One of the significant trends in gardening over the past few years is the increased interest in houseplants. I remember as a kid when my interest in gardening started, and I first purchased houseplants. I began with a Philodendron and Spider plant. With the pandemic, people have been spending more time indoors and having houseplants are a great way to decorate your home. They also have health benefits, such as enhancing your mood, reducing stress, and improving your productivity (which is terrific if you are working at home). There are even some varieties of houseplant that clean the air in your home.
So what do you need to know before you get started? Which are the best plants to buy as a newbie plant parent?
Here are some things you need to know to get started:
Light and Location – One of the most important things to figure out is the lighting your home gets. Houseplants need light to survive, but not all plants need the same amount. Some plants are sun worshippers, which are often called high light plants, and they need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Then there are low light plants that require only a couple of hours of indirect sun a day. If your home does not have enough daylight, you can always supplement it by utilizing grow lights. Here is some additional advice that will assist you in figuring out what kind of lighting you have in your home:
- High or Direct Light: Sunny windows facing south or southwest.
- Medium or Indirect Light: East-facing windows and spots in bright rooms away from the windows.
- Low Light: North-facing windows and darker rooms
Learn About The Plant You Want – Once you figure out the light and location, you can use that as a guide in selecting plants. Figuring out the growing conditions in your home will help you succeed in determining the plants you grow. It is best to do your research before purchasing your plants.
Watering – Overwatering is the number one reason homeowners kill their houseplants. Of course, some people do not water their plants at all, which is almost as bad. When you figure out what plant you want, you can check if it needs water by sticking your figure in the dirt. If it is dry, then water it. If it is moist, you can wait. Water your plants slowly until you see water draining out of the bottom of the container. Do not let the plant sit in a pot with water in the drainage plate, or the roots can rot. Try to avoid getting water on the foliage as some plants, such as African Violets, have foliage that is sensitive to moisture. In the winter, cut back on watering the plant, and when you do, make sure the water is at room temperature, so it does not shock the plant. If you see your plant drooping, it means it needs some more water.
Use Potting Soil – Use soil prepared, especially for houseplants, not soil from your garden, which will retain too much moisture for most houseplants. There is soil available for specific plants such as Succulents, Cacti, and Orchids.
Humidity – Some houseplants like succulents and cacti prefer a dry environment, but most plants like some moisture, especially in the winter months, when the air in your home is drier. You can do some things to increase humidity for your plants. For example, group your plants close to one another or put them on oversized saucers filled with pebbles. The pebbles prevent your plants from sitting in water, and as the water evaporates, it increases the humidity. You can also get a humidifier to put more moisture in the air in a particular room.
Temperature – Many houseplants are tropical plants and do best indoors when conditions mirror their natural environment. Ensure that the air temperature is between 65° – 75° F during the day. Night temperatures should not be more than 10 degrees cooler. Keep your plants away from drafty windows and doors, as well as heating vents and fireplaces.
Pot Selection – A pot is your plant's home, so make sure it is the right size and type, and it has good drainage. The containers should have drainage holes and, if they don't, take a bit more care not to soak the soil to prevent the roots from rotting overly. If the pot is too small, the roots will get too crowded and starve. Most houseplants you purchase should be okay in the container you are buying for a year or more. Generally, most houseplants will benefit from being repotted every few years. When you repot, go up in size at least one-inch or bigger.
Food/Fertilizer – When you acquire a houseplant, it is best not to fertilize it because the store you purchased it from probably already did so. Typically, you would provide your plant with a little food during the growing season from spring through early fall. For more information on this topic, review our article Tips And Tricks On Fertilizing Your Houseplants.
General Housekeeping – Here are some other things you can do to keep your plants happy:
- Wipe your houseplants to get the dust off your plants. Having too much dust or dirt on your plants can block sunlight and impede the plant's ability to grow.
- Remove dead, brown, or yellow leaves. Having some dead leaves is normal.
- If your plant has bloomed, remove the spent flowers.
- Regularly inspect your plants for insects and diseases. If you discover anything growing (or crawling) on your plants, first spray the plant with a little soapy water and gently wipe clean. If that doesn't work, visit your local garden center for a houseplant spray or try posting a question on our website. Please take a picture of the insect or damage it causes to find the right product to eliminate the problem.
- Like any good parent, be patient with your plant children
- Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help