TikTok and Social Media Trends That Will Hurt Your Plants

The internet is full of advice on everything, including plant care.

Like plant diagnostic laboratory director and botanical medicine expert, I help people manage their crop health. Here are four trends I’ve seen online recently that stand out as particularly misleading or potentially harmful to plants.

Water orchids and other plants with ice cubes

Many websites claim that ice cubes can be used to provide orchids with a “moderate” amount of water. The fact is that tropical plants hate cold temperatures. Putting ice near the orchid’s roots can damage them.

Nearly all houseplants, including orchids, will prefer warm water or room temperature, around 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Use fact sheets from educational institutions and reputable organizations to determine the correct amount of water and watering schedule for the plants you’re growing, then set reminders on your phone.

Use potting that drains well and quickly. For orchids, a mixture of bark shavings and sphagnum moss is much better than 100% soil or coir.

Rodrigo Buendia / AFP via Getty

‘No Mow May’

There have been many “No Mow May” advertising campaigns recently. The idea is to delay regular mowing during May to provide more feeding sites for pollinators, which are trying to store calories after they hibernate in winter.

Unfortunately, this practice is often not good for pollinators and can be harmful to your lawn’s health. Here’s why:

Sowing more than 30% of grass leaves at once is never a good idea. Grasses depend on their tongues to photosynthesize and meet their energy needs. When losing more than 30 percent at a time, the plant may not have enough leaf surface area left for good photosynthesis.

Overgrown lawns have overgrown root systems that require more energy. Failure to provide it leads to increased susceptibility to disease, poor water management and potential collapse. Such damage is unavoidable after a month of “no cutting”.

After all, very few lawns actually have enough flowers to benefit pollinators. For many people, the “perfect lawn” is a solid green carpet. But that uniformity is useless to bees and other pollinators that require the pollen and nectar that other plants can provide.

It’s great to prioritize the health of pollinators, but the “no mowing” trend is best practiced in grasslands, fields, and wetlands, where there is a wide variety of flora and fauna. flower.

If you’re looking to support pollinator health in your yard, plant native wildflowers that pollinators really want to visit. Most require less water and management than lawns. Replace your entire lawn or even a small strip. Any amount of grass replaced is beneficial — and will save you water and money.

Make sure not to mow the lawn until they have finished blooming. A wildflower patch usually only needs to be cut once or twice a year. Sowing seeds after the last frost in early spring will sow the previous year’s seeds and provide shelter for insects during the winter.

Duane Braley / Star Tribune via Getty Images

Using hydrogen peroxide to ‘cure’ plants

Hydrogen peroxide disinfects surfaces and can reduce bacteria and some fungi. But the rapid reaction that produces hydrogen peroxide’s disinfecting properties occurs almost immediately after contact with other compounds. This does not allow hydrogen peroxide to move throughout the plant.

So most pathogens – disease-causing organisms – will not be affected if they are in the tissues of the plant rather than on the outside of it. Excessive or improper use of hydrogen peroxide can even make plant health problems worse by drying out the surface and killing beneficial bacteria.

While there is certainly a time and place to disinfect surfaces in plant care — as with your pruning and propagating tools — the best defense against plant disease is proper care.

Water the plant only when necessary and provide proper light and nutrition. Research what your tree likes best from educational institutions or other reputable sources. Periodic pruning to increase air flow, proper plant spacing, avoidance of single cropping and crop rotation are just some examples of chemical-free techniques to reduce stress on plants and reduce the likelihood of infection.


“A close-up shot of a box of Clorox hydrogen peroxide disinfectant wipes in a medical facility in San Francisco, California, April 18, 2021. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)”

Smith / Gado Collection

Diagnosing diseases by phone application

Many applications exist that use user-submitted photos to identify plant diseases and provide solutions.

The truth is, to diagnose most plant diseases, a scientist needs to culture plant tissue to accurately identify the pathogen. Only after an accurate diagnosis can they recommend management solutions. I have a pretty strong opinion here, as disease identification is something I do every day. The vegetative symptoms associated with one disease may practically resemble those of another.

For example, exposure to herbicides, viruses, insect-eating, and fungal infections can all cause leaves to twist and deform. To properly diagnose a problem, it is necessary to consider the history, location, site history, time of year, and other plant factors before I can guess what might be contributing to the problem. the symptoms.

Don’t rely on apps to guess what disease your plants might have — and don’t act on bogus recommendations. Instead, contact your local university diagnostic lab or extension office for assistance.

Not sure where to go? Get started with the National Plant Diagnostic Network’s lab directory. Many people, including me, give free advice and recommendations. If you do end up sending a sample to a diagnostic lab, most are affordable — my lab fee is $20 — and will be well worth it, especially when you consider the replacement cost. Replace the plant with something that could end up having the same problem.

Nick Goltz is an extended educational assistant and director at the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Connecticut.

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