Noob Mistakes (You made when you first started growing Hoyas)
In another thread I casually brought up the fact that I made a lot of mistakes when I first started collecting Hoyas and GT asked me to elaborate.
I guarantee you I've made more mistakes than anyone else here, but I thought I'd start a brand new thread in case anyone else wants to chime in and keep me company with their own beginner fiascos. ;D
Mistake 1: Taking your eye off the ball too fast
When you are just starting out, the following are easy to do:
1. Buying a group of Hoyas
2. Rooting a group of Hoyas
3. Finding room for a group of Hoyas
You know what's not easy?
Keeping young plants with newly established roots happy. I kind of think there are a finite number of "newborn" plants that any one person can really do a good job nurturing. This number expands if you are used to having "newborns" in your care, and as you become more seasoned with Hoyas in general. It is a mistake to take a plant off this "delicates" roster until it's a year or more old. This includes most rooted plants you receive from vendors. Even EA plants.
Mistake 2: Not focusing on rare but easy plants
Here's the thing. When you are a frothing-at-the-mouth new collector like I was, aside from wanting as many plants as humanly possible, you also want rare and interesting plants. Since you are a noob, you often mistake plants that people talk about a lot, for being the most interesting and desirable plants. It also happens that advanced members talk a lot about plants that are hard to grow because these are harder to get cuttings of and harder to keep alive once you get them. So, noob-ghost tended to buy a lot of plants she had no business buying.
Yeah, sure, I'm not a black thumb and I would have had a good enough shot at keeping those plants alive if I were collecting at the rate of 10/yr, but oh boy I was on a wild ride, so there was no way I was focused enough to give them the attention they required.
And this is really annoying in retrospect because there are a gajillion Hoyas that are rare AND easy as pie. If every time I bought a campanulata, I instead invested in an illagiarum, I would have had sooooo much nicer a time and so much less guilt and wasted money.
Seriously guys, don't start with campanulata, don't start with flagelatta, don't start with chinghungensis and greenii. Leave them alone until you've slowed your roll. And then, pick them up and you'll enjoy them instead of hating them.
Mistake 3: Trading too early
Trading is so awesome and everyone should do it. Because traders rarely cut their plants, and often grow in conditions similar to yours, their cuttings are so so easy-peasy to root and grow. And so many people in the community are a lot easier to get to know via email and phone than on the forum. You have no idea how much more you will love everyone on GW once you start to trade them, because they are all freaking sweethearts, and you'd never know it because most of them don't talk.
Okay, problem one is you are a trading dummy when you first start out. That part is okay because people will be nice and let you make dumb mistakes with them. The REAL beginner mistake is cutting your plants down too small. You do this because you are so eager to make new friends and get new plants. (For me it was mainly about making friends)
The thing is, you are not just a trading dummy. You are also a growing dummy. And all your plants are newborns. So you are much more likely to lose the plant you just cut down to a sprig once winter comes. Idk how many plants I lost because when they started to go downhill, there wasn't much of them to start with, so by the time I realized there was a problem and then figured out what to do, they had diminished to a shriveled node. And I know I'm not alone because I know a lot of the other little noobies I traded with would go through the same thing. So, my advice to past-me is: Just chill out! Spend a few years growing and then you can trade to your heart's content! Unfortunately, past-me knew this and totally did it anyway, because past-me is an impatient idiot.
Mistake 4: Not honoring the value of the plant
I think a lot of people do this. You get a new plant and you're all excited and you put it on the shelf and then you are on to the next thing. Even if you paid $30 for that cutting (my first big-dollar plant was megalantha - boy did that feel fancy at the time) chances are it too will be subject to the old-news treatment. The thing you will eventually get pounded into your skull is that a plant isn't just valued by its price tag. It's also valuable because it is difficult to come across. And some of the plants that you take your eye off, you will never be able to acquire again, and you will spend years looking to replace, and if you had just done a proper job of taking care of them to begin with… /cue mom's voice here...
The thing is, the list of plants in your Graveyard (yes, I have a subdirectory of my database called the Graveyard) will grow every year no matter how dutiful you are or experienced you are. Don't start it out with a huge influx during your first few years, because those names will always weigh heavy on your stupid stupid heart, no matter how much you try to forget them.
Mistake 5: Experimenting too much/Overcomplicating things
When you are new you have so many experienced people throwing so many interesting looking ideas and strategies at you, and you just want to try them all. So, you try every different medium mixture and then a bunch of your plants end up on different watering schedules. Or every time you get a batch of plants to root, you try a different method - then instead of learning from the mistakes you made last time you are making a whole new set of mistakes. Or you put a bunch of plants in semi-hydro or terra cotta pots or mounted on bark or in shells… but never really commit to the method so they just end up as a weird section of your collection you're always forgetting to maintain.
I guess I'm just saying, calm down. Give yourself time to absorb the results of each experiment before setting up the next one. Maybe create a book of ideas for the future instead of trying each one right this second, all at the same time.
Mistake 6: Overestimating the power of organization
I was convinced that organizing my plants the right way was going to solve so many problems. So, first I organized them according to temperature preference, so that when my place got cold in the winter, I'd know which group to worry about. (Bzzzt - it turns out my home doesn't, in fact, get too cold for Hoyas, so this was a waste of time.)
Then I organized them according to watering preference, and potted the ones that needed more water and the ones that needed less water in different mediums. (Bzzzt - I ended up mixing the different-medium plants in with the others, and consistently under/over-watering them.)
Then I organized them according to maturity, so that all the big plants were on the big shelves and all the little plants were on short shelves where I could (in theory) keep an eye on them better. (Bzzzt - not all vulnerable plants are short and not all short plants are vulnerable, and I put all my lacunosas in one flat on this shelf and it took me A WHOLE DAY a couple weekends ago to untangle them again)
Mostly I think no amount of strategic organization is going to make up for just spending time with the plants. BUT most of the methods I tried were obviously very silly. What has worked for me is grouping like kinds together. Plants with similar types of leaves tend to have similar needs. And as you become aware of their needs, you can adjust for the whole flat. It also makes it easier to see the differences among plants of the same or similar species. And it keeps all the mealie-tasty plants together so if I have an outbreak, I know exactly where to focus my eradication efforts.
Mistake 7: Experimenting with labels and pens
Ugggggggggggggg. While I've never lost a label, I have spent countless frustrated hours trying to work out a blurred label while agonizingly checking every other plant against my master list to see which one wasn't accounted for. I've also spent a lot of time rewriting labels because when the plants came in I'd use whatever random tags I had lying around and whatever pen hadn't run dry.
Save yourself some trouble and get a good stock of UV-resistant gardening pens, decide on your favorite labels and always keep a TON of them in stock. And while we're talking about keeping things in stock, never run out of dragonfly clips or hoops. I wish I could put those on a monthly delivery subscription or something. Nobody ever runs out of pots, but I swear, the size of hoop I need is always the size of hoop I am out of.
Mistake 8: Trying to keep too-detailed records
Honestly, what people decide to track in their database is up to them. I am not recommending anything in particular. I'm just saying if you make it too complicated, you're going to start putting off updating your database because it's so much work, and before you know it, it's the end of the year and you don't know what plants you have anymore and have to go through a million emails to remember what came from who and when.
Mistake 9: Not having a plant map
This bit of advice is only for people who are likely to end up with several hundred plants. Seriously, make yourself a plant map. I like doing it in excel AND pen and paper. I love my plant map almost more than I love my database. I can't even believe there was a time when I didn't have a plant map - that's how much more I use it than my database, which I never look at except when I update it.
Aside from telling you EXACTLY where everything is, it's a great help in keeping your inventory straight, because when a hole appears, you know what used to be there. And if a label fades, you have a backup record of what the plant is. And if you are doing a trade, it takes 2 seconds to find the plants you are looking for. And you don't have to go muscling in and fiddling to see what a plant label says because it's all on your handy clipboard. You can confirm the plant ID from across the room. Plant map plant map plant maaaaap.
Mistake 10: Reroot reroot reroot
The number one reason noobs lose plants is because they overwater them. The number two reason noobs lose plants is because they don't want to re-root because it seems too extreme. Welllllll, you can run around repotting the plant, switching its medium, putting it in a different window, but if it's got that tell-tale shriveled look, that's going to be about as effective as giving a starving man a locked refrigerator. Man up and reroot as soon as you see the signs. Do not drag your feet like a chump.
That is not nearly all I have to say on this subject, but I am pretty sure if I make this any longer GardenWeb is going to give me posting error that just says TL;DR