It’s been estimated that 90% of all houseplants die within a year. If you were to ask somebody why their $5 plant from the supermarket died, they’d probably tell you it was because they forgot to water it or that they didn’t know how to take care of plants. The truth is, most people don’t know how to take care of their houseplants properly.
Not only can you keep your plants alive with proper care, but they will also look nicer and live longer if you know how to keep up the conditions that they want. Here are some tips for making sure that your houseplants not only stay alive, but remain healthy and beautiful.
Most people know that to keep houseplants alive they need to be watered regularly, however many do it wrong and end up killing their plants because of this. Houseplants actually don’t need to be watered as much as you think. For most plants you should let the soil in pot dry out completely before you water them again. This can be a week or more, although some plants in small pots may dry out every few days. Over-watering houseplants is a very common mistake. This creates pools of stagnant water in the soil and can cause mildew, root rot, fungus gnats and other issues.
A common way to check the moisture in the soil is by sticking your finger in it. Most houseplants should be dry to the 2nd knuckle before watering again. If your finger comes out with soil stuck to it before the 2nd knuckle, wait another few days before watering. Another method is to purchase a soil moisture meter. These are inexpensive tools with probes, also called a moisture meter that can be stuck into the dirt in your pots to determine if your plants are in need of a drink.
Many houseplant owners want to maintain a watering schedule. This can work, but you have to do your homework first! Take a few weeks to note how quickly the soil dries up in each of your plants, using a method above, then use that as the basis for your schedule. It’s a good idea to reevaluate the schedule periodically, especially at the change of seasons, to make sure you’re properly watering your plants.
Another thing people commonly neglect is making sure that all excess water has been removed from the soil. A well draining soil and a pot with a hole in the bottom will help this. If you fall in love with a pot without a hole, you can either drill one or use it as a cache pot with a nursery pot inside.
To properly water houseplants you want to do so with room temperature water, hot or cold water will shock your plant and cause damage/dying over time. You may also find that your plants thrive more with water that is free of harsh chemicals and chlorine.
The butt-chugging method is basically watering your plants from the bottom! While it’s fun to say, it’s also fun to try!
You can use a bathtub, an old kid’s pool, a large plastic container, or whatever you have that is big enough to hold your plants! Fill the container with water and carefully place your plants in the water. Very dry plants may float at first. Allow your plants anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to soak up the water! When you can feel moist soil just below the surface, remove the plant and allow it to drain thoroughly.
Butt-chugging is great for those who love to overwater and can be used to deter fungus gnats!
Watering From Top
Watering your plants from the top is just that. If your plant feels light, the soil is dry, or your plant shows signs of being unhappy or droopy, it may be time to water! Give your plant a good soaking of water!
Some plants may not like to get their leaves or crowns wet, while others enjoy a good soaking “rain” from the shower. Either way, make sure to let the water drain thoroughly from the bottom and dump any excess water out of your saucer.
The next most important part of helping your plants thrive is to make sure that you give it the right amount of light. This will cause more roots to grow, helping the plant get enough water and nutrients through its leaves.
Houseplants need light, either natural from a window or artificial from a grow light. The amount of light needed will depend on the type of plant, however most houseplants thrive in bright indirect light. Some can handle a bit of direct light, especially from morning sun in an east facing window. However, too much direct sun can burn a plant’s leaves. There are even some houseplants that can thrive in lower amounts of sun, or survive with minimal sun.
Grow lights are a great way to add plants to a room with minimal light. There are many different varieties of lights available now, some that even look like regular bulbs! You’ll have to keep the lights on during the day when you may not be in the room, but not all day, to mimic the natural cycle of day and light. Timers or smart plugs can be used to automatically turn grow lights on and off at the same time the sun rises and sets!
Remember, plants use light to synthesize their food. Optimal lighting conditions are key to healthy houseplants!
Use The Right Soil
Using soil with a poor composition will only kill your plants faster. Many people think that using dirt from their backyard or whatever they can find in the woods makes great organic and natural soil, but it’s generally not ideal for houseplants.
If you’re using regular potting soil or even dirt from your backyard, then it has to be nice and fluffy so that the water can get from the top of the pot down into the roots without being blocked by anything. If there are a lot of holes, then it’s going to let air in too (which is something that we want).
Not all potting soils are ideal for houseplants. One way to achieve a fluffy, well draining soil is by amending a standard potting soil. Many people like using sphagnum moss or perlite in their potting mixes because it’s light and airy. Sphagnum moss is fairly easy to find, and perlite is very inexpensive and available at most hardware stores.
Don’t Use Toxic Chemicals On Your Plants
The worst thing that you could possibly do is put toxic chemicals on your houseplants when you want to kill bugs.
Don’t use pesticides, bug sprays or anything of the sort because this stuff will ruin your plants’ roots and possibly even kill them off. If you see bugs on your plant then look for a natural way to kill them off instead.
As an alternative to chemicals, you could use systemic insecticides (insecticides that are absorbed by the plant) which will kill bugs but without any harmful side effects to your houseplants. Basic dilute rubbing alcohol or castile soap can also help with bugs.
Keep Them Warm
Most of the common houseplants are tropical, so the last thing that you want to do is leave your houseplants out in the cold. Tropical plants thrive in warm, humid climates.
Getting blowed on from air-conditioning or forced air heating can cause plant leaves to dry out and slowly kill your plant. Drastic changes in temperatures from drafty windows can also be an issue in climates with very cold winters or hot summers.
A lot of common houseplants benefit from moisture added to the air. This can be done by using a humidifier. An alternative is to place the pot on a tray of pebbles with water between them. This keeps the plant out of the water but allows the air around it to have a higher humidity. Grouping plants that enjoy more humidity will also help them all.
The easiest way to get your houseplants to thrive is to mimic their natural habitat, so consider researching their native environments when setting up your plant space!
Houseplants are easy to keep alive if you know how. With the right tips, you’ll be able to keep your plants in good shape!
And remember, if they ever start looking bad or wilty, then it might be best to head to our Houseplant Addicts group and ask for help! Our Community would love to help you!