If you’re new to the houseplant game, this blog post is for you! Houseplants are one of my favorite things to decorate the home with. Not only does the plant itself provide color and texture to a home, but it can really liven up a space too. The best part is that plants help purify the air and improve breathing. AND they are known to improve overall health and well-being! However, although the idea of having plants in your home is just lovely, they can require a lot of care. And as much as many articles or posts on the internet will tell you that “so and so” plant is “super easy” to care for, that’s not always the case! Almost everything in this blog will come from my very own experience with houseplants. So that means there may be certain things that have worked well for me, but not for someone else, and vice versa! My hope is for you to feel more confident in selecting and caring for your plants.
Let’s start with some general tips that will apply to almost every type of plant.
1. When you first purchase your houseplant, there are normally some care instructions that come along with it, such as how much sunlight it requires, and how often you should water it. The tips about sunlight are pretty accurate. If the plant tag/instructions say that it needs direct sun, then be sure to put it in direct sun. However, when it comes to watering instructions, I normally don’t follow what it says. Instead, I like to do research on how moist that particular plant likes the soil to be.
For example, succulents (includes cacti), only need to be watered when the soil is completely dry. For the rest of my plants, I usually wait until I can tell that the top layer of the soil has been dried out. Certain plants will be more sensitive to how much water it needs, such as the ever-popular fiddle leaf fig. For plants that are more finicky about watering frequency, I use a water meter, and then water the plants as the meter suggests.
As a rule of thumb, no matter how much your plant needs to get watered, never let it sit in a pot with excess water. You want to make sure that you always use a pot with holes for the water to drain out, or put plenty of rocks in the bottom of the planter to catch the excess water.
2. In terms of where to purchase plants, plant nurseries will always have the highest quality. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy plants from Home Depot, Costco, or the grocery store, it just means that the overall health and quality won’t be as high.
Typically, when I purchase from a major retailer, I look for two things: 1) the consistency of the soil, 2) if the plant is outgrowing its container. If the soil is dry and hard (and water drains very quickly from it), I would change the soil. And if the plant is outgrowing its container, then I would get a plant pot that is no more than a couple inches bigger than its current pot. When repotting, make sure to be gentle with the roots.
3. The last general tip I have is that the key to keeping your houseplants alive is to actually pay attention to them! Plants may not speak, but they will let you know how they’re feeling based on the color of their leaves, or how they grow. A few examples:
a. If your cactus has new growth that is etiolated (when new growth is long and skinny that is abnormal to the plant shape), it means it is searching for more sunlight! Read more about etiolation here. This has happened to one of my cacti that I thought was getting enough sunlight.
b. If your plant leaves are brown or yellow, they may be receiving the improper amount of sunlight or water. Try changing up the location, or the frequency of your watering. Sometimes it will take a few tries to get your plant to be healthy again. When in doubt, do some research on what may be causing your plants symptoms.
Now with all that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite houseplants below, along with some more detailed care instructions and tips for each plant.
- Fiddle Leaf Fig – The FLF is a popular plant, and for good reason! I think it’s such a unique and beautiful plant to have in the home.
- The FLF needs bright, indirect sunlight. Occasional direct sunlight is okay, as long as it is not too strong and doesn’t last longer than a few hours at a time.
- Allowing some direct light on the tree will also encourage growth. Remember to rotate the tree every several weeks or so to promote even growth. To encourage branching, you’ll need to prune the tree during the spring/summer (future blog post about this??)
- Water when the water meter guide instructs you to. Always water the soil thoroughly, outside or in a tub, until the water runs through.
- Bird of Paradise – The white bird has larger leaves and grows taller, versus the orange bird that has smaller leaves (I have both!)
- These tropical beauties prefer bright direct light, however, if the area gets too hot, it may cause leaves to burn. So bright indirect light, with occasional direct light is a good range to be in.
- They can flower in the right environment. I haven’t been able to get mine to flower, but that’s probably because I live in WA and they prefer more tropical/humid climates.
- Snake Plant – Also known as the mother in law tongue, these come in many different variations.
- Snake plants are extremely low maintenance. They do not require much sunlight and actually make a great plant for the bedroom, as they emit oxygen during the nighttime! Sometimes I even forget to water mine, but it continues to thrive. They grow tall and skinny, so they can make a great space divider.
- Succulents – cacti are included in the succulent category. They are desert dwellers, but can thrive indoors with proper care
- As a rule of thumb, succulents do not need to be watered too frequently. I usually wait until the soil is pretty dry. You can check this by poking your finger into the soil. If it seems dry and hard to the touch, it’s time to water!
- Succulents will thrive in direct sun, such as an east, or south facing window. If you don’t want your plant to grow too quickly, place in an area that receives bright indirect light. If you notice your succulent reaching towards the sun, remember to rotate the plant every week or so.
- Cacti will do best in direct sun. If you place them too far away from sunlight, their growth will become etiolated (as mentioned previously).
- ZZ Plant – The ZZ plant is one of my favorites. They are low maintenance and look beautiful!
- Water every couple of weeks, when soil shows signs of drying. It does not need direct light, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to keep it in an area that will receive natural light (like a kitchen or living area).
- New growth can happen rather quickly, especially when you repot to a larger container!
In general, if you’re looking for low-maintenance, hard to kill plants, stick with the pothos, snake plant, ZZ plant, or rubber tree. This may seem like a weird tip, but next time you’re at the mall, if you notice what kinds of plants they keep in the mall, those guys are the ones that are low maintenance. I noticed that one day while shopping. LOL. I would also encourage new houseplant owners to start with just one or two plants. If you are successful in keeping those alive, buy more! Never start with too many or you may end up losing a lot of them (and a lot of money). Buuuuttttt…. If you read through this and think it may be more work than you’re willing to commit, there is nothing wrong with buying fake plants!
This is just the start of more plant blogs to come! Please feel free to comment if you have any experience you’d like to share, or if you have suggestions for future blog posts!