Houseplant Care 101
Social media posts featuring stunning houseplants are adding interest and attracting newcomers. Taking care of houseplants can be fun, healthy, and educational, and everyone can take part even if they have never watered a plant before. This is an introduction to growing plants indoors – it won’t take you from novice to green thumb overnight, but it can get you started on the road.
If you want to begin with houseplants, select plants that will thrive in your environment and learn how to care for them. It is important to choose healthy houseplants and provide them with the light, water, warmth and humidity they require. Overwatering is one of the leading causes of plant death.
Preparation is a crucial component of gardening, whether it’s tilling the soil or constructing a compost pile. Growing plants is based on an ancient practice of preparation in which plants are prepared for the future.
It is thus wise to understand the basics of houseplant care before you spend money. Once you understand those, you can determine what plants will grow best in your environment.
It doesn’t matter where plants grow as long as the conditions are right, although the “right” conditions will differ from plant to plant.
Lighting For Houseplants
Too much direct sunlight can scorch plants, but they cannot live in near darkness: they need light for photosynthesis, which produces energy. Bright windows are ideal for houseplants.
Even the light from a sunny window diminishes quickly once it has been reflected inside. Indoor ambient illumination is considerably lower than outdoor illumination.
The exposure of your windows is important. In the northern hemisphere, windows facing south receive the most direct sun – windows facing north receive the least. A window facing east or west is ideal for tender tropicals, since it offers gentle direct sunlight in the mornings or late at night.
If plants are given less light than they need for optimum growth, they typically become leggy, with skimpy, weak stems as they “stretch” for brighter conditions. In case your house is too dark, you should consider installing grow lights.
The conditions for reading need to be bright enough to be comfortable for low light plants.
In addition to being a primary part of houseplant care, water also carries a hidden danger for the plant.
Overwatering of house plants produces rot pathogens that cause roots to become stunted. Soggy soil inhibits roots’ ability to absorb oxygen.
You should know the watering needs of your particular species: every plant has different preferences.
Points to remember:
The soil needs to be monitored regularly to determine when to water it. Simply stick your finger into the soil or use a chopstick to check if it’s dry.
Make sure the soil has been dry enough for the plant, and then thoroughly inundate it so excess water runs out the drainage holes. By doing so, unused fertilizer, pesticides, or other potentially toxic chemicals are flushed from the soil.
The pot should drain completely after watering and any cache reservoirs should be emptied.
Plants suffering from overwatering often display yellow leaves (though yellowing can be due to other problems, too.)
When temperatures are cooler or during winter dormancy, plants use less water. It’s important to reduce watering during these periods.
One of the most crucial aspects of houseplant care is watering, and if done incorrectly, it can quickly kill the plant.
To ensure your houseplants are properly watered, learn how to do it right.
It is very important to use a well-draining mix for plants. Heavy soils retain more moisture, leading to problems with moisture management.
Soilless mixes made of peat moss, coconut coir, and fine sand provide structure to the soil, while keeping it airy and light. Crops grown in tropical areas have benefited from amendments like coarse sand and perlite.
Maintain Suitable Temperatures
The majority of popular houseplants can thrive at normal household temperatures – though you should always research your particular species.
Don’t let your plant sit in a draft! A plant near a window can be exposed to overheating or cooling if the outside temperature is extreme.
Most houseplants require a level of 40-60%, but some species prefer even higher levels. Our homes are often arid: ideal conditions for succulents but not tropical ones.
The average beginner’s houseplant is generally tolerant of lower humidity – but rest assured that most of these plants would benefit from higher humidity.
You may not need to worry if you live in a humid climate; however, air conditioning and heating will sap moisture from the air; a plant that copes well with low humidity in summer won’t do as well in winter.
You can monitor your levels using an inexpensive hygrometer. Here are a few basic ways to raise humidity:
- This will allow them to share the same transpiration process. Don’t crowd them together, and don’t let their leaves touch.
- The plant’s local humidity can also be increased by placing water trays or other receptacles underneath its container or nearby.
- Humidity levels are typically higher in well-lit bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens.
- Room humidifiers are the ultimate solution, but maintenance and outlay are significant; not the best recommendation for a beginner. You should get familiar with plants that are tolerant to normal humidity at home.
It’s a sovereign remedy for an unattractive plant. If your plant does not thrive in arid conditions, raising humidity will likely benefit it.
Checklist: Evaluating Your Space
Check the conditions of your home before you buy a houseplant. There is no right or wrong answer! You just have to know what you can offer.
How much light do you have? How much window space is available and of which exposure(s)?
What is the humidity level?
What is the range?
What are the likely seasonal changes?
Are there potential drafts or temperature extremes?
Will your plant(s) live in a prominent area so it’s not forgotten?
Is your intended location out of traffic, or is the plant subject to being brushed or bumped often?
Is the proposed location convenient for watering and maintenance?
Knowing what your home’s environmental conditions are, you can select houseplants that naturally adapt to them. You can always branch out to more challenging plants once you gain confidence and experience. Keeping houseplants healthy is much easier when they are at home in the natural environment.
Best Beginner Houseplants
It’s impossible to go wrong with these tried-and-true superstars that have given countless novice gardeners experience and confidence.
If you need a boost of horticultural confidence or are timid or battle-weary, go for the ZZ Plant, possibly the hardest-working houseplant. It can stand up to extreme conditions and stay looking great for years on end.
Peace Lily – This lovely moisture-loving plant can survive an overactive watering can better than most. When the soil dries, the plants begin to wilt, and finally collapse if not watered correctly. If not damaged by long-term drought, they bloom again after watering. It’s like having a teacher who gives hints and extra chances.
Snake Plant – This exotic succulent has helped raise generations of gardeners: It is the king of set-and-forget plants. There are many fascinating varieties, too. Snake Plants are easy to propagate and stunning when planted in masses.
Cacti – A classic beginner’s plant! It’s very easy for beginners to keep cacti, especially once they get the knack of not fussing over them. These plants appreciate “benign neglect.”
Aloe – This rewarding succulent bears particular mention because it has medicinal properties that add a dimension to the plant-keeping experience. A long-lived plant, this long-lived plant grows best in quick-draining soil and high light. This can be a family member for generations.
Pothos and Heartleaf Philodendron – These friendly vines look similar and are often confused with each other, but both are veteran beginner’s plants whose good looks and hardy good nature have made them ubiquitous. The variegated Brasil is especially beautiful.
Peperomia – Though not so well known (yet) as others, these pretty little desktop gems come in a host of varieties. Watermelon Pepperomia, for example, has low maintenance requirements. Other species have similar needs but vary in their level of tolerance.
This is only a small selection of plants that are easy to care for and can withstand rookie mistakes.
Pro Tip: Before trying a difficult plant, take a look at its family members that are easier (and usually cheaper) to grow.
Bringing Houseplants Home
You can find most of these recommended plants at your local garden center, or even your local grocery store, after you’ve determined the future location and growing conditions. Because availability is always a concern, I recommend starting your search at your local garden center before looking elsewhere.
Buying healthy plants will save you trouble. Here’s what to look for:
- The leaves should be normal in color and undamaged; they should not be pale, yellowed, dried, or frayed.
- Don’t touch plants with yellowed or browning leaves.
- Be sure to choose full, sturdy plants instead of leggy, weak plants.
- Plants that show signs of overly damp conditions, such as white mold or mildew on the soil or leaves, should be excluded.
- The plant should be checked for insects and its joints and beneath the leaves should be examined carefully.