Book review: What’s Wrong with My Houseplant?


What’s Wrong with My Houseplant? by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth
(Timber Press, 292 pp., $24.95)

by Susan Mulvihill

What's Wrong with my HouseplantDo you have “issues” with growing houseplants? I frequently hear perfectly capable gardeners say they can grow anything outdoors, but when it comes to indoor growing, that’s another matter entirely. If this resonates with you, let authors David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth give you some guidance. Before you know it, houseplant success will be yours.

In What’s Wrong with My Houseplant?, they maintain that having knowledge of the light, temperature, water, humidity, potting media and fertilizer requirements for the types of plants you’d like to grow is the sure way to having healthy, happy houseplants. All of these requirements are based on the origins of the plant.

For example, I learned my split-leaf Philodendron is happy because the reduced amount of light and warm nighttime temperatures in my home duplicate, to some extent, its natural growing conditions on the floor of a jungle. And here I bought it because it was so pretty! But that also explains why the palm I bought for the very same reason struggled due to not getting the amount of light it craved.

The authors continue the discussion with information on containers and when to “up-pot” or re-pot them. They also cover how to propagate your houseplants, which is a great way to get more bang for your buck.

The meat of the book is filled with plant portraits divided by type: palms and palm-like plants, trees and shrubs, herbaceous perennials, vines and vine-like plants, ferns and fern-like plants, temporary houseplants (think bulbs, florists’ azaleas and plants that go dormant), orchids and bromeliads, cacti and succulents, and culinary herbs. That about covers them all, doesn’t it?

Each portrait includes a plant description, optimum household environment (covering the requirements mentioned above) and common problems that can occur. What a perfect guide for the houseplants you are considering buying and those you already have!

The last section of the book — which really resonates with me — is a look at organic solutions to the common problems identified within the plant portraits. It’s divided into sections on cultural, insect and disease problems. The authors describe what the problem is, why it happens and how to address it. Each problem is accompanied by detailed photographs.

So, as you can see, What’s Wrong with My Houseplant? combines all of the information we need to do a great job of growing our indoor gardens.