By Bethany Hayes
Something about the idea of house plants seems intimidating to even the most experienced gardener. Growing house plants is a lovely way to bring some greenery inside your home while also purifying your indoor air, but too many people think caring for these plants is too hard.
Adding a few plants indoors adds a different appeal to your room. Plants immediately create a sense of freshness while also a cozy, homey feel that everyone loves. Everyone enjoys houseplants, no matter if you live in the city or country, and you can find plants that grow in any situation.
Best of all, caring for house plants isn’t complicated. These plants tend to die more often because you took care of them TOO much rather than not allowed – there is such a thing as too much love in the plant world! Despite what you might think, indoor plants tend to be hardier and require less care than their outdoor counterparts.
So, let’s dig into their care and what you need to know before diving into the world of growing house plants.
House Plant Care 101: How to Take Care of Your Plants
Before you decide to dig into the world of growing house plants, you need to understand the basics – what is required to keep these plants alive and happy. All plants have slightly different needs – more or less water, more or less humidity, etc. But best practices can be applied to all house plants regardless of their types.
It all starts with picking the RIGHT plants for your home, then focusing on the best light exposure, watering schedule, container, soil, and feeding plan for your plants to survive and thrive. So, let’s take a look at all of the requirements you need to know.
I promise; it’s not THAT complicated!
1. Pick The Right Houseplants
You know the temptation. You go to the store and see a beautiful plant; you immediately want to bring it home. So, you do without taking a moment to read up on its needs.
Don’t feel bad; we’ve all impulse shopped.
However, when you buy plants, you have to make sure they’re the right plants for you. Make sure you know what type of light is required, as well as their watering needs and general room temperature.
Not only do these factors help you figure out if they’ll work in your home, but you also need this information to pick out the right soil and container to buy. Having some background knowledge on each plant you bring into your home is step one of caring for house plants.
2. Understand The Lighting Needs
Chances are in elementary school, you learned that all plants need light to survive. Plants use light to create energy through a process called photosynthesis – this should sound familiar!
Some light is necessary for all house plants, but how much light each plant needs to thrive is different. When you buy a plant, most will have tags or some label that says either “full sunlight,” “indirect light,” “moderate light,” or “low light.”
Let’s look at what each of these general light requirements means for you.
- Full Sunlight or Bright Direct Light
You can bet what this requirement means – your plant needs full sunlight. These plants want sunlight on its leaves for as many hours of the day as possible. Most houseplants don’t fit into this category; they don’t want sun rays on them all hours of the day. This is especially true because sitting plants near a window can cause burning through the window panes.
For these plants, putting them on a sunny windowsill can be the best bet, especially a south-facing one.
- Indirect Bright Light
This type of light is what most house plants prefer and love the most. Indirect bright light is when you grow your plants in a brightly-lit room with windows or glass doors close, but there is little to no direct sunlight.
- Moderate or Low Light
Your apartment or house might have low-lights; that’s okay! Many houseplants prefer to grow in conditions with moderate to low light. That typically means they receive 4-6 hours of sunlight, generally indirect light.
These plants can grow in a room with a window, even if the window is north-facing. Even these windows bring enough natural light to keep these plants growing.
If the room where you want to grow house plants doesn’t have enough light, you can supplement with artificial light. You can use fluorescent lights even if you don’t have any windows nearby.
3. Pick a Good Container for Each of Your Plants
After you figure out how much light your plants need, you have to pick out the right container for your plants. The most important thing to remember is that you must pick a container that has drainage holes. Plants will die in containers without any holes; standing water results in root rot.
Most containers have holes already at the bottom with a drip pan at the bottom of the pot. Some are attached, and some are built-in with the containers. It can be as simple as a plastic plate or a ceramic matching one.
So what do you do if you find a container you love, but it doesn’t have drainage holes? You have two options.
- Use a ceramic drill bit to add holes to the bottom of the pot.
- Put your plant into a smaller container that will fit inside of the large one. Then, put rocks inside the bigger one that you love, creating a space for the water to drain.
The size of your pot matters because if you buy a too-small pot, it’ll restrict your plant’s growth. Restricted roots can also cause foliar growth problems. For a small houseplant, it’s not a huge deal; some even thrive in moderate-sized pots.
However, if you want to grow large plants, such as elephant ears or rubber tree, you need a large container. Keep in mind that it’s best to gradually increase your pot’s size as your plant grows rather than just going for the biggest size immediately.
4. Always Use The Right Soil
Never, EVER use soil out of your garden outside. Not only is it the wrong consistency, but it also can contain pests and diseases. It’s a serious no-go.
You want to use potting soil that is labeled for container gardening. Some will come amended with compost, which isn’t always needed for house plants, but it will give your plants a boost of nutrients at the start.
5. Don’t Forget to Water Your Plants!
Watering is one of the hardest things to get right for gardeners. Over and under-watering are problematic, so you need to get it right. Overwatering tends to be one of the frequent killers of house plants.
Despite what you might think, more water is not better for your plants. Instead, it would be best if you let the soil dry out between waterings. The soil shouldn’t be totally dry, but it shouldn’t feel wet or soggy when you go to water again.
Your watering schedule will vary based on the humidity in your house and what plants you’re growing. It’s best to come up with a watering routine; your plants appreciate consistency.
For example, you might water all of your house plants on Sunday and check on Thursday to see if they need a bit more to last throughout the weekend. As you work on this routine, you might realize some can go two weeks between watering.
When in doubt, water less. The plant will start to wilt, letting you know that it needs more water.
What about humidity?
Many house plants like slightly humid air, and some can’t live without humidity. If you live in dry climates, you might need to mist your plants weekly with a spray bottom. Serious gardeners use humidifiers.
6. Feeding Plants is Required Too
All plants need fertilizer from time to time. Your fertilizing schedule should be based on each plant that you add; they all have different needs. Generally, they need to be fed every two to three months, but some only need fed twice per year.
Look for a granular fertilizer meant for house plants. Follow the directions on the container to avoid burning your plants with too much fertilizer.
7. Prune Those Dead Leaves
If you see dead or dying leaves, don’t be afraid to remove that foliage. It’s quite normal for plants to shed the oldest leaves as they grow, typically the lowest leaves. Don’t let this freak you out.
Pruning is needed because it encourages your plants to create new growth. It’ll send energy toward foliage growth; it’s part of the growth cycle.
Don’t yank off the leaves. Some will fall off easily, but use a clean knife or trimming shears if they don’t.
8. Some Plants Have to be Trained
Not all plants need support, but your plants might! Once again, this depends on the type of plant you grow; you can easily research to see if training or staking is required.
Typically, you’ll need a stake and soft wire or garden twice to attach the plant to the stake. Training can also be useful if you find that your plants lean or bend towards the light. It’s best to rotate them to avoid bending, but staking helps.
9. Dust Your Plants – Yes, I’m Serious
Do you ever see a picture of shiny house plants and wonder how they do that? They dust their plants. Dust settles on everything in your house, plants included.
You can take your plants and spray water over the leaves in the sink or shower. Another option is to use a damp cloth to wipe down the individual leaves.
10. Change Pot Sizes When Needed
Gradually changing the pot sizes is part of growing house plants. You don’t want to jump sizes drastically; this is a gradual process.
Here are some reasons that you might want to change pot sizes for your house plants.
- You know that your house plant has been in the same container for a long time, and it seems to have stopped growing.
- Water runs out immediately, which indicates root binding.
- You see roots poking out the bottom drainage holes.
- The plant seems to be top-heavy or overgrown.
Think it’s time to size up? Here are some simple tips to follow. It’s not as hard as you might think!
- Never pull up on the stem; gently remove the plant.
- If it looks as if the roots are tightly wound, that means your plant is root-bound. You’ll need to gently loosen the roots with your hands or cut them free with a clean knife.
- When reusing an old pot, you MUST clean it out with soapy water or even a diluted bleach solution. Failure to clean the pot beforehand can cause the transfer of diseases.
- Add soil to the bottom of the container, put the plant into the new container so you can adjust the soil level as needed. Then, fill in the container with new potting soil.
Growing house plants isn’t as hard as you might think. It all starts with picking plants that grow well in your home and the best containers for them. Then, remember to water, mist, and feed your plants on a regular schedule to keep them growing and thriving.