Your houseplants are not just a great decorative touch. They can provide you with a sense of accomplishment, give you the chance to care for something and help contribute to your home’s health. But, as you may have already discovered, houseplants can provide a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re someone who is always on the go. Try the following ten ways to keep your plants at their best all year round.
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1. Be A Wise Waterer
Establish a watering routine that meets the needs of your plants. For example, if you’re got hardy plants that need occasional watering, mark a particular day of the month as your water day. For plants that need daily watering, make it part of your morning routine, with the watering container filled up the night before to save time.
If you’re going away for an extended period of time, use a watering globe to keep your plants alive while you’re gone. You can buy one or just make one yourself using a bottle with a long neck, like ketchup or wine containers. Simply clean out the container well, making sure there’s no soap residue left should you decide to use a mild detergent to clean it, and fill it with water. Make sure the soil is moist, and then stick the bottle into your plant’s pot at an angle. As the soil dries out, the bottle will release water into it.
You can also use your bathtub as a terrarium while you’re away. Place your plants in a tub filled with just a few inches of water in a sunny bathroom. Cover each plant individually with a dry-cleaning bag to keep them hydrated.
2. Use A Filter
Line the bottom of a pot with a coffee filter before you fill it with soil. The filter will allow extra water to escape via the drainage hole, but your dirt will stay in the pot where it belongs.
3. Pump Up Potting Soil
You can add many items that are rich in nutrients to your soil to give your plants a boost. The good news is that most of these items are what you would normally toss out, such as coffee grinds, egg shells and banana peels. These nutrient-enrichments will naturally decompose in the soil and provide your plants with nutrition at the same time.
4. Say Hello To Sponges
If, despite your best efforts, you tend to forget to water your plants, you can use a sponge. Put a new sponge at the bottom of your plant pot. The sponge will collect water that drains out, providing a well for your plant to drink from should you forget to water it.
5. Pile Some Pine Cones
Pine cones don’t have to be something you clean off your lawn and toss out anymore. Use the cones as a layer for your planter’s base. The pine cones assist water drainage and can help you use less soil, which will make your pot lighter and easier to handle.
6. Use Natural Resources
Rain can be a useful source of free water if you’re trying to cut down your water bill but don’t want to starve your indoor plants. Place buckets outside to collect rain you can use for watering later. If you have a hardier plant, you can even try putting it outside for a brief time while it rains.
7. Prune Very Carefully
Pruning a houseplant isn’t a bad idea. You can prune to remove dead leaves and branches, which encourages balanced growth or just to control the size. Generally, you’ll have to prune your houseplants at least occasionally, but the key here is to be careful. Try to prune at the start of the growth season, and don’t prune more than 25 percent of a plant’s foliage at one time, as you may end up killing it.
There are some plants that you should never prune, as this can cause permanent damage. Plants that aren’t fit for pruning include many orchid varieties and palms. If you’re not sure whether you should prune your plant or what technique to use, research its care instructions and pruning routines before you attempt to do anything.
8. Go Easy On Yourself
If you’re new to houseplant care or struggling with the plants you have, try going a bit easier on yourself until you get better at your plant health routines. Some plants are simply easier to care for than others, so adding some no-fuss plants to your indoor garden can help you establish and hone your plant care skills without the disappointment of coming home to a bunch of dead plants.
Easy plants include the Fiddleleaf Fig, which needs occasional water and medium to bright light, the Snake Plant, which is nearly indestructible and generally only susceptible to over-watering, and the Zeezee Plant, which is so tough that it’s also known as the “Eternity” plant.
9. Get Familiar With Fertilizer
The right fertilizer will keep your plants healthy and help them grow. What type you need depends on your plants, and it’s usually marked right on the pot it came in using a number form, such as 10-20-10. These numbers, in order, represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium your plant needs. Nitrogen is what promotes growth and keeps plants lush, while phosphorus helps roots and encourages flowering. Potassium keeps your plant’s stems strong and helps it ward off disease.
Some houseplants need special mixes, but most common plants need a 10-10-10 balanced mix. You can find these mixes at many plant and garden stores already prepared and ready to use in different forms. Water-soluble is the most common and comes in powders, liquid or crystals. A slow-release granule is also easy to use and is released when you water the plant. Spikes work like the slow-release granules, but these are inserted deep into the soil and near the pot’s edge to avoid hitting a root.
You can tell if your plant needs fertilizer by the following signs:
• No flowers or very small flowers
• Leaves dropping or turning pale in color
• Weak stems or weak new growth
On the other hand, if you’re over-fertilizing your plants, you may see:
• Leaves which are wilting or misshaped
• A white crust forming on your potting mix’s surface
• Brown spots or scorched edges on leaves
Review the care guides for your plant types so you know how often to fertilize and what mix type will be the most beneficial.
10. Be Ready To Research
Overall, the best way to keep your plants healthy is to know what they need and when they need it, and this includes light, temperature, fertilizer and watering requirements. Learn the signs of some common diseases that may affect your plants so you can stop illnesses in their tracks before they claim your potted friends. By arming yourself with the right care knowledge, you can look forward to a house full of healthy plants for years to come!