11 Houseplant Care Tips For Beginners
We all start somewhere when it comes to gardening. Many expert outdoor gardeners struggle to keep indoor plants alive. Not all indoor plants are low-maintenance, and some need to be grown in certain indoor locations. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley shares her top tips to help all beginning indoor gardeners.
Houseplants can bring a sense of both life and color to just about any type of indoor space. You can choose from the compact form that works well on tables and desks or consider indoor vines cascading down bookshelves. You can really have fun and be creative when choosing houseplants that fit your style.
If you are new to growing houseplants, maintenance may be a bit daunting if you aren’t sure of what to do or if you’ve failed to care for indoor plants in the past properly. Providing your plants with proper care can be tricky, but don’t let it deter you from starting your indoor plant collection. You might be surprised to find out you do have a ‘green thumb’ after all!
If you are considering adding plants to your home for the first time or have just received a houseplant, don’t fret. In this article, I will share some of my favorite houseplant care tips for beginners to set you on the right path. Let’s dig in!
Understand The Lighting in Your Home
One of the most important aspects of caring for houseplants is ensuring they receive enough light throughout the day. This can either be in the form of natural light or artificial light from grow lights. If you can provide natural sunlight, this is best but grow lights will help in darker homes.
Many houseplants need bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. This can be difficult if you have few windows in your home or your windows don’t allow much light to enter. The light requirement will be a bit different depending on your houseplant.
Many houseplants will give you signs if they receive too much or too little sunlight. Common signs your plants need more light are small plants and pale leaves. Another sign of low light is the plant is becoming leggy or is stretching in search of sunlight. If you notice these symptoms, move your plant to a sunnier location and monitor for signs of improvement.
Establish A Watering Schedule
Establishing a good watering schedule is great for first-time plant owners. Depending on your plant, you may have to water multiple times a week, so setting up a schedule will be beneficial. Other plants can go much longer between waterings, especially in the winter. Always check the soil to see if moisture is present or not.
Many houseplants are sensitive to overwatering. Overwatering can lead to the development of root and stem rots which can kill the plant if not treated. Setting aside time each week to check your plants’ soil and determine if they need water will set them up for success.
When you first bring the plant into your home, monitor closely for a week or so. Understanding how quickly your soil dries out will help determine how often you need to water. When watering, allow water to flow out of the drainage holes. This is a good indication that water has flown through the entirety of the pot.
Keep Temperatures and Humidity Consistent
Houseplants are typically tropical or desert plants that consistently prefer temperatures on the higher side. Luckily, many homes have the ideal temperature and humidity to sustain houseplants all year. As long as temperatures in the home don’t drop below 50 F, houseplants will be happy.
Humidity is more tricky because our homes fluctuate in humidity throughout the year. If you live in a colder region, homes can become very dry. Adding a humidifier during drier conditions can help your houseplants from drying out quickly.
Misting your plants is another option for adding humidity to the air around your plants. However, not all plants enjoy being misted. Misting can lead to the development of fungal diseases on the leaves and soil surface. Be sure your plant likes the humidity first!
Pruning is Healthy
Pruning is standard maintenance for most houseplants and is needed to keep them happy and healthy. Depending on the plant, you may have to do more prune or less pruning. Vining plants such as Pothos, String of Hearts, and Creeping Fig all require pruning.
Over time vining plants tend to get leggy, which isn’t a bad thing! It just means it’s time to trim back the stems. Plants that stay more compact, like Watermelon Peperomia, Anthurium, and Jade plants will hardly ever need pruning.
Compact plants will need yellowing or dying leaves to be pruned off. Over time the leaves will drop to the soil surface, and those leaves should be removed. If dead leaves are left on the soil’s surface, any diseases they might carry could spread, so it’s best practice to remove them.
Fertilize When Needed
Of course, fertilizer needs will vary from plant to plant, but it’s good to have a well-planned fertilizing schedule. Fertilizing generally occurs during the spring and summer when most plants are actively growing. Starting a fertilizing schedule will help give your plants a boost of energy during the peak growing times.
Depending on your preference, you can use a liquid or a slow-release fertilizer. Fertilizers can be applied monthly and sometimes more often, depending on the plant and its needs. Always follow the label direction when applying. Over or under-fertilizing can cause more harm than good to your plant.
Slow-release fertilizer can be applied less often than liquid fertilizer. Many conventional slow-release fertilizers can be applied every three months or so, whereas organic options are usually a monthly application. This is a great option if you don’t have time to fertilize more often with a liquid fertilizer.
Choose the Correct Pot
You would think this is the easiest part when caring for houseplants, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated, and it’s important to understand not all pots are created equal. When choosing a pot, the options can be overwhelming. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a pot to house your plants.
First, the pot should have at least one drainage hole and possibly more if the pot is bigger. Drainage holes are key in helping prevent overwatering that can lead to root and stem rot.
Overwatering is a common problem, but proper drainage holes can help your soil drain excess water. If you find a pot you really love without drainage holes, you can drill holes in the bottom.
Next, choose a breathable pot such as terracotta or unglazed ceramic. These materials allow air to flow to the roots causing fewer problems. Following these few criteria for choosing a pot will help keep your houseplants happy and healthy.
Care Varies by Season
Depending on the season, your houseplants may need more or less attention. Typically during the spring and summer, plants are actively growing a need more care. They may require more light, water, and fertilizer to meet their growth demands.
During the winter, plants typically need less care because they aren’t actively growing. Your plants will still need adequate lighting and moisture to thrive.
Generally, you can stop fertilizing your houseplants in the winter because they aren’t absorbing those extra nutrients and aren’t growing as quickly.
Buy Plants That Fit Your Home And Style
When considering adding houseplants to your home, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of options. Choosing the right plant for your life schedule and home is important to their success.
Before you pick your plant, assess your home for natural light, temperature, and humidity to determine if you actually have an environment that will sustain plants.
Next, some houseplants will require more care than others. Some low-maintenance houseplants are Snake Plant, Aloe Vera, and String of Pearls. Just provide these plants with proper lighting and moisture, and they will thrive.
Do some research before purchasing a houseplant and bring it into your home. You can narrow down your search based on their level of care. When you are ready to purchase, you will have a clear idea of what plants will work or not work in your home.
Act Quick with Diseases and Pests
The quicker you act when you first see a pest or disease infestation, the better. Pests and diseases can spread very quickly through the plant and onto other plants in your home. If you notice your plant has a pest infestation, place the plant in quarantine.
Once you have identified the pest or disease, you can begin treatment. Root rot may be cut away from the plant to stop the spread. Some leaf spots or other diseases may be treated with an appropriate fungicide. Pests can be treated with a preferred method optimized to the type of pest you encounter.
Plant In The Correct Soil
Soil is the foundation of a healthy houseplant and is a crucial part of caring for them. You need to understand the type of soil your houseplant prefers because planting in the incorrect soil can lead to problems. It’s good practice to start with fresh potting soil when you bring your plant home.
Succulents and cacti prefer to be planted in well-draining soils incorporating a bit of gritty material. Adding sand or perlite to these soils will help excess water drain and prevent the development of soggy soils.
Other plants, like Pothos, Snakeplants, and Philodendron, can be planted in a standard potting mix. Ensure soils are well-draining, as many houseplants are sensitive to soggy soils.
Caring for houseplants can be a challenge, and learning to be patient with them will be great for you and your plants. It takes time for plants to adjust to their new environments, and they may show signs of stress. Learning the symptoms of stressed plants will help you determine how to help your plants.
Once you identify the symptom, you may have to adjust care. It can take weeks and months for your adjustment to take effect. Be patient, watch your plants for worsening signs, and re-evaluate what you need to adjust.
Caring for houseplants doesn’t have to be difficult. Finding a plant that works with your life and home will make owning houseplants easy and fun. Doing a little research before purchasing a plant will go a long way and set you up for success. With so many houseplants to choose from, there is a plant out there for every style and schedule. Happy growing!