A friend of mine grew up in a family where plant care was second nature. She inherited tips from her mother, grandmother, and aunt, and has used them over the years in her personal experience raising plants. Yes, raising, because that is how much time and care it takes to keep plants alive. However, once you understand the basics of plant care, it’s easy to keep up a simple routine to keep your plant babies thriving.
Plant care is more than just adequate water and sunlight.
It’s about caring for your plant as a living organism and understanding each plant’s needs. For years I would post questions to my friends on Instagram asking if anyone had real, lifesaving plant care tips. I would get a few tips here and there, but overall it seemed to be crickets, and no one really had any tips besides adequate water and sunlight. I would always reply with, “yes yes, but HOW MUCH WATER AND SUNLIGHT?” Today I am sharing my ten easy steps to understanding your plants and how to care for each of them.
10 Plant Care Tips That Helped Me Stop Killing Plants
1. Know your plant’s species. The number one tip is to first take a quick note of your plant's species and where it originated. Is it tropical? Is it succulent? I have found that most of my plants are tropical. They prefer humid conditions which are great for the hot, humid summers that we have here on the East Coast. You can do a quick google search to read about the basics of each of your plants. Understanding where your plant originated will give you an understanding of the soil type, sunlight, and the type of conditions your plant thrives in.
2. The correct soil type. Chances are, you purchased a plant from the store that has already been potted in the correct soil type. However, it’s good to keep the soil type in the back of your mind and keep a bag on hand for when it comes time to repot your plant.
3. Repot or resoil your plant, but not too often. It’s important to know WHEN to repot your plant based on the specific plant’s needs. Every plant is different and some can go for years in the same pot. Do not repot too often. As I mentioned earlier, plants are LIVING organisms, and just like you wouldn’t want to move from home to home too often, plants feel the same. It can be stressful to move, and it takes time for them to settle into their new home just like it would for you. However, plants can outgrow their pot and become root bound which means that their roots twist round and round into their soil until they have nowhere else to go. It essentially strangles the plant over time. A severely rootbound plant can kill it. If your plant is not rootbound and seems happy, you can refresh the plant’s soil every 6-12 months. Just remember tip number two and use the correct soil type for your plant!
4. Use a moisture meter. There is debate over using a moisture meter, but for someone who used to mostly kill plants, this tool has SAVED my plant care. I measure the moisture levels once a week by poking the end of the meter into the plant in several different spots. It’s important to check multiple areas at the surface and deep into the soil. Some plants hold moisture in different areas, especially if you previously watered in specific areas, so keep in mind that a plant may seem dry, but is holding water in a different spot. Some plants such as herbs prefer to be moist and not dry out. Others such as Fiddle Figs prefer to be on the drier side in between waterings.
5. Use a pot with drain holes. Any plant lover will tell you that drainage is important and it may seem obvious, but to a former plant novice, it wasn't so obvious. I love the look of beautiful pots and I assumed that putting my new plants into my beautiful pot was a natural part of bringing a plant home. You CAN successfully repot a plant without drain holes and keep it alive, but you have to have the correct drainage for the plant. If you have a pot without drain holes, my expert plant friend that I mentioned taught me how to use a pot without holes by placing pebbles into the bottom to give the plant room to drain between the soil and pot.
6. Don’t move your plant around the house too often. Plants get cozy in their spot, so moving the plant around from spot to spot can stress the plant out. Some people even recommend speaking sweetly to your plant, so whenever I’m about to move my plant for a shower watering, I tell it why I’m moving it. Sounds crazy, but as I keep saying, plants are living beings. I want to treat them with love and encourage them to thrive in my home. Fiddle Figs are especially sensitive to their spot and do not like to be moved too often once they have been placed in a spot in the home!
7. Give your plants a shower. For my larger plants which are all tropical, I give them a shower in my actual shower. I do this by bringing the shower to a tepid temperature and placing the plants directly into the shower. I let the water run for just a minute or so without overwatering. The shower sprays the leaves and the water runs into the soil. I allow the plants to sit and drain for at least two full hours before returning to their spot. This usually lasts the plant two weeks without water. Just be sure to use your meter before you over or underwater for the next watering.
8. Rotate your plant every few weeks. You can give your plant a balanced amount of sunlight by rotating it every few weeks to give each side sufficient sunlight.
9. Give it the correct sunlight. Notice that I said the CORRECT sunlight. It’s important to know the type of sunlight that your plant prefers. Most indoor plants prefer indirect sunlight because direct sunlight can burn their leaves. However, although a plant may thrive in indirect light, it might need a lot of it. We have a sunroom that I keep most of our plants in because most of them prefer indirect sunlight, but a lot of it. Other plants such as herbs need direct sunlight, so I keep those on the window sill. Plants such as Pothos can be kept in low light.
10. Wipe the leaves once a month. Use a soft damp cloth to gently wipe down the leaves of your larger houseplants. I don’t do this often on my small plants, but I find that dust can build up on my large plants if left too long. Plants need all of the sunlight they can get, and dust blocks the plants and essentially clogs their pores. Just as you clean your face each day, a plant needs the same cleaning a few times a month from dust. Keep in mind that using a duster can transfer other house dust to your plant. I recommend using a clean soft damp cloth and gently wiping each leaf while supporting it as you wipe to avoid breakage.
Final Plant Care Thoughts...
Check-in on your plants. It’s important to catch any signs of issues before they get worse. You can check your plants for yellowing leaves, roots becoming too bound in a small pot, or whether your plant has moss growing. If you routinely check in on your plants, you can save their life and address any issues early.
Spritz your plants. I bought a spritzer to spray my leaves down with a light misting every so often. This gives the leaves humid hydration without overwatering the roots.