A FEW KEY TIPS…
Despite our best intentions and care, sometimes our houseplants may have a difficult time thriving. And with so many amazing choices and varieties out there, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the different and individual needs and care that they require.
GET TO KNOW YOUR PLANT
So the first and most obvious step, is simply getting to know your specific plant(s) species! Read the care tag, check out a book, or look it up online–there is a ton of readily-available and helpful information in the plant community Understanding what kind of environment and conditions your plant likes is critical to your plant’s happiness! Remembering a few key concepts and tips, will have you well on your way to being a proud plant parent.
Overwatering, not underwatering, oddly enough, is the quickest and easiest way to kill your plant babies. Because of so many variables, such as the plant’s variety, size, and location, there is no exact schedule. Allowing the surface of the soil to dry out at least an inch or two between waterings, is a good gauge of when it needs to be watered (go ahead–stick your finger in it!). Depending upon the season and the conditions of your home, this could be a few days to a week. Avoid consistently damp soil, ensure the plant has good drainage with a tray, but don’t allow it to sit in water. Water your plants slowly and thoroughly at the base with room temperature water in the mornings, avoiding getting the leaves wet when possible.
LIGHT & TEMPERATURE
Another huge element to your plant’s happiness and success, is giving them the ideal location with regards to lighting and temperature. Most indoor plants do well with a temperature range between 55 and 75 degrees. And again, because all plants have different needs, doing a little bit of research can give you a pretty good idea where they would be happiest. Plants are not big fans of moving around, so finding the perfect spot straight away is essential! For even more about precise lighting conditions and specific plant species, see our post…
In the Winter, our homes and offices are often drier than plants prefer, so adding humidity is essential. This can be achieved in several ways; morning misting (again, with room temperature water), a tray with pebbles, a humidifier, or even showering with your plants!
SOIL & FERTILIZER
Be sure to always begin with a good potting soil (organic when possible!). However for cacti, succulents, orchids, or African violets, there are different, specific planting mediums that are better-suited. A water-soluble houseplant-specific fertilizer, applied once every couple of months, is usually a good rule of thumb. Only fertilize your houseplants during their active growing season (typically March thru September). Fertilizing in their dormant Winter-resting season is not necessary and can actually harm your plant.
MAINTENANCE & REPOTTING
So you’ve got the general water and light game down, now what? Help keep your growing friends happy by simply noticing what they are looking like. Pinch off dead leaves and flowers to encourage new growth, and wipe down leaves with room temperature water when needed. A gentle rinse in the shower is also a good option for those plants whose leaves don’t lend themselves to the task of hand-cleaning. Dust and dirt can actually block your plant’s pores, partially preventing it from absorbing the full amount of light.
Inevitably, most your plants will need to be repotted at some point. Ideally, the best time to repot is in Spring, when your plant has come out of its slower dormant period. But if you see signs that indicate your plant has outgrown its vessel, then it is the right time!
So what are the signs? If the soil doesn’t drain properly when you water the plant, that could be because the roots have spread too much for the size of the plant pot; this, of course, can cause the health of the plant to suffer. If the roots have become visible, and are poking out the top of the soil, or through the bottom of the pot, that is another sign that the plant needs to be moved to a larger pot. If the plant has become obviously unhealthy, is sagging or losing color, these are also signs that perhaps it should be repotted to regain access to beneficial nutrients that will help it return to optimal health.
Make sure your plant is well-watered and hydrated before repotting. A properly hydrated plant is a healthy plant; having optimal hydration will help to lower the risk of shock when your indoor plant is moved from the pot that it is currently in. Have fresh potting soil ready and choose a vessel that can accommodate new growth without being too large. Make sure there is adequate room at the top and bottom of the pot for a healthy layer of soil. Free up and loosen roots that may have become to restricted. Finally, gently transfer to its new home.
Keep in mind, the process of repotting is stressful to an indoor plant. As a result, you will want to make sure you don’t subject your plant to any additional stresses for a few days. Keep it out of the light that is too strong and water it only lightly; do not oversaturate the soil. For even more information on repotting, see our post…