15 Tasks To Boost Your Houseplant Growth
Are you looking to boost the growth of your houseplants? There are a few different tasks that you can incorporate into your houseplant maintenance routine to boost their growth. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton shares her top tips for helping your houseplants grow beautifully and quickly.
Growing houseplants is a rewarding exercise, but often a stressful one. Between managing environmental conditions, providing the right care, and avoiding dangers like pests and diseases, maintaining healthy growth is not always easy.
Not to mention, some houseplants are just a little more high maintenance than others. Peace Lilies will need a little extra care when compared to Jade Plants that are almost completely hands off. No matter the type of houseplant you own, there are a few steps you can take to help your indoor plants grow faster, greener, and healthier foliage.
If your houseplants are looking a little sad and need a boost, follow these tips throughout the season to make sure they grow their best.
Give Your Plants Better Light
Sunlight is one of the most important components of plant growth. It plays a vital role in photosynthesis, fueling the process that allows plants to produce ‘food’ for themselves to grow and survive.
Unfortunately, many houseplants don’t get the right amount of light. Homeowners often underestimate the light levels in their home, placing houseplants far from light sources where conditions are less than optimal. They may survive in these areas, but your plants certainly won’t grow as well as they could.
To boost your houseplant growth, the best thing you can do is move your houseplants to an area with the perfect light levels. For most, this is an area with bright indirect light, right next to windows but away from direct sun.
Make sure you don’t overdo it and thrust them into direct sun as this will cause the leaves to burn. Instead, move them to a slightly brighter area than they are used to, potentially with an hour or two or early morning direct sun (as long as it isn’t too intense). This will ensure your houseplants grow to their full potential.
Rotate Your Pots
Another component of light to consider is direction. Houseplants typically receive most of their light from one direction – the window they are closest to. To maximize photosynthesis and improve growth, the leaves will begin to turn and grow towards this light source to absorb as much sun as possible.
Over time, this can cause your houseplants to become lopsided. The leaves will all lean one way, and new leaves will likely only emerge on one side of the plant.
Not only does this look untidy, but it’s also not great for plant health. The plant will be able to survive, but parts that don’t receive enough light exposure may become diminished or start dying off. This damage impacts overall plant growth and can make them more vulnerable to pest and disease problems.
Luckily, the fix is simple – rotate your pots. Around once or twice a week, rotate your pots slightly. This will ensure all leaves receive the same amount of sunlight over time, improving overall growth.
We all know how important water is for plant growth. The risks of overwatering and underwatering are spouted often. However, one thing houseplant owners often forget about is the importance of watering consistently, not just watering.
Most houseplants are accustomed to a steady supply of moisture in their native habitats. They are not usually drought-tolerant plants that are used to dry soil for long periods. For tropical houseplants, long periods without water will quickly lead to stress, stunting growth.
This issue can be resolved with a quick watering. But, the stress endured takes a little while longer to recover from. The same can be said for watering too often. Even if you fix the issue, your plant will still take a while to return to normal growth after the stress of inconsistent watering.
The key to boosting houseplant growth when it comes to watering is consistency. This doesn’t mean watering at the same time each week on a strict schedule, but rather watering as soon as the same amount of soil dries out in the container.
This differs per plant as some like moisture more than others, so do your research to determine the perfect time to water for the strongest possible growth.
Try Bottom Watering
Houseplant watering technique is something indoor gardeners often get wrong. Many water lightly, saturating only the top layer of soil. Watering unevenly is another issue, causing only one side of the container to be properly saturated. Or, you may be watering when the soil is compacted, causing most of it to flow down the sides and out the bottom of the container.
These common issues mean parts of the soil remain unsaturated. Roots in those areas will dry up and potentially die off if the problem lasts. As roots are the foundation of plant growth, these damaged roots only take away from the potential growth of the plant.
To combat these concerns, try bottom watering as your main watering method. This houseplant hack is commonly recommended online. But, unlike some of the other hacks that don’t quite work how you expect, this one comes with a long list of benefits.
When bottom watering, the soil draws up as much moisture as it needs to become completely saturated. Simply place the pot in a bucket or sink of water for around 30 minutes and the soil should be evenly moist. This is also great for compacted soil that has become hydrophobic.
Bottom watering does come with some downsides. Firstly, you can’t ever forget your houseplants in the water. Leaving them sitting in water can quickly lead to rot which can kill the plant. It also doesn’t flush the soil well, but this can be counteracted by watering from above every few weeks.
Fertilize at the Right Time
When you think of boosting houseplant growth, fertilizer is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Packed with essential nutrients that are often lacking when growing in containers, the right fertilizer is a great way to encourage your plant to grow and push out new leaves.
Most houseplants need fertilizer during their active growing season, typically spring and summer. This adds nutrients at a time when they are most often used up, making the greatest contribution to growth.
Adding nutrients when growth slows can lead to issues with overfertilizing (which we’ll discuss next) or can encourage the plant to push out new growth that is more vulnerable to cold damage over fall and winter.
Fertilizing at the right time according to the instructions on the packaging will give your houseplants that extra something they need to grow their best.
Although fertilizing can give a huge boost to your houseplants’ growth, too much can also have the opposite effect. You may think that extra fertilizer, especially if the plant is struggling to grow, is the perfect solution. But, excess fertilizers can actually damage the roots, essentially ‘burning’ them and stunting growth rather than helping it.
If you want to boost your houseplant growth, it’s vital to avoid this common issue. One way to do that is to only fertilize during the growing season, also following packaging instructions and never applying more than recommended. Also take a look at the performance of your plant. If it is growing well, even a regular dose of fertilizer may not be necessary.
To counteract any potential issues, I prefer to start with a half dose of liquid fertilizer. This avoids any overfertilizing concerns while maintaining nutrient levels in the soil. Assess the performance of the plant to determine whether they need another top-up.
Most typical houseplants come from the tropics. In warm areas, often rainforests with plenty of moisture, they are used to very high levels of humidity. Matching these humidity levels as closely as possible replicates their natural habitats, allowing them to grow to their full potential.
This is not always an easy task, depending on the climate in your region. Tropical forests have humidity above 75% throughout the year, reaching as high as 90% during the rainy seasons. This is not common in most areas across the US, and makes for an uncomfortable home too if you’re not used to the conditions.
Aiming for around 60% provides a great compromise for you and your plants. Slightly higher levels may boost growth, but also increase your risk of fungal disease and moisture-loving pests if there is limited airflow around the plants.
The best way to increase humidity levels in your home is to use a humidifier. Don’t direct them at your plants but keep them in close proximity to improve overall environmental conditions.
Keep Plants Warm
Houseplants grow the most when temperatures are high, as they are in their native habitats. Above 60F is essential as many houseplants will slow growth or stop growing in temperatures below this point. Temperatures also shouldn’t be too high – above 90F – as this leads to stress that also slows growth.
Between 75F and 80F is recommended for most houseplants. Keeping these temperatures as consistent as possible throughout the year will also help boost houseplant growth.
If you live in a cold region where indoor temperatures don’t get very high, you can place the pots on a warming mat during cold snaps.
Avoid Drafty Areas
If anything is clear from the previous points, it’s that houseplants prefer when environmental conditions and care remain as consistent as possible. One thing that can get in the way of that, thereby stunting growth, is drafts.
This tip is often overlooked or not considered, but I have killed a couple of houseplants by forgetting this essential rule. Although airflow is needed around the plants to avoid problems with pests and diseases, too much can dramatically change environmental conditions rapidly, causing immense stress and drying out the soil and the leaves.
Houseplants should never be in front of drafty open windows or doors. This also applies to spots in front of air conditioners or near radiators. Moving your houseplants to a more protected area will disturb them far less, boosting overall growth.
Remove Damaged Leaves
Houseplants can face some serious damage throughout their growth, even if they are more protected than they would be outdoors. Whether it’s accidental overwatering, frequently brushing the leaves, pests and diseases, or even a nibble from a curious pet, damaged leaves are a frequent occurrence.
One damaged leaf likely isn’t going to kill your houseplant. But keeping this leaf attached to the plant does draw energy and resources away that could be used to better the healthy growth. If a discolored or damaged leaf doesn’t look like it’s going to recover, removing it can direct the plant’s energy toward producing new growth rather than maintaining dying growth.
Grab your pruning shears and simply snip off these leaves and stems as soon as you spot them. As long as you don’t remove too many leaves at once, this won’t negatively impact growth and will actually end up boosting overall growth.
Prune Leggy Growth
General pruning at the start of the growing season can also be a helpful boost to houseplant growth. This is especially useful if growth has become leggy and looks a little diminished.
Cutting back leaves and stems encourages the plant to produce more growth hormones to heal quickly and push out new growth. As long as you’ve trimmed in the right spot, this will turn a leggy and sad-looking houseplant into a bushy and lush one by the end of summer.
Clean the Leaves
Houseplant chores are not something we all look forward to. But they are incredibly useful in boosting houseplant growth when done consistently at the right time. One of the tasks most indoor gardeners either forget or choose to ignore is cleaning the leaves.
Like other items in our homes, houseplants collect dust. Not only does this make the leaves look dirty, but it also negatively impacts growth. Layers of dust limit how much sunlight leaves can absorb, impacting photosynthesis. These layers also hinder gas exchange which is essential to plant growth and survival.
Although it may seem tedious, adding cleaning to your care routine is a great way to boost houseplant growth. All you need is a damp cloth and a few minutes of your time.
Check for Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are prevalent issues no houseplant owner wants to deal with. Although they may not be as common indoors as they are outdoors, pests and diseases are still a risk and incredibly difficult to get rid of once they have taken over your indoor garden.
Common indoor plant pests and diseases like mealybug, scale or root rot severely impact growth. The negative effects may start small, but rapidly increase if the problem is not resolved. Not only does this slow growth, but it can also end up killing your houseplants completely.
The best way to combat pests and diseases is to stop them from taking over in the first place. Make sure you check your plants regularly for signs of damage and apply the relevant treatment as soon as you spot any problems.
Repot When Needed
Houseplants are typically happy to grow in containers. In fact, this confinement can often improve growth, encouraging the plant to push out new leaves and even flowers. But, once the roots have nowhere else to grow and begin to wrap around each other, your houseplant growth will become stunted.
The solution to this problem is repotting. Specifically, repotting at the right time. Repotting too early and disturbing the roots can increase stress, but waiting too long can also negatively impact growth. The right time to repot will depend on the size of the container and plant growth, but it’s generally every 1-3 years on average.
When you repot, don’t choose a container that is far bigger than the current one. The excess soil around the roots will hold onto too much moisture, potentially leading to rot. Around one or two sizes up at most is perfect for most houseplants, giving them the boost they need without overdoing it.
Improve Soil Conditions
Houseplants don’t always need repotting because of overgrown root systems. Often, the soil in the containers degrades quicker than the plant actually outgrows the pot. Inadequate soil lacks nutrients, no longer holds onto enough moisture to satisfy the roots, and often becomes compacted, limiting airflow. Refreshing this soil will bring the roots back to good health, boosting houseplant growth.
When repotting to refresh the soil, make sure you choose the right soil mix. Houseplants need light and well-draining soil with plenty of space between particles to promote airflow and prevent waterlogging. Houseplant soil mixes are available to purchase online, or you can make your own by combining potting soil with coconut coir and perlite.
Now that you have all the tips you need to have greener, healthier houseplants, it’s time for a little TLC to ensure your houseplants are growing beautifully and healthy. By following the recommended steps here, your plants will grow lush, green foliage and beautiful blooms for indoor plants that flower!