Care Of Houseplants: The Basics Of Growing Houseplants


By: Heather Rhoades

Growing houseplants is an excellent way to not only beautify your home, but to purify the air as well. Many houseplants are tropical plants and the care for tropical houseplants can vary, but there are a few rules of thumb to follow for indoor houseplant care. Keep reading to learn more about the basic care of houseplants.

Care of Houseplants

Light

Light is an important part of indoor houseplant care. In order to provide the right amount of light for your houseplant, make sure to check the tag on the plant when you purchase it. If the houseplant is given to you, ask the person giving it to you what kind of light it needs.

Generally houseplants need either high, medium, or low light. Beyond this, a houseplant may need direct (bright) light or indirect light.

  • Bright or direct light– Light that is bright will be light that comes from a window. The brightest light will come from a south-facing window.
  • Indirect light– Indirect light is light that comes from a light bulb or is sunlight that has been filtered through something, like a curtain.
  • High light houseplants– If the indoor houseplant care instructions for a houseplant call for high light, this plant will need five or more hours of bright light, preferably near a south-facing window. High light houseplants need to be within 6 feet (2 m.) of a window.
  • Medium light houseplants– For proper houseplant maintenance of medium light houseplants, they should be exposed to several hours of bright or indirect light. This light can come from a window or from overhead lighting.
  • Low light houseplants – Low light houseplants need very little light. Typically, these houseplants do well in rooms that have light but no windows. That being said, low light plants need light of some kind. If a room has no windows and the lights stay off most of the time, the houseplant will not survive.

Water

When growing houseplants, water is essential. The general rule of thumb is that you should only water a houseplant if the top of the soil feels dry. Watering this way is correct for most indoor houseplant care.

A few houseplants, particularly succulents and cacti, only need to be watered when the soil is completely dry and a few others may need to be kept constantly moist. The houseplants that have special watering needs will be marked as such on their tag when you buy them. If there are no special instructions for watering on the tag, then you can go by the “dry to the touch” rule for watering care of houseplants.

Fertilizer

For houseplant maintenance, they can be fertilized one of two ways. The first is through water, the other is through slow release fertilizer. Which you use for growing houseplants is up to you. Both work well.

When you fertilize through water, you will add a water soluble fertilizer to the plant’s water about once a month in warm weather and once every two months in cooler weather.

If you want to use a slow release fertilizer, add it to the soil once every two to three months.

Temperature

Since most houseplants are actually tropical plants, they cannot tolerate cold temperatures. The care for tropical houseplants requires that the houseplants be kept in rooms that are between 65 and 75 degrees F. (18-21 C.). These are the temperatures that most houseplants prefer. If needed though, many houseplants can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees F. (13 C.), but they will not thrive at temperatures this low for too long.

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Hellebores As Houseplants? Tips for Their Care Indoors

Visiting a garden center at this time of year may reveal pots of white-blooming hellebores among the poinsettia, Christmas cactus and other holiday favorites. These hellebores are usually selections and hybrids of Helleborus niger, also known as the Christmas rose. It's a perennial that typically blooms in December where winters are mild. In colder-climate gardens, the Christmas rose may bloom in late fall or in earliest spring. Helleborus niger and its cultivars are generally winter hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9.

This Christmas rose cools off on the balcony.

The Christmas rose’s natural bloom time, its large, clean white flowers and its deep green foliage has made it an easy plant to mix in among holiday decorations. (Note: They are poisonous if ingested.) Unfortunately, hellebores are not particularly suited to the conditions found inside most homes in winter. One problem is the air temperature. Hellebores prefer cool winter temps. Another problem is low light. To help them cope, follow these tips.

In any locale:

  • Keep your potted Christmas rose in as cool a spot as possible when you aren’t enjoying it, preferably one with bright light. (That is, feel free to set it on the coffee table during your holiday gathering, but keep it on an enclosed porch, drafty entryway or other chilly area at other times.)
  • Water sparingly, but do not let the plant get so dry that it wilts. Allow the soil to dry just somewhat between waterings, and avoid wetting the leaves. Wet soil and wet foliage can lead to disease on Christmas rose.

Where winters are mild and the ground does not freeze:

  • Gradually move the plant outdoors, leaving it out longer each day in a sheltered area (such as right next to the house). This will prevent any shock.
  • Once it is acclimated to staying out day and night, plant the hellebore in your garden. Hellebores prefer part shade and protection from afternoon sun. They need great drainage.

Where winters are cold and the ground freezes:

  • Keep the hellebore in as cool an indoor spot as you can offer. Bright light is preferable, too.
  • If the foliage begins to yellow, find a colder spot to keep the hellebore, such as a garage or a sheltered spot outside.
  • Continue to water sparingly and carefully.
  • As spring approaches, begin transitioning the hellebore outside, treating it as you would seedlings that you’re hardening off.
  • Once it is acclimated to staying out day and night and the danger of a freeze has passed (danger of frost is okay, though), plant the hellebore in your garden. Choose a spot with part shade and protection from afternoon sun. Excellent drainage is key.
  • If despite your efforts your hellebore “houseplant” doesn’t survive its winter indoors, use it as inspiration to purchase and plant new hellebores in spring—for the garden only.


Temperature

Excessively low or high temperatures may stop growth or cause a spindly appearance, foliage damage, leaf drop, or plant failure. However, most indoor plants tolerate normal temperature fluctuations.

    In general, foliage indoor plants grow best between 70° and 80°F during the day and from 60° to 68°F at night

Most flowering indoor plants prefer the same daytime range but grow best at nighttime temperatures of 55° to 60°F

A good rule of thumb is to keep the night temperature 10 to 15°F lower than the day temperature to induce physiological recovery from moisture loss, intensify flower color, and prolong flower life and

Indoor plants, especially flowering varieties, are sensitive to drafts or heat from registers. Protect them from sudden, brief changes in temperature. Do not locate your indoor plants near heat or air conditioning sources.

Humidity

  • Most indoor environments lack sufficient humidity for healthy indoor plants, particularly in the winter.

With the exception of the cacti and succulents, all indoor plants benefit from treatments to raise the humidity in their vicinity.

It is questionable whether misting plants really increases humidity. If you decide t do so use tepid water and do not mist the leaves of plants with fuzzy leaves like African violets. Mist early in the day so the leaves dry before evening.

An alternative is to place pots on a tray filled with pebbles and water to increase humidity in the area around the plants.

  • If you group plants together in a room, they will collectively raise the humidity in their area. An automatic humidifier can provide extra humidity for plants and people in the home.

  • CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLANTS

    When you’re out plant shopping (aka the Best. Thing. Ever) and a green beauty catches your eye, take a moment to read up on its needs before bringing her home. I’m sure most of you have your phone with you when you’re out, right? Do a quick Google search. Does it like bright direct light? Low indirect light? Lots of water? Not much? Ambient warm temperatures and no cold drafts? Humidity, or arid conditions? How large will it get? Knowing these things will help you decide what kind of soil and container to get for it as well.

    Choose plants that should work well for your space, and what you feel like you can manage.

    Low-maintenance houseplants

    I will put together a more detailed follow-up article about the best low-maintenance houseplants, but here is a quick low down: Personally, I have found that the easiest, no-fuss houseplants include snake plants (Sansevieria), Pothos (aka Devil’s Ivy), Monstera, Dieffenbachia, Philodendrons, cacti, and succulents like jade or aloe vera. I also have no problem growing fiddle leaf figs like weeds, but I realize many others struggle with them! We’ll talk more about fiddle leafs to follow, I promise.

    Over time, you’ll find what kinds of houseplants jive well with you and what you have to offer, and which seem to hate you. I know I have! Yes, I have killed many a houseplant over the years. Don’t beat yourself up if you do too. It happens! For example, ferns and I don’t get along. They do well outside on our shady porch, but not inside, for whatever reason.

    So guess what? I just stopped trying to keep ferns indoors, and other finicky plants too. Instead, I stick with the trusty friends that I know won’t let me down… even if I neglect them a little. Because let’s be real: I don’t have time to baby our houseplants. If they can’t thrive with my super basic care routine, they’re out.

    One of our plant corners, several years ago versus now. Some plants come and go! Like that beautiful striped zebra plant. It always had brown spots and was way too finicky to keep looking nice. So she’s gone. Snake plants and ficus never let us down though! That tiny fiddle leaf fig is about four feet tall now, living in another corner. The new cubby shelf is full of air plants, which deserve a post of their own.

    Edible houseplants

    In addition to the classic ornamental houseplants listed above, consider growing food inside! A popular and fun choice is keeping culinary herbs in your kitchen window. Basil is the perfect container-friendly, easy-to-grow herb for this. If you need some tips, here is an article all about growing bushy basil – which can be applied to indoors, or out!

    If you have the space for it, potted dwarf citrus trees can also be grown indoors. Hell, most dwarf fruit trees can live inside, though their ability to provide fruit may vary – depending on if they’re self-fertile, or if they need cross pollination. Another fun and easy edible you could grow indoors are sprouts and micro-greens.

    Additionally, many people start their garden veggie seedlings indoors under grow lights. Check out this article for seed starting 101. While the typical intention is to eventually move them outdoors, there is no reason you couldn’t keep on growing them inside. That is, as long as you have adequate light and space for them!

    Plants need light to live. They derive their energy needed to grow from light through photosynthesis. But you know this, right? So that means that no, sorry, I can’t suggest a type of plant for a room with zero windows and awful dim artificial lighting. That just isn’t going to end well.

    While some light is necessary for all houseplants to be happy, the amount they’ll thrive in varies drastically. The tags or descriptions for most houseplants will say things like “full sun”, “bright indirect light”, “moderate light”, and so on. But what do all these things mean, exactly?

    Full sun or bright direct light

    Full sun is exactly what it sounds like. The suns rays beat directly down on the plant, a majority of the day. A plant in a sunny windowsill, especially a south-facing one, would receive bright direct light. In my experience, most house plants don’t love the hot sun rays beating down on them directly. Even more, the light and heat is amplified through window panes, and can cause sunburn and yellowing of the leaves.

    Plants that love bright, direct light: Succulents and cacti. Some of the others listed below will tolerate some direct sun, particularly in the morning or for short periods of time. Plants may also survive in direct sun, but not look their best. Staghorn ferns are a perfect example, who turn yellow, sunburning slightly. Our happiest staghorn gets zero direct sun on our shaded north-facing porch.

    When I got an office space with a large, south-facing window, I was ecstatic! But I knew the only plants that would be happy along that hot sunny windowsill were cacti and succulents. These were all the plants I loaded up to bring to work. The fiddle leaf, snake plant, and dieffenbachia went in a corner away from the window.

    Bright indirect light

    This is the type of light that most houseplants love and flourish in. A location in a brightly-lit room with windows, a skylight, or glass doors nearby, but with little to no direct sun contact. Make sense?

    Plants that love bright indirect light include: Monstera, Ficus (including Fiddle Leaf Figs, Weeping Ficus, and Rubber Trees), Alocasia (Elephant Ear), Spider Plants, Parlor Palm, Prayer Plant, and air plants. These guys will also tolerate moderate light, but may not be quite as content in low light.

    The plants in the bay window receive direct sun, but only for a couple hours in the morning. The rest of the day, this is the perfect spot for plants that love bright indirect light. Shown from left to right are a fiddle leaf fig, a hanging swiss cheese philodendron above it (trailing across the window), a corn plant, a large Alocasia aka elephant ear, snake plant in the basket on the floor, and a marble queen pothos hanging in the corner. Tucked off to the left of the bookshelf (not shown) is a darker corner with low to moderate light, where we have a rubber tree, hanging satin pothos, and another fiddle leaf fig.

    Moderate to low light houseplants

    If your house, apartment, room, or other living space has fairly low-light, don’t lose hope! There are many houseplants that will live in lower light conditions. As long as a room has a window, even small or north-facing, enough natural light should filter in to keep some plants growing happily. Please know that not all of the rooms in our house are as bright as the ones I am showing today. Our bedrooms are much darker, but they’re full of plants happily growing too!

    Some low-to-medium light loving plants that are easy to care for are Sansevieria (Snake Plant), Pothos (Devils Ivy), Dieffenbachia, Ivy, ZZ Plant, Philodendron, Calathea, and Chinese Evergreen, and many types of ferns. Of these, pothos, snake plant, and philodendron will grow well in the least light. The fun thing is, there are many varieties of each of these too! For example, there are green leaf and silver spotted philodendrons, marbled or plain pothos, and dozens of types of snake plants.

    Maximizing light

    There are ways to maximize the natural light your houseplants receive, such as by hanging plants in front of a window that doesn’t get direct sun rays – such as one that overlooks a covered porch. Many plant enthusiasts use open-concept shelving to increase the amount of light that reaches their plants, as opposed to traditional solid bookcases. The use of mirrors and light colored paint may also help amplify light in a room.

    This is one of our sunniest corners in the house, with bright ambient light (but no direct sun). I am standing at our south-facing sliding glass door, looking in. Knowing this was the perfect space for plants, we loaded it with shelves, mirrors, and plant stands – to fit the most plants in the ideal space as possible.

    Artificial light

    When adequate natural light isn’t readily available, you can always supplement with artificial light! Houseplants grow surprisingly well in office environments with ample fluorescent lights, no where near windows! The same idea can be applied in your home. You could pick up an individual grow light or two to keep your plant friends happy!

    Typical household incandescent bulbs aren’t the best for fueling plants. Instead, you’ll want fluorescents or LEDs. We use these fluorescent grow lights to start our seedlings, which can be mounted to the underside of a shelf or similar. When it comes to using LED, do take precaution that it is not good for your eyes to be around the ones that put off pink light. There are also some flexible, modern LED light options that look more like sunlight and are easier on the eyes, like this one.

    It is best to turn on grow lights for 8-12 hours per day, mirroring the time of natural daylight. If you want to take it a step further, there are some pretty badass light shelving units out there made for growing seedlings or houseplants inside, like these sleek LED bamboo shelves.

    HOUSEPLANT CONTAINERS & POTS

    Drainage

    I will cut straight to the point: Do not pot your houseplants in a container that doesn’t have a drainage hole. It will die. All plants need drainage, and will rot away without it!

    Some pots already have drainage holes along with a built-in or attached drip pan around the bottom. Others may need a separate saucer added below. This can be as simple as a clear plastic one, an old plate, or a nice matching ceramic option. Some saucers or pots sweat moisture from below, so I usually place our pots and trays on top of a sizable cork coaster to further protect the furniture or surface it is sitting on.

    If you find an adorable pot that you can’t live without but it lacks a drainage hole, you have a few options. One is to plant your houseplant in a slightly smaller container with drainage holes, and nest it inside the larger one. Use a few rocks or other clever insert to prop up the inner pot, creating a space below for excess water to drain to. Dump the collected water as needed. The same concept applies to placing pots with drainage holes and drip trays inside decorative baskets.

    The second option is to create a drainage hole in the container. We have used a ceramic drill bit to carefully add holes and modify some of our pots.

    Two examples of “nesting” smaller pots with drainage holes inside larger ones that do not have holes. Each inner pot will sit elevated above the bottom of the other, creating space for moisture to drain away. Also, a cork coaster is being used under the one on the right. Even though it doesn’t have a hole, the stone pot sweats.

    The size of the pot that your houseplant lives in will generally limit the size it will grow to. Restricted roots can lead to restricted foliar growth. For the average small houseplant, it is not much of a concern. Furthermore, some types of houseplants seem less impacted by small containers. For example, our pothos vines grow to extremely long lengths for years and years in the same modest pot.

    However, if you are trying to encourage your monstera, fiddle leaf fig, elephant ear, rubber tree, or other potentially large houseplant to grow to impressive heights, keep this in mind. It is best to gradually pot-up your plant into slightly larger containers every year or two as it grows, giving its roots more space and enabling the plant to reach its full potential. Read more about potting up below.

    In addition to allowing for larger growth, one additional benefit of a bigger pot is better moisture retention. The majority of the plants we have indoors are fairly drought tolerant, so we want quite the opposite. Yet a few of our plants love water. One such plant is our large Elephant Ears, or Alocasia. As tropical plants, they are thirsty little devils! To overcome the need to water them more than once a week (when everyone else gets watered), we plant them in larger pots. More soil means more water-holding capacity.

    Potting up or re-potting houseplants

    When it comes time to transplant your houseplant babe into a new pot, be it when you first bring it home or as part of routine care later, keep in mind that most plants do not like to jump from a small pot to a drastically larger one. Size up gradually.

    Potting up an Alocasia (elephant ear) to a modestly larger but not massive pot.

    Potential reasons to pot up houseplants:

    • The plant has been in the same container for a long time, looks sad, and has stopped growing.
    • When water runs immediately through the soil and out the bottom, signaling poor soil structure or root binding.
    • When roots are poking through the bottom drainage hole, or severely winding around themselves.
    • If a plant is top-heavy, overgrown, and/or toppling over.

    Tips for potting up houseplants:

    • When removing the plant from the old container, do so gently. Do not pull up on the stem.
    • Tip the pot on its side and try to ease the root ball out. As needed, use a trowel or other tool to loosen the soil along the inner walls of the container.
    • If the roots and soil look good and healthy, try to disturb them as little as possible.
    • If the roots are tightly wound around themselves, also known as being “root bound”, gently loosen and unwind some of the outer and lower roots. Do this with your hands, or cut them free with a clean, sharp knife.
    • If you are re-using an old pot, make sure to clean it well first with soapy water and even some hydrogen peroxide. This prevents spread of disease or pests to new plants. Read more about sanitizing garden supplies and pots here.
    • Place a fresh layer of potting soil in the bottom of the new container. We usually like to cover the drainage hole with a little piece of breathable weed block landscape fabric before adding soil, which prevents loose soil from coming out of the hole.
    • Set the plant in the new container and assess the depth. You want to avoid burying the stalk with new soil, or having the root ball sit too high without soil around it. Adjust your soil level as needed.
    • Add fresh potting soil around the sides of the plant. Make sure to fill it enough to not leave voids of empty space, but do not pack the soil in. Compacted soil doesn’t absorb or drain water well.
    • Water thoroughly after potting up, but avoid using fertilizer for a few weeks to prevent any shock or burning.
    • If you really want to spoil your plant and help reduce any possible transplant shock, check out this article to see how we feed our plants with aloe vera!

    Tips for hanging houseplants

    We love hanging houseplants. Some of the easiest-to-grow plants are trailing ones, such as pothos and philodendron. Additionally, it is one of the best ways to keep plants up and away from cats, dogs, or kiddos. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about cats shortly!

    Hanging plants can be extremely heavy, especially if you use clay or ceramic pots, so you want to take care to do this safely. We use these ceiling hooks that are rated up to 35 pounds of weight in drywall. They do put a rather large hole in the ceiling, so I highly suggest having a helper hold up your plant to visually assess the location before committing! Alternately, you could locate a stud or hang plants from a beam.

    Trailing plants can be allowed to dangle down from their pot all the way to the ground, creating a dramatic effect. Small hooks can also be used to train long vines up along doorways, ceilings, or walls. One of our pothos plants trails along the perimeter of two long walls! Another loops up and down from the ceiling several times to fill out an otherwise empty corner. To keep the vines in place, we often use tiny little screw-in hooks. However, many houseplant enthusiasts prefer to use small damage-free command hooks.

    A few of our hanging plants that wander the house. The top and lower left are pothos, one green and one marbled queen. The lower right is a swiss cheese philodendron.

    Because they’re so heavy and high, I try to avoid taking hanging plants down for watering. Therefore, we prefer to have sufficient drip saucers under the pot, either as part of the pot or tucked within the hanging sling.

    Similar to what I preach for raising seedlings, I do not suggest potting your houseplants with random old soil from your outdoor garden. It may not be the ideal consistency for your houseplants, and also could contain pathogens or pests that you do not want to bring indoors!

    Instead, use a bagged potting soil, or one that is otherwise labelled as good for container gardening. It should be fluffy and well-draining, and always contain some perlite or pumice. Some potting soils will come amended with compost, chicken manure, and other fertilizers. While this isn’t essential for houseplants, these higher-quality soils will give your plant a nice strong start. Furthermore, it will reduce your need to fertilize your plants as soon or as frequently.

    When planting cacti or succulents, choose a bagged cactus potting mix. It will contain even more perlite or pumice to promote good drainage. This is pretty essential for cacti to be happy! For other types of plants that are also known to be drought-tolerant and appreciate good drainage, consider mixing half regular potting soil and half cactus mix.

    On the other hand, if you are growing tropical houseplants that like a lot of moisture – such as monstera or alocasia – you may want to amend your classic potting soil with a little compost or worm castings. This will help increase the moisture retention and create a richer environment that they will enjoy.

    As a large, thirsty, tropical plant, this elephant ear gets a little extra compost and water. She has rewarded us with frequent blooms, which is quite unusual for indoor alocasia! You can smell the pungent flowers the moment you walk in the door, before you even see them. They’re like a mix of vanilla, coconut, jasmine, and a hint of floral musty “old lady perfume”.

    If you are struggling with houseplants, improper watering is a very likely culprit. I’d even venture to bet that overwatering is the number one killer of all houseplants! Particularly if this practice is combined with a lack of drainage holes in the pot.

    How much should I water my houseplants?

    When it comes to watering houseplants, more is not better.

    The recommendation for many houseplants is to allow the soil to slightly dry between waterings. Maybe not entirely dry, but your plant should certainly not be sitting in wet, soggy soil all of the time. They breathe through their roots after all!

    I can’t tell you an exact amount of water to use, since this is going to vary depending on your climate, size of pot, soil type, and so on. A few of our largest pots may get several cups each time they’re watered (elephant ears), some small and drought-tolerant plants only get a little splash (cacti and snake plants), while others get something in between. You’ll develop your own groove and learn what your plants like with time.

    In general, the goal is to provide enough water to dampen the soil for the roots, but not so much that it is pouring out of the drainage hole excessively, or not able to dry a bit between waterings. Which leads us to….

    How often should I water my houseplants?

    Again, your schedule may vary slightly from mine, but I do suggest you get a regular watering routine down. Your plant friends will appreciate a consistent watering application. Plus, developing a routine will help you remember when to water or not! I water all of our potted houseplants once a week on Sunday, and the air plants usually every other week. Some of our plants could easily go two weeks or more without water, but it is easiest for me to do them all at once than remember individual schedules. Therefore, I simply vary the amount of water given to each plant to meet its needs.

    If you aren’t sure about the moisture content of your soil, do a little exploring! Poke. Poke. Even if the top layer of soil looks dry, it could be quite damp an inch or two below the surface.

    When in doubt, water less. But if a plant begins to wilt, you’ve let it dry out too much.

    Here is a good example: We were recently gone for two weeks on vacation. My mom was house sitting and gave a few of our most thirsty plants a little drink. Yet rather than trying to have her guess and adjust for the rest of them, I told her not to bother watering at all. We watered once before we left and again when we got back, and everyone survived. The plants at my office went for nearly three weeks without water during that time! The fiddle leaf fig there looked quite limp and wilted, but perked right back up after being watered. It didn’t even drop a leaf. Brown spots or leaf drop on fiddle leaf fig leaves is usually caused by overwatering.

    Humidity

    Many common houseplants enjoy slightly humid air. Certain plants, like a lot of ferns, can’t live without it! Our Staghorn ferns are the only ones I find the need to mist routinely. We have low to moderate humidity here. I would certainly not call our climate humid – nothing like the south or east coast! Nor are we arid like Arizona. Being a mile away from the ocean here on the Central Coast of California, we get a lot of foggy days. This keeps the air adequately humid for our plants.

    In drier climates, you may find the need to mist your houseplants on a weekly basis. Serious plant enthusiasts commonly use a humidifier to keep their houseplants happy – which is also great for your skin and respiratory system!

    Because of our very mild, temperate year-round climate, we can keep many “houseplants” outdoors also. This staghorn fern and variegated rubber tree live on our shaded north-facing front porch. They get bright ambient light, but never direct sun.

    Other watering tips

    When you water your plants, drizzle water evenly over the entire top of the soil. Meaning, don’t just dump water right in the center or on one spot all the time. That causes water to rush through that one area, and possibly leave other sections totally dry. Even water distribution encourages healthier root development and better water retention.

    Also pay attention to how the water is behaving when you apply it to the soil surface. Is it quickly absorbing? Or does it just sit there, pooling? It is not uncommon for the top of the soil to cake up. Also, the soil may pull away from the sides of the pot. So when you go to water, it may run right off the surface, down the insides of the pot, and out the bottom drainage hole. If you aren’t paying attention, you may think you’re overwatering – but it is actually totally bypassing the soil and roots!

    To solve this, use a chopstick, pencil, or small stake to poke holes in the top couple inches of the soil and lightly break it up. The result is increased aeration and pockets for the water to better absorb!

    Poking holes in the caked soil to increase aeration and even water absorption.

    I don’t bother to move our plants on watering day since they’re all equipped with drip trays. Some people collect all their houseplants and water them in the sink, bathtub, or shower. I don’t have time or space for that, with 30 plus plants and all! Every once in a while I do have an overflow that I need to mop up with a towel. No biggie. The exception to this is air plants. I do collect them, dunk them in water, and allow them to dry upside down on a wire rack in the spare shower.

    To water, I find it easiest to use a small watering can that has a long narrow spout, especially to get to the hanging houseplants without making a mess!

    I will be the first to admit: I am not good about feeding my houseplants. More attentive plant parents may stick to a monthly fertilizer routine. Me? Our babies are lucky to get fed once or twice per year. It’s okay – they seem to forgive me! I do think they’d probably appreciate a bit more often – like every 3 months or so – something I am trying to get better with.

    To feed our houseplants, we either water them with dilute seaweed extract, an aloe vera soil drench, or homemade actively aerated compost tea (AACT). To read more about these things, check out the following articles:

    Of all these methods, using seaweed is definitely the most simple and straightforward! This is the seaweed extract we love and use in our garden. Just follow the dilution instructions on the bottle.

    Pruning

    Do not be afraid to remove dying foliage! It is totally normal for plants to shed their oldest (usually lowest) leaves as they grow. Much like pruning trees or removing large fruit from vegetable plants, taking off those old crusty leaves will help encourage a boost of new fresh growth. The plant can redirect its energy elsewhere now. If they don’t pull off easily, carefully remove old leaves with a clean sharp knife or trimming shears. You can also trim off brown tips of leaves that look otherwise healthy.

    Remove old yellow leaves!

    Training

    Certain plants will appreciate a little support. This is true for fiddle leaf figs, who typically need a stake along each of their main stems. To attach the plant to the stake, we like to use this reusable soft wrapped wire – which we also use in our outdoor garden!

    Monsteras also tend to sprawl and flop, but are more tricky to stake since they lack a main stalk. We have this 24-inch moss pole to support our largest Monstera. The idea is that you’re supposed to keep the moss wet, which will attract the aerial roots, who will then cling to it and hold up the plant. We are not good about keeping it saturated so it doesn’t work that way for us. But it is still a nice thick and natural-looking stake that we can tie several leader branches to. Many people use these moss poles to train vining plants upwards, such as pothos, ivy, or philodendron.

    If your houseplants lean forwards or bend towards the light, you can rotate them in place every few weeks to help them grow more straight. We do this regularly for our two Alocasia.

    Dusting

    Other Instagrammers always ask me “What do you do to keep your plant leaves so shiny. ” Honestly? Nothing. We don’t find the need to dust our houseplants. I am not sure why, because dust sure does settle on other objects in the house! Our leaves just stay clean? Or clean enough I guess.

    However, I do know that many other people do dust their plants. One option is to take them into the bathroom and give them a little shower. On a cloudy day, they could also be sprayed down outside, or even set out in the rain. Do heed caution here though! Don’t accidentally leave them out in extreme temperatures, sun, wind or other conditions they aren’t accustomed to. I accidentally fried the crap out of one of our oldest and most majestic houseplants once.

    A damp cloth can also be used to wipe down individual leaves as needed.

    Shiny leaves. No dusting needed here!

    Soil refresher

    With time, the soil in your pots will likely sink down and compact. If you aren’t up for repotting the plant, you can still give it a nice fresh bit of soil! To top off a houseplant with fresh soil, first lightly loosen the top inch or two of old soil. You want the old and new soil to be able to mix and become one. Also, if the soil has pulled away from the insides of the pot, either push some of the old stuff back, or slip new soil in the void. Add a couple inches of fresh potting soil, but don’t compact it or bury the plants stem.

    Okay guys, we are almost done here. But before we go, I have to address two of the most common questions I get about house plants: What to do about fungus gnats, and how to successfully co-habitat houseplants and cats?

    Fungus Gnats

    Soil-dwelling fungus gnats and fruit flies love moisture. This is just one more reason to avoid over-watering your plants! If you have standing water in your drip trays or overly soggy soil, you will likely also have a little gnat problem. They go hand-in-hand. Check out this article to learn all about fungus gnats, including 3 ways to prevent gnats and 5 ways get rid of them – organically!

    Other pest insects

    I am not going to cover all the different insects that may inflict your houseplants today. Thankfully, since they’re protected in the safety of your home, houseplants are far less likely to have pest issues than outdoor plants! Aside from fungus gnats, the next most common indoor plant pest that is worth a mention are mealybugs.

    Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied, usually white and slightly fuzzy insects who are related to aphids. If you see these guys, it is best to act quickly before the infestation gets out of hand! They usually hide on the underside of leaves, or in the nooks between leaves and branches. To kill mealybugs, I suggest mixing up 1 tablespoon of Dr. Bronners liquid castile peppermint soap with one quart of warm water, and spraying the solution directly on the mealybugs. It must contact them to kill them. You can also soak a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol, and swab the mealybugs one-by-one. This also kills them.

    See a full tutorial on making and using homemade soap spray here, which also works for aphids, whitefly, and spider mites.

    Mealybugs on the underside of one of our staghorn fern leaves. I chose to swab these guys with rubbing alcohol instead of using a soap spray. For most plants I would use soap, but staghorns have sensitive foliage and natural spores that wouldn’t like being completely coated.

    To learn more about common pest insects, you may enjoy this article: “Organic Pest Control, Part 2: How to Identify the Top 18 Garden Pests & Beneficial Insects”

    I am only half-joking by including cats in the “pest” category. Because just as much as our kitties can pester our plants, many houseplants can also be harmful to our cats! And dogs. And kids. Given who else you have at home, do your due diligence and research the plants you choose to keep inside!

    Tips for keeping cats out of houseplants

    We are pretty blessed. Our cats aren’t assholes. I mean, every cat is a little bit of an asshole… but when it comes to plants, ours leave them alone for the most part. It isn’t just by pure luck though. All three of our kitties have been around plants since they were babies, so there isn’t that “Ooooh, that’s new! Let me check that out!” factor. When they do get overly curious, we give them a very firm and loud NO.

    To keep cats from digging in the soil, we place large rocks on top of the soil surface in the pots that they can access. Also, keeping pots that are on the floor inside tall narrow baskets make it much more difficult for the cats to get into. Some folks use a sprinkle of cayenne or chili powder on the soil surface to deter them, or cover the top of the soil with something like chicken wire, though we haven’t found that necessary. Keeping plants up on shelves and hanging out of reach also helps!

    Rocks to block the cats from digging.

    Over the years, we have figured out which types of plants our cats cannot resist, and which ones they’ll generally leave alone. This can only come by trial and error for you personally. Our cats love to munch on thin, skinny leaves that resemble grass most, like those on some Dracaena or Parlor Palms. So we just don’t bring those types home anymore. Thick wide leaves like those on a fiddle leaf fig are not interesting to them. It also helps that our cats are older, and two are pretty fat and lazy. Kittens are definitely more difficult to… chill.

    Pets and “Toxic” Houseplants

    When you do a Google search, damn near every house plant is listed as “toxic” to cats and dogs! However, the severity of toxicity widely differs between various plants. Furthermore, “the dose makes the poison”. Meaning, chewing one little leaf likely won’t send kitty to the ER, while a puppy may be more likely to mow down an entire plant and have serious repercussions.

    Many houseplants cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and temporary mild reactions such as mouth irritation. Honestly, most of the plants we have in our house fall into this category, including pothos, fiddle leaf figs, alocasia, and dieffenbachia. Snake plants will also cause a mild reaction. Hopefully your animals will be smart and learn to stay away, if they do take a nibble and experience an unpleasant reaction. If they cannot help themselves, then you should probably keep the plants out of their reach, or out of your home. Stick to the plants on the “safe” list below.

    On the other hand, some are extremely toxic and can cause organ failure and even death. For cats, the two worst ones I am aware of are lilies and azalea, so it best to avoid those all together. Keep that in mind if you ever have bouquets of flowers in the house too!

    Use google for a more complete search of plants types and their level of toxicity. Most importantly, know your pets. Since ours do not munch on the plants, we feel safe with what we have around. That doesn’t mean yours will be same unfortunately.

    Our chill kitties. Lover boys Quincy and Figaro on the rug. Our OG Dalai is in the window, sleeping in the sun behind the fiddle leaf.

    Safe Houseplants for Cats and Dogs

    When in doubt, or if your animal just can’t help themselves, stick with some of these houseplants that are generally regarded as safe for cats and dogs:

    Spider plant, Money tree, Boston fern, Bird’s Nest fern, calathea, orchids, bromeliads, Swedish Ivy, Prayer Plant, African Violet, Parlor Palm, air plants, and the entire echeveria family of succulents. (Speaking of air plants, I promise to do a post about them soon!)

    And that, my friends, are the basics of houseplant care 101.

    If you follow these tips, your plants will be in good hands. Maybe you knew a bit of this already, but I hope you learned a few new things too! Let me know in the comments, including any lingering questions you have.

    Please feel free to spread the love, and help out other crazy plant ladies & gentlemen by sharing this post. Pin it below!

    I thought you may enjoy this little tour of our home as well.


    Make your apartment a houseplant haven with these tips

    Media Credit: Daria Nastasia | Photographer

    If you're new to the plant game, low-maintenance varieties like the Calathea or Philodendron are your best bet.

    Indoor plants can help freshen your cramped apartment air with new life, but it can seem daunting to get your indoor plant collection started.

    For college-aged students living through the pandemic, pets are the new kids and plants are the new pets. So hit the plant shop and follow these tips to claim your green thumb and #plantmom badge.

    Choose a low-maintenance or high-maintenance plant, depending on your commitment to it. If you don’t have a ton of gardening experience, choose a plant that is simple to care for like a Spider Plant, Calathea or Philodendron. If you are an expert of indoor plants, you probably aren’t reading this guide, but plants like Elephant’s Ear or a Boston Fern would be right up your alley.

    While most indoor plants are a refreshing addition to your scenery, you can also choose your plants for utility. If you’re a home chef or just want to have some fresh herbs on hand, try picking up some herbs like basil, mint or chives. If you’re over the age of 21 in D.C., you can try growing your own cannabis plant. You can legally grow no more than three mature cannabis plants .

    Lighting is everything

    Some plants are well-suited for spaces with little to no natural light. But for most other plants, natural light is the key to success. The first step is finding places in your apartment that have direct sunlight exposure for the longest periods of the day. Any window sill, balcony or fire escape will do as long as these spots face south. Windows or other openings that face south will receive the sun’s most direct rays from late morning through mid-afternoon unlike North- or East-facing windows, which receive weak morning rays.

    If you can’t seem to find a spot where your plant gets enough natural light, you can try using sun lamps that mimic the type of natural light plants need to thrive.

    Watering plants may seem like a universally simple task, but some plants need less water than others. Most plants require more water in the warmer spring and summer months even though they may live in an apartment with air conditioning. But before you water your plants the recommended every two to four days, feel the soil. Check for dry, moist or waterlogged soil, and adjust your watering accordingly. Cacti and succulents should be watered modestly and through a topsoil layer of gravel that helps water drain more quickly and prevents waterlogging. They should also be watered from below to avoid moistening the exterior of the plant. You could also mist your plants to create a more humid environment for plants that thrive.

    Assuming you aren’t starting your plants off from seeds, they can live in their black plastic pots they came in until their roots or body outgrow it. But once your plant is ready to leave its first nest, grab a terracotta or clay pot with holes in the bottom for drainage. Terracotta or clay pots are great temperature regulators and have a porous texture that allows for air and moisture flow. This type of pot also allows you to evaluate the calcium levels of your soil easily. If a plant’s soil is retaining too much calcium, it will “flush” white-colored residue that seeps through to the exterior of the pot.

    You can shop for artistically styled terracotta pots or grab some paint and style your own.

    This article appeared in the March 29, 2021 issue of the Hatchet.

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    How to Care for Indoor Plants

    Last Updated: February 11, 2021 References Approved

    This article was co-authored by Melinda Meservy. Melinda Meservy is a Plant Specialist and the Owner of Thyme and Place, a botanical boutique offering plants and gifts in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before starting her own business, Melinda worked in process and business improvement and data analytics. Melinda earned a BA in History from the University of Utah, is trained in lean and agile methodologies, and completed her Certified Professional Facilitator certification. Thyme and Place offers indoor plants and containers, a fully stocked potting bench, and tips on plants to suit your space and lifestyle.

    There are 24 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

    wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 12 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status.

    This article has been viewed 558,313 times.

    If you’ve ever had an indoor plant that’s quickly withered and wilted, you might believe that you don’t have a green thumb or you’re not cut out for growing plants. Well, we’re here to tell you that’s not the case! The truth is that anyone can be a good plant owner, and it really isn’t complicated, we promise. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to care for your indoor plants, from watering to sunlight requirements to fertilizer.


    Watch the video: 10 House Plants You Can Grow with Cuttings and a Glass of Water for Indoor at Home


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