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In today’s episode of ‘Is ChatGPT gonna take my job’ I asked ChatGPT for 10 house plant care tips.
It did well! Better than a lot of other tips I’ve seen online.
Am I worried about my job? Not really. Whilst it can provide answers and explanations, ChatGPT has never known the pain of seeing spider mites of a prized Calathea, never left a Monstera out in the sun for five hours, and certainly never had to patch up a leaf that had a run-in with an enthusiastic dog tail.
So, onto the tips it provided:
Provide proper lighting: Different plants have different lighting requirements. Observe the natural lighting conditions in your home and choose plants that thrive in low, medium, or bright light accordingly. Place them near suitable windows or consider using artificial grow lights.
I mean…yeah. Although, I’m trying to move away from using low light to describe lighting requirements for plants, because if you’re new to plant care, it’s can be a harmful term. Low light doesn’t ACTUALLY mean low light. If you can’t read in a spot in your house without putting a light on, it’s too dark for a house plant.
Also, look at where a plant grows in the wild, rather than relying on what other people say about light requirements. Some plants (snake plants, bless them) can survive in low light, but will not thrive.
Giving plants the appropriate light makes everything else so much easier, because the plants are stringer and more resilient – just how a person with a healthy diet is more resilient to things like colds than an unhealthy person.
(Also, just like people, some plants that are looked after horrendously seem to do absolutely fine. That’s just the way it goes!)
Water appropriately: Overwatering is a common issue. Learn the specific watering needs of your plants and avoid excessive watering. Check the moisture level of the soil before watering and allow the top inch to dry out between waterings.
I don’t think learning the specific watering needs of plants is too important if you have the lighting right and decent soil.
I also don’t subscribe to the whole top inch of the soil thing. I prefer moisture metres *dodges projectiles from angry plant people*.
Check the moisture level before watering is the one. If it’s dry, water it. If it’s not, don’t. obvs there’s nuance, but stick with this method and you won’t go far wrong.
If you check the soil regularly (every, say, four days) then even things like Calathea will thrive.
There are some plants that don’t like this method – mainly bog-loving plants like Nepenthes. They need pretty specific care, so if you want to get into carnivorous plants, do extra research.
Ensure proper drainage: Ensure that your plant pots have drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom. Excess water can lead to root rot and other problems. Use a saucer or tray to catch any excess water that drains out.
Perfect, no notes.
Maintain proper humidity: Indoor environments tend to have lower humidity levels, which can affect certain plants. Grouping plants together or using a humidifier can increase the humidity around them. Mist the leaves occasionally or place the pots on a tray filled with water and pebbles to create a humid microclimate.
No, no, no.
The first part is fine: maintain proper humidity.
For this, you first need to measure your humidity.
That’s mine. As you can see, the little face is declaring it wet. No further action is needed.
Grouping plants together will help a *bit*. Misting is NOT the same as humidity. Plants can absorb water vapour through their leaves, but not globs of water. Misting can actually prevent plants from photosynthesising.
If you have low humidity then you have two choices:
- Get a humidifier
- Buy plants that prefer low humidity – succulents, snake plants, ZZ plants will all work fine
Or you could invest in a terrarium.
Monitor temperature and drafts: Most indoor plants prefer temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). Avoid placing them near drafts or sudden temperature fluctuations caused by heating or cooling sources.
This *kinda* true, but its definitely best practice my house got colder than this in winter (like, 12oC) and whilst my plants weren’t fine (they weren’t growing) they certainly didn’t die.
They can also take warmer temperatures than 24oC but you’ll need to keep humidity up and ensure they’re well watered to stop any crisping up.
Provide adequate air circulation: Stagnant air can lead to pests and diseases. Ensure proper air circulation by opening windows periodically or using fans to keep the air moving gently around your plants.
Top marks chatGPT. This is a tip you don’t often see but it’s really important. I’m big on air circulation anyway. I have a really sensitive nose so don’t like air fresheners or scented candles – fresh air is what I really crave.
There is a bit of a contradiction there, because if you’re opening windows, and your plants are in the window (as recommended above) then surely the plants are now in a draught?
Some plants don’t really mind draughts, and others really do. Calathea HATE them, but they don’t need to be near windows so that’s ok.
In warm weather, you’re fine to open windows. In winter, I tend to open the windows in the bathroom (I don’t keep plants in there in winter because it’s too cold) and open strategic doors to let the fresh air circulate. After half an hour or so, I shut it again.
It’s not ideal. All the heat escapes. But it’s really important to the health of all the living things in your home.
Regularly dust and clean: Dust can accumulate on plant leaves, hindering their ability to absorb light. Wipe the leaves gently with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and keep them clean. This also helps prevent pests from settling.
Again, sage advice. I need to do an article on leaf shiners at some point, but the upshot is that they’re really not necessary.
There’s a bit of an online rhetoric that they’re horrific for your plant can block the stomata but I think it’s over-egged a bit. They’re not necessary, but they’re not evil either unless you’re using them regularly.
Fertilize appropriately: Indoor plants often require fertilization to thrive. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for indoor plants. Follow the recommended dosage and frequency according to the specific needs of your plants.
Yes to the first part, but if you follow the recommended dosage and frequency according to the specific needs of your plants then you’ll drive yourself mad.
No one can seem to agree on how much and how often to fertilise the various house plants.
Some people add a tiny amount (a quarter of the recommended amount) of fertiliser every time they water. Others water all their plants every month or six weeks and use the dosage stated on the box (or half the strength).
Well, ChatGPT you did a pretty good job!
One of the things I love about AI programmes like this is how wildly different their responses are in terms of accuracy. One day they seem like they’re actually gonna advance humanity’s knowledge (as a group, I mean – there’s nothing there we didn’t come up with) and the next they’re telling me that Monstera are Philodendron.
If anyone has used AI to do something useful for their plants (schedules, trackers, whatever) we’d love to hear about it!
Just find a routine that you can stick to. Underfertilising is preferable to over-fertilising.
Prune and trim: Regularly inspect your plants for any dead, damaged, or diseased foliage. Prune these parts to encourage healthy growth and maintain the overall shape of the plant. Trimming can also promote bushier growth.
I mean, kinda, but you certainly don’t need to trim your plants.
Remove dead leaves though – they’ll end up attracting fungus gnats if you leave them to break down in the soil.
Trimming *sometimes* results in bushier growth, but the best way to achieve that is to make sure that your plant has great light and is watered, fed, and cleaned properly.
Observe and respond: Pay attention to your plants' behaviour and make adjustments accordingly. Look for signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves or wilting, and address the underlying issues promptly. Remember that each plant is unique, so learn about their individual requirements and adapt your care accordingly.
This one kind of seems like a cop out because it seems obvious BUT I firmly believe that all of those reports of people singing and playing music to their plants and then seeing enormous growth is due to the fact that they were paying attention to their plants. Not the actual music. But the fact that these people cared enough about the plant to play them music.
If they were playing them music instead of watering them and they saw enormous growth, I’d be like ‘wow, science is amazing’, but I don’t think this was the case.