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What's Wrong With My Houseplant?

If your houseplant is in poor health, here is a helpful piece of advice which may help you to get the plant back to good health. As with pets, houseplants can't tell you where it hurts, or what's wrong with them, and I would be surprised if you can get houseplants health insured yet, as you can for pet insurance. But not to worry, because we may be able to save the plant's life yet. There is a fundamental aspect to the life of a house plant which has to be considered, and yet it's often neglected. So here goes:

Find out the exact botanical species of the houseplant that has the problem. Now, have a look on search engines and put the name of the species in, together with geographical terms such as "native to" or "home in" or "country". The idea is to find out where in the world that plant would grow in the wild. (Houseplants grow wild in the country which is their home, and they only become "house plants" when they are exported and shipped across the world to wherever you live!).

Now, having found out what native land the houseplant would be at home in, find out the climate conditions for that place. For example, is the plant's homeland hot? wet? dry? arid? with stony ground? with fertile compost ground? etc. Now what you need to do is to try to make the plant feel at home by putting it in conditions which are similar to the plant's homeland. So, for example, if it's a rubber plant, and you found it was native to Malaysia, you'd need to make your front room more like Malaysia, by turning the heating up a bit to stop it freezing.

This page can't tell you every solution to every climatic misdemeanour visited upon every houseplant, but the idea is fundamental; house plants get ill because their conditions are not enough like home. I got this idea when I was staying in Belize, when I realised that prolific plants (some of them better described as trees) were huge versions of common houseplants I'd seen in people's lounges and and front rooms as almost Bonsai versions of their true selves!

Update: Since then I have emigrated from the UK to Panama, and I can tell you that in Panama City, houseplants such as Mother-in-Law's Tongue plants grow in the outdoor gardens of office towers.

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