Taking care of houseplants is not easy, a few missed waterings, poor sunlight, wrong planter choice--all of these things can quickly have you feeling like a serial plant killer! However, with a little love and some knowhow, you can keep your house plants looking beautiful and photo-worthy. Here’s how!
Step one: Watering
No two plants are the same, and neither are their watering schedules. And while you’ll need to study up on each individual houseplant you own, a general rule of thumb is to try and water your plants relative to their natural environments. In other words, a plant that comes from a rainforest environment will likely need more moisture than a plant that comes from an arid desert environment. Wilting is the easiest way to tell that your plant isn’t getting enough water but be sure to not overwater as that is one of the most common ways houseplants die.
Other Keys to Success:
Avoid hard or softened water. Opt for regular tap water or if you’re feeling extra fancy, bottled water.
Be aware of seasonal changes. Most plants require more watering in the spring/summer months and far less during the fall/winter seasons.
Test the soil for moisture by touching the surface and even an inch or two below. If it’s still moist, your plant likely does not need any more moisture.
Know your climate. Some parts of the country and even homes are more humid than others. This should also be taken into factor when considering how much water a plant might need in comparison to its natural habitat.
Step two: Pruning
Trimming and pruning is sometimes necessary to help maintain the structure and shape of your houseplants. It’s also an easy way to keep your plant healthy (a dying Fiddle Leaf Fig for example, can sometimes be revived by chopping off the top of the plant).
The best time to prune your houseplants is typically winter after a plant is done flowering. Pruning a plant in spring might ruin the appearance of your plant and any budding that is soon to come. Research each plant individually as some plants (like Palms) can be killed by over-pruning!
Step three: Dusting
Dusting helps the leaves absorb more sunlight. You can wash smaller plants gently with lukewarm water and larger ones with a damp cloth.
If some of your smaller plants are too fragile to be directly sprayed down or washed, you can turn them upside down and swish them in the water. When you do this, make sure to spray the soil down to help prevent it from spilling it out and slowly turn it to see if the dirt is stable.
Fuzzy plants like African Violets require a little extra care and may require you to clean them with a brush (toothbrush, paintbrush or mushroom brush).
Step four: Potting
Simply put, larger plants need larger containers, and smaller plants need smaller containers. It’s also important to choose a container with a drainage hole so excess water has somewhere to escape instead of causing root rot! This also means you’ll need to invest in a saucer to place beneath the plant so water doesn’t leak onto your beautiful wood floors or carpet.
Whether your plant starts dying after just watering it, or it’s apparent your container is becoming too small--sometimes repotting is necessary. If you own larger plants (trees), you might consider top-dressing. To top-dress, simply scrape and remove an inch of topsoil and replace it with a fresh mix.
Styling Tip** Although a pot with a drainage hole is ideal, there are certain desired looks or styles that might not allow for that. In this case you will have to water your plant exactly as needed or place your breathable pot with a clay saucer or plastic dish inside of a larger container that you do like, perhaps a wicker basket. In any event, make sure you always protect your floors!!
Step five: Sunlight
Remember when we talked about getting to know each plant individually? This is especially true when it comes to sunlight! Too much sunlight can cause plants like Ferns to yellow, while other plants like Succulents need a good six hour sun bath each day.
Direction of light
Amount of light
Type of light
Direct vs. Indirect
step six: Feeding Your Plant
When it comes to soil, most indoor plants do fine with an all-purpose mix. Adding plant food can help ensure your plants’ health by providing the soil with nutrients that in turn, feed your plants.
Try and give your plants food every other watering during spring/summer and every fourth watering during the fall/winter months. If that’s too difficult to remember, try to remember that plants require more water and nutrients during their growing seasons than fall/winter.
It’s best to be conservative when applying fertilizer as to not “burn” your plants. Some go as far as diluting their fertilizer with water, sometimes halving the recommended dosage. Note that some species like cacti, succulents and orchids have their own specialized solutions geared toward their special needs.
step seven: styling
Keeping your indoor plants alive is only half the battle. Styling them correctly is going to give each space a unique touch and make all your hard work worth it.
We love adding plants to a room to give a burst of life. If everything in a space is starting to look too similar, add some greenery for contrast.
Plants are also a great way to soften a room. Maybe you have lots of metals or appliances and your space is starting to look cold, add a plant to give the room a warmer feel! Don’t forget to consider scale. A plant that is too big can dominate a space, making it feel crowded.
Houseplants are also perfect for filling empty spaces. If a room is feeling too sparse or needs personality, plants are that extra “something” that can make the difference.