Care of Houseplants on a sit

Several times I’ve discovered early in a sit that the houseplants are infected with scale, or spider mites, or other troublesome insects. While I am happy to water and care for plants, I find this insect infestation situation challenging and worrisome. I do talk with the HO and I’ve gotten a range of suggestions from them; some say don’t worry about it, others ask me to treat the plant. I really don’t want a plant to die on my watch, nor do I want to hand over a severely diseased plant to the HO. I was surprised that I didn’t find any discussions on this when I searched.

What experiences are other sitters having and how did everything turn out?

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Hi @AnnieNai and this is a good question. We always ask about plants on the handover and take note of when they were last watered and exactly what the routine is - especially on longer sits.

Like you I’d hate for plants to die and that can happen easily with just over or under watering. I’ve got orchids on my current sit with a specific spray routine.

I’ve only once encountered spider mite on a indoor lemon tree in France but the owners were aware and unbothered. I did spray and clean the whole tree in an attempt to save it but they’ve just sold up so I won’t ever know if it worked :slight_smile:

I have had several homeowners, including our last, mention that plants had died while they were away before, so I think this is maybe an overlooked area on some handovers, (somewhat understandably when there’s a lot to go over with pets). And of course not everyone has green fingers!

It’s a question for newcomers to certainly add to their list of questions, and can easily be dealt with on the run up to the sit, even if just to ask about houseplants and that watering/feeding instructions are left, when plants are seen as an important consideration.

Thank you for sharing and raising a new discussion this weekend. All the best, Vanessa

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This is usually included in the Welcome Guide but is sometimes vague.
The care of orchids terrifies me!!

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@Itchyfeet … yes agree… it often says “water the plants once a week” … and there starts my anxiousness about how much water :rofl:

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Excellent question and great new topic!

I love plants! It is one of the things I enjoy immensely on a sit and I have learned so so much from Plant Owners (PO)! Orchids especially :smiley: and all kinds of organic treatments for a variety of fungi and pests.

It still makes me nervous but I do Google a lot and ask the PO in my updates throughout the sit if I see a potential problem.

I am looking forward to hearing from those more experienced recommend.

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HI @AnnieNai and welcome. I have done sits where the homeowners specified for indoor plants which ‘watering can’ to use, what measure to fill water to, and what day of the week to do the watering. My initial reaction was that it seemed more detailed than I needed, but realistically it is better than having me gauge it. Sometimes it’s a case of a window and climate where the sun will dry out a plant far quicker than I’d expected.

I’d caution to watch out for artificial plants that are authentic looking. Yep, once I did a light watering of a plant that looked very real, but then I wondered why they didn’t mention it on their detailed notes. That’s when I discovered why. No damage done, thankfully. :sunflower:

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Those “everlasting” ones are really my kind of plants @Snowbird

I have a black thumb. I won’t take on a sit where the HOs care a lot about their plants. I will do my best to keep them alive but realistically there’s a decent chance I’ll kill them. I do well with succulents and the kind that droop and look like they’re dead until you water them and then they’re magically alive again. but ones that just quietly die and never come back from me forgetting to water them? the odds are bad.

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Haha, same for us. Or worse: “play it by ear, just water them when you think they need it”
Help! :joy:

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And when they were last watered? Once a week is all very well but from yesterday or a week ago?

Yes absolutely… that’s one of my handover questions now… when were they last watered? :slight_smile: Most hardy indoor plants are fine but in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) there are several popular plants that it’s very easy to over water especially through the winter months. It’s not a big deal in the great scheme of things I know, but some people are very attached to their plants, especially if handed on from a passed family member (twice been told this on sits), so I do err on the side of caution. I much prefer looking after plants in the outdoors, where I’m in my element :slight_smile:

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And mine too @Angela-CommunityManager !!

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I am so glad this is now a topic of discussion! Thanks, @AnnieNai for bringing this up!

We have always had a lot of indoor plants, most really easy to care for like peace lilies. We have recently started an indoor greenhouse to get plants ready for outdoor transplanting–herbs, peppers, tomato plants, etc. Some of those plants became infested (somehow) with insects, so now we have a number of carnivorous plants to help with that challenge. The greenhouse plants have a light set on a timer so we don’t have to remember when to turn on/shut off the lights.

We tend to not leave for more than one week (sometimes 15 days), so that isn’t really enough time to kill the plants, although they can be stressed if not watered enough/get too humid or wet.

We have a pretty detailed guide, and we also leave sticky notes all around reminding our sitter about watering needs. We definitely look for sitters who have experience with indoor and outdoor plants, and put that in our listing so hopefully only people who are comfortable with our animal and plant needs apply.

Hope this helps!

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Welcome to the forum @ThreeLittleBirds and thank-you for joining the conversation. I’m intrigued by your carnivorous plants. Are these like fly-catcher plants and have you found this works? Sounds like a genius solution :+1:

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@Vanessa-Admin, three of the plants are Venus fly traps. Another is a pitcher plant, and the last is a sundew. Carnivorous plants are a new foray for us (we got our first in December). They aren’t dead yet and we see insects going in them and not coming out. It’s a fun experiment :slight_smile:

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My son joined TrustedHousesitters in 2017. On the surface he has all of the qualities for being the perfect sitter, responsible, an excellent housekeeper (if somewhat OCD) totally trustworthy, excellent problem solver and super conscientious (you get the picture)

We have a summer sit in London which we have done every year since 2014, one year we were at home in Canada and decided to take a pet sitting summer road trip along the US West Coast, I suggested my son to the owner.

Interview done, the owner was ecstatic at getting this wonderful young man.

There were many plants in the home and in the kitchen fabulous and beloved orchids, all came with clear care instructions … one week into the 5 week sit my son called me in the States totally beside himself, a bloom had fallen off one of the prized orchids followed by another, “Mother I’ve killed the orchid, I’ve followed all the instructions and I’ve only been here a week, what if they all die?”

They didn’t of course and the owner was so lovely she would not have blamed him, orchids can be notoriously hard to keep. I have to add that he was caring for their adorable cat who we’ve cared for since she was a kitten … she also decided to go walkabout for 24 hours. … My son chose never to do another sit.

As we know pet and housesitting is not for everyone … :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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What a great story, Angela. Sounds like you did a wonderful job raising your son and that, while he may not be a housesitter, he is just the kind of conscientious person that one would want to hire. I’ve been learning a lot from this discussion about sits with houseplants and I think that knowledge will be helpful with future sits. Some day, when I settle down, I think I’ll grow carnivorous plants and bonsai, too.

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One of the things I also think about that is in the “care of houseplants” category and is linked to “pets that eat house plants” and “pets that have side-effects from eating houseplants” categories. @AnnieNai since you started this line, and @Vanessa-Admin and @Angela-CommunityManager as managers, I bow down to your experience :grin:

We have to let our sitters know that one of our cats will regularly eat and purge. We have conversations around our family dinner table about his “disordered eating” (we are educators, doctors, and psychology people).

@Angela-CommunityManager, kudos to your son for giving this a try. My son and his girlfriend did as well–at our house, with his cats–and decided that was enough. And that was knowing the idiosyncrasies of his own home, and being able to go to his apartment 20 minutes away.

As with you, @Angela-CommunityManager, we tend to not go on trips longer than 15ish days. It might be hard to completely kill a plant in that time frame due to neglect or overwatering, but if a cat (or a person trying to clean a surface) knocked over one of the plants we have grown an attachment for, I would go through a period of mourning. One example: when my kids were little, we spent two weeks in Guatemala studying Spanish and the Guatemalan culture. That was the first time in my life that I saw poinsettias in the “wild” (not sold as annual indoor plants expected to die two months after Christmas). A number of years ago, I bought a poinsettia and have nurtured it. It happily sits in our dining room window, and is in full bloom right now (I am going to update a few of our home pictures and will have a contrast between 2019 and 2022 poinsettia plant). Every time I see our poinsettia, my mind goes back to our wonderful experience at Lake Atitlan. I would mourn, but I wouldn’t hold it against our sitter (or our pets).

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I think the only really terrible thing to happen to a houseplant on my watch was an infestation of caterpillars that attacked a potted patio plant and in a matter of 1-2 days ate it all the way down to the dirt. I tried to pick them off while it was happening, but there were just too many, like 50-60 of them. The owners weren’t upset at all but I did feel bad about it. At least I tried!

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We just returned from a sit where the homeowners said we didn’t tend to the plants properly and they were dying. They had about 20 plants everywhere in their home and a lot of them didn’t look well when we arrived. We diligently watered them. I wanted to cut off dead leaves etc. and clean them up but my husband said to leave them so I’d like to know from other sitters - would you have cut off dead leaves etc. from the plants? My husband didn’t think it was our place to do that.