Essential Tips for Beginners
In a perfect world, plants would be able to communicate with us and tell us what we’re doing right and wrong. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, and it’s up to us to figure out what plants prefer, usually through trial and error. It can be insanely frustrating for new plant owners to get the hang of things when all they’ve ever done is accidentally kill the plants they take into their care. In this post, we want to take a moment to share some of the more important tips we wish would’ve been shared with us when we started caring for houseplants.
Easily one of the most important factors, watering too much or too little is what leads to the ultimate death of many plants. Striking the right balance is crucial to plant care. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the leaves are, the less water the plant needs, while the thinner the leaves are, the more water it needs. For example, succulents and cacti—which are known for their thicker, more fleshy tissue which stores water for reserve—should only be watered once their soil is bone-dry. However, something with thinner leaves, like most types of ferns and begonias, are going to need watered more often.
Another key component to keeping plants alive indoors is proper drainage. You’ll often find drainage holes at the bottom of containers as a means for excess water to escape, which protects against root rot and overwatering in general. Just because a container doesn’t have a drainage hole doesn’t mean you can’t use it. If you like the look of a container without a drainage hole, add a layer of gravel or activated charcoal to the bottom of the container to supplement for drainage. The gravel provides a place for the water to go, while activated charcoal not only helps absorb extra water, but also has anti-microbial properties which protect against infection.
Leaves are the main way plants communicate with us. Looking at and studying a plant’s leaves can tell you a lot about what it wants and whether it’s happy. When leaves begin to droop slightly, they’re telling you they’re thirsty and need watered. Browning leaves are an indication of either under-watering or too much sun, while leaves that are yellowing often tell you that your plant is getting too much water and to cut back a little, or that it’s not receiving enough sun.
While we have an entire post dedicated to lighting here, it’s important to reiterate that you should pick a plant which will work for your space. Plants that are light starved will seem alright for a while, but will eventually die from the lack of sunlight. Looking at a comprehensive list of plants which will fit your space and lighting is a much better way to guarantee success. You’ll be happier not having to worry as much, and so will your plants.
Most of your usual houseplants are tropical, meaning they grow natively in warm, humid environments. Because of this, they’re not suited for cold, dry weather. Once the temperatures begin to drop into the mid 40s or so, move your plants a few inches back from drafty windows. Windows that let in the cold can damage your more sensitive plants. Also, take caution when carrying newly-bought plants out to your car or home. Even a minute or two in frigid weather can cause damage, sometimes making them drop leaves in response. Covering them with a bag, sleeve, or blanket will help keep them warm during their commute to their new home. During the winter, homes also become drier than in the spring or summer. Consider investing in a small humidifier; not only will your plants appreciate the extra humidity, but so will your body.