If you’ve been following along since the beginning I can’t believe this little blog just turned three years old! then you may remember a post I wrote about houseplants. At the time I was probably about nine months into my obsession with indoor plants, and I’m happy to say that obsession is alive and well and has taught me a good amount about tending to them. I’ve learned a lot personally and from my mom since then and have been wanting to share some more with you all. While that post mainly talked about what plants I had at the time and how I took care of them, I wanted to expound on plant care today. For quite some time I simply watered them all once a week: a good drink seemed to do the plants well. While that sustained them, it turns out they really need more than that to thrive. So today let’s talk about the steps to go above and beyond and help your plants grow and flourish in your home.
WATER: Watering is key to weekly maintenance for nearly every plant, and to keep it easy for me I do all of my watering once a week. I’ve tried different watering cans and found the best luck and the least spillage with an old milk jug. I’ve amassed around 30 houseplants at this point crazy plant lady status, surely but it only takes me about 15 minutes to go around the house and quickly give them each a drink.
FOOD: As I said, water sustains plants, but it doesn’t necessarily make them grow: light and nutrients do that. Outdoor plants get nutrients from things that break down in the soil, but once an indoor plant have taken the nutrients out of their potting soil they need more food. This is why fertilization is so important. If you want your plant to get bigger you need to fertilize. I have a bottle of this stuff that I just sprinkle on the soil every few months before watering.
MOVEMENT: Don’t move your plants! Just like humans, plants want a place to call home and once they get comfortable somewhere they don’t like to be bothered. While you shouldn’t move your plants around you should rotate them. Plants grow towards the light, so if you give them a 1/4 turn every time you water you’ll ensure that you have a symmetrical plant instead of a leaning one you can see the money tree above hadn’t been turned in a while.
LIGHT: Take yourself back to elementary school science for a minute. Remember studying plants and a little process called photosynthesis? Well, plants not only need food and water to survive, they need sunlight. Other than a snake plant, I haven’t found anything that is happy in a dark room. Ferns are supposed to be low light lovers but they are very finicky and require lots of humidity. Luckily we have lots of windows in this house, but even with that some of my plants weren’t growing. It was during renovation and lots of construction dust that I really noticed a decline. My mom pointed out that the leaves need to be clean to absorb the sun: photosynthesis. Probably my least favorite task, but equally as important, is dusting the leaves every month or so. I typically just use a soft cloth, but about twice a year I get out some cooking oil olive or coconut is great – even mayonnaise does the trick and give them a good shining. I’m always amazed at the new leaves I see afterwards.
If you’ve done all of these things and your plant is still not looking happy it might be time to repot. Just like kids outgrow their clothes, plants outgrow their pots. This small palm is looking a bit sad, so I’m repotting it in something larger.
Speaking of larger, this succulent used to live in the palm’s gold vase. I moved it to this other container about a year ago, and it has since tripled in size and had some babies. Many plants create what are often called “pups.” Once these little ones get big enough it’s important to separate them so they can continue to grow and their parent plant can thrive. The babies need some extra water and attention at first to get their root system started, but it’s worth it for a plant you didn’t have to buy.
Repotting plants is another task that takes some time, but it usually requires an afternoon once every year or so to move things around a bit. In the scheme of maintenance it’s very little time.
That’s basically it for most of the plants we have. Let’s talk for a moment about a few specific plant families that I’ve found require some unique care.
ORCHIDS: This was the first plant I ever brought home, and these exotic, sculptural houseplants are so easy to maintain upfront. You buy them with flowers and they’re just gorgeous. Place them in a bright room, give them 3 ice cubes a week, and you should have a beautiful plant for almost two months. It’s once the flowers are gone that they become more work. In order for them to reflower they must be fertilized with orchid fertilizer every other week. This process involves giving them ice once a week and the following day giving them a mixture of orchid food and water. I tend to forget and haven’t had great luck but my mom has orchids that continue to bloom several times a year.
SUCCULENTS: I know many people have good luck with them, but I really struggled to understand them until recently. Things like cactus and jade plants always eventually fell to a miserable death in my hands, and I stopped buying them. The small jade plant (above) was something I had acquired and like so many others it started dropping its leaves. Unsure of what to do I finally quit watering it all together. After about a month the leaves stopped falling off and the ones still left became somewhat shriveled. I gave it a very small drink and soon after it started sprouting new leaves. I know succulents like drought. I’ve been told by many to only water them once every two weeks. Well, keeping track of two different schedules is too much for my brain to remember, but I’ve finally learned how to tell what a succulent needs. If the leaves are falling off or have become yellow it’s getting too much water. If they are wrinkled or dimpled it needs water. Otherwise I just give them a quick dribble of water, never a big drink.
Now that I have a basic knowledge of how to take care of plants I’ve had a lot of fun trying out new types and colors. I love that I can pick up a plant while I’m at Lowe’s or Costco for oftentimes less than a bundle of flowers and bring new life to a corner of our home. This plant finder is a fun way to figure out what you might enjoy adding to your collection. What are some of your favorite indoor plants? Any tips I missed?
*This post is in partnership with Costa Farms, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Makerista possible.