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Overwatered vs Underwatered Plants, How Much Light Do Indoor Plants Need and More Common Houseplant Problems: Grow Better with Leslie, Ep 196



Do your plants get enough water and light? These questions are typically asked, and the answer is often “It depends.” But this answer is more meaningful than you might think, which will be explained in today's episode of our new series, “Grow Better,” featuring Leslie Halleck. As a certified horticulturist with extensive experience in plant care, Leslie is here to share her insights on the subject of overwatering and underwatering, offer valuable insights into the optimal light requirements for plants, and explore the common challenges plants encounter.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [07:04] Who is Leslie Halleck and what is her background in plant care?
  • [08:24] How has social media impacted plant parenthood and gardening? (aka green guilt)
  • [10:32] Why losing plants is normal even for horticulturalists
  • [12:06] Why do plants need time to adapt when moving from a greenhouse to our homes?
  • [16:51] How are watering and light related in plant care?
  • [20:39] Where can you find stylish grow lights with full spectrum warm white light?
  • [25:04] How relative humidity affects houseplants
  • [27:24] Other key challenges that gardeners face with outdoor plants
  • [31:52] How can you tell if a plant is dying?
  • [38:10] How does excessive light affect plants? What is phytotoxicity?
  • [41:18] Other effects of low light on plants
  • [41:54] Signs and symptoms of overwatering and underwatering in plants
  • [48:10] What causes leaf drop?
  • [51:35] What are the key indicators and signs of nutrient deficiency in both houseplants and garden plants
  • [57:06] How can you distinguish between healthy and unhealthy yellow or pink foliage on plants like Cissus discolor that lack green leaves?
  • [01:00:05] Why it is important to know the plant's environment and care habits
  • [01:03:03] When is the right time to dispose of a plant?
  • [01:10:30] Where can you find Leslie Halleck on social media?


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Overwatered vs. Underwatered Plants

Nailing the watering game with indoor plants can be tough. Overwatering can make your plants super unhappy, causing root suffocation and fungal diseases. Underwatering, on the other hand, can cause wilting and yellow leaves. So here are some tips to see if your plant is getting too much or too little water.

Signs of Overwatering

  • Yellowing, dropping leaves: If your plant's leaves are looking yellow and falling off, it might be drowning. Too much water in the soil can suffocate the roots!
  • Soft and mushy leaves: Overwatering leaves your plants with soft, mushy foliage that rots.
  • Root suffocation and necrosis: Wet soil suffocates plant roots, which leads to necrosis (brown or black dead tissue), along with pathogens and nutrient problems.

Note: You can avoid overwatering by using a moisture meter.

Signs of Underwatering

  • Yellowing and crispy leaves: Soil that's too dry and doesn't provide enough water can cause this.
  • Wilting and loss of rigidity: Underwatered plants may start to wilt and lose their rigidity as they become dehydrated.

Note: If your plant looks dry and brittle, check the roots to see if you need to repot it or adjust your watering schedule.


Understanding Light Requirements for Indoor Plants

Without light, we'd be stuck in the dark, as would our plants! Every plant has unique light preferences, so understanding light intensity, duration, distance from the source, and the light spectrum is key. Here’s what you need to know about low light and high light.

Importance of Light for Plant Growth

  • Photosynthesis: Photosynthesis is how plants make energy, which is necessary for growth.
  • Light wavelengths: Different wavelengths of light have different effects on plant growth and development, with red and blue light being the most important.

Checking Light Levels

  • Plant responses to light: Keep an eye on your plants' reactions to light. If they're turning yellow or reaching for the light, they may need more.
  • Things that affect indoor light: The direction the window faces, how much shade there is, and how far the plant is from the light source can all affect light.
  • Spotting low and high light symptoms: Slow growth, pale leaves, and stretching towards the light are some low light symptoms. Burnt leaves, wilting, and stunted growth are some high light symptoms.


Common Houseplant Problems and Solutions

Nutrient deficiencies, pest infestations, and diseases can affect indoor plants in addition to watering and light. Here are some tips for addressing these problems:

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies can show up in different ways. The usual suspects are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you spot things like yellow leaves, slow growth, and leaf curling, your plant might be missing some nutrients. Your plant can get back on track with some fertilizer or soil changes.

Variegated Plants and Color Changes

Plants with variegated leaves have leaves that change color or pattern depending on the light and other factors. If they aren't getting enough light, they might lose their cool color patterns and turn green. Monitor soil moisture levels and adjust watering accordingly since they are more sensitive to overwatering.

Other Potential Plant Problems: pest infestations and diseases, leaf holes and tissue loss


Tips for Successful Plant Care

Keeping your plants happy involves getting your watering routine down, making sure they're getting enough light, and keeping a close eye on them. Here are some tips:

Proper Watering Routine

  • Different plants like different amounts of water. So do a bit of homework to find out what your plant likes.
  • A moisture meter can help you figure out when to water your plants and make sure the soil is just right—moist but not soggy.
  • Things like temperature, humidity, and light levels can affect how much water your plant needs.

Adequate Lighting

  • Research what kind of light your plant likes and try to provide that.
  • Place your plant near a window where it gets the right amount of light, or use grow lights if your natural light's not cutting it.
  • Too much or too little light can stress your plants out, so avoid the extremes.

Regular Plant Check-ups and Care

  • Trim off dead or damaged leaves to help your plant grow well (aka pruning).
  • Monitor plants for signs of stress or pests
  • Make sure your plants have the right temperature, humidity, and airflow to promote growth.


When to Let Go: Composting Sickly or Unmanageable Plants

Gardening is supposed to be a source of your joy, not stress. If a plant is severely diseased, infested with pests, or damaged beyond recovery, sometimes the best course of action is to compost it or “let it go.” This may be hard to accept for many plant parents due to “green guilt,” but remember, the goal is healthy, thriving plants, not a collection of struggling ones.


At the end of the day, plant care requires continual learning and adapting. If you understand how your plants need water and light, and if you address any problems immediately, you can create a thriving garden. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and remember – every plant has its own unique set of needs!


Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsor:

Soltech Solutions

Bring the beauty of nature into your home. Soltech Solutions makes the grow lights you’ve heard me talk about for years: whether you are looking for a pendant light, track lighting, or a simple bulb to screw into any standard light fixture, Soltech has got you covered. They offer quality products with great customer service, free shipping, and a 5-year warranty. Keep the sun shining and the plants green inside your home with Soltech Solutions.

Check them out at and get 15% off with code “bloom15”.



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