Hey Plant Parent!
We know it's easy to get overwhelmed when you're new to Plant Parenthood. There's so much info out there! The good news is, it's much simpler than you think! We've got our top 5 tips for new plant parents right here for you. Lets dig right in!
1) Soak, Don't Spray!
Every potted houseplant, from a drought tolerant cactus to the most needy fern, needs ALL their potting mix fully saturated with water EVERY time you water them. This means that spraying your plant is NEVER a substitute for watering them. Nor is pouring out the last sip of your water bottle when you pass by! If you're nervous about overwatering your plants, remember: overwatering is not caused by how fully you saturate the potting mix, it's caused by how OFTEN you're watering and how much you allow the potting mix to dry out in between watering!
2) Drainage Is A Must!
Nothing will cause you more problems as a plat parent than not having drainage holes in the bottom of your pot! Putting a "drainage layer" of rocks or pebbles at the bottom of a pot without a hole is not a substitute for a drainage hole, and can actually do more harm than good. Though it's been recommended for decades, using a drainage layer has been proven to be useless. If you pot doesn't have a drainage hole, you can drill some, or just use it as a cache pot (a decorate outer pot) and keep your plant in the plastic grow pot it comes in! All roots need some oxygen to do their job. When they're deprived of the amount that their specific plant variety needs by being in potting mix that's too moist for too long, the essentially suffocate. This leaves them weak and open to the pathogens that create root rot, the great killer of indoor plants! Without at least one drainage hole at the bottom of your pots, your plants are much more likely to be in potting mix that is too moist. And by the way, the amount of oxygen a root system needs varies a lot from plant to plant. A fern's roots thrive with very little oxygen and prefer consistently damp potting mix, while a succulent needs a lot of oxygen in the potting mix and wants the potting mix to dry out completely between watering!
3) "Outside" Isn't a Cure for All Houseplant Woes
First of all, most houseplants originate in tropical environments. And unless you're lucky enough to live pretty close to the equator in a tropical environment yourself, putting your plants outside isn't doing them any real good because your outside in California or Michigan or even Florida isn't the outside those plants evolved in originally. Second, houseplants are grown in greenhouses in conditions specifically designed to prep them for indoor living, not for their original outdoor environment. So when your plant starts showing signs of stress, do NOT just put it out on the patio! It will be a huge shock to their system, and expose them to lots of pests and bugs they would never otherwise encounter.
4) Window Orientation
Understanding window orientation and how it impacts the light your plants are getting us an important skill for new and experienced plant parents alike!
North Facing Windows will get gentle, indirect light all day. Most houseplants will do well as long as they’re very close to these windows. Pulling back even 2-4’ starts to get too dark. The corners of north facing walls the areas directly below the windows get very little light
South Facing Windows get strong, direct light all day long. Only higher light tolerant plants will do well in these windows, but the rest of the room away from the direct sunbeams will have some of the best light for plants.
East Facing Windows will get gentle, direct light in the mornings as the sun rises. They’re a great spot for most houseplants. They area around the windows will get medium levels of indirect light for the rest of the day.
West Facing Windows will get stronger direct light in the afternoon and evening as the sun sets. Cacti, succulents, and other high light plants do well right at the window, and most houseplants will do well a few feet away.
Keep in mind that any obstructions such as a tree, awning, building, curtains, or energy saving coating on the glass will cut the light coming in through windows. Also, this is based on light in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, reverse the North and South facing descriptions.
5) Enjoy the Journey
Your plants don't have to be perfect, and neither do you! Plants are living things! That means that just like you and me, they will have flaws. Leaves will tear, they'll get a sunburn, you'll forget to water and they'll wilt, they'll lose lower leaves as they grow. You'll make mistakes in their care, and you'll definitely kill some of them, and that's ok. Snip off the damaged bits, propagate a leaf or cutting from the ones that are dying, learn from your mistakes, and move on. Let go of all the green guilt you're carrying and just enjoy the journey!
Want more plant care tips? Join our email list by clicking here to get a free digital download of our Plant Parenthood Booklet! It covers everything from light and watering to grooming and repotting!