often think if they give their plants more space, they’ll grow bigger. Or they think if humans don’t like to be in crowded spaces, surely plants don’t either. But that’s exactly how plants live in jungles. They like to be crowded.
Most plants are perfectly happy living in the same pots for years on end. All they need is maybe a little topping of worm castings or some fertilizer to give them a little boost in the active growing season. Plants also tend to do better a little bit rootbound than otherwise, often producing flowers (spathiphyllum, anthurium, and hoya are good examples here) and better foliage.
Plants would much rather be left alone. More plants have been killed by helicopter-plant-parenting than they have by neglect.
Next topic: Leca and other “hip” potting mediums