Indoor Plant Parenting
Houseplants are our way of laughing at nature and bringing the best garden delights inside to enjoy in all seasons. Having even just a single houseplant is a splash of joy and vibrant green life in our homes, bolstering our home’s style and look while letting us enjoy all of the benefits that our green leafy friends bring to the table. As outdoor natives that have spent countless years adapting to their more rugged natural environment, though, our houseplants need a little bit of care to transition into their new domestic life. Lucky for us, becoming plant parents is less daunting than it sounds, and a couple hints and tricks will have you on your way:
At the beginning of your Plant Parenthood journey is selecting a plant that you love AND that will work for your home and lifestyle. With so many to choose from, it may seem daunting to narrow down your favorites, but there are options for almost any style and living space, so it’s not as hard as you think! Think about these when choosing what type of plant to look at:
Lifestyle. Are you a busy work-all-day type with a hectic schedule that doesn’t need much more complicating? Or a free spirit that gets lost in their head and forgets things? If so, you might want to choose a plant that is tough enough that it doesn’t need constant care – something a bit tougher and independent that thrives on some neglect will fit into your home and schedule easily, without adding extra stress. Think of getting a succulent, a ZZ plant, a snake plant, or a spider plant.
Do you have a little bit more time in your life? Or determination to care for a leafy friend that needs a little bit more pampering to thrive? You might love the challenge of taking on a plant that requires some help but will reward you for your efforts. For those ready to be a more readily available plant parent, something like the popular and fabulous fiddle leaf fig might be a perfect choice for you.
Have a look at the space in your home. What corners or window sills are you hoping to fill up with some fresh-faced greenery? Many houseplants prefer areas with bright but indirect natural light, so spaces with a window are often ideal. If you don’t have anywhere that fits that description or had your heart set on a more dim corner, don’t despair! There are some plants that are tough and thrive in low lighting, too – you’ll just need to prioritize that quality when it comes to choosing your plant companion.
Once you’ve settled on a home for your plant, you won’t want to be making too many dramatic changes. Plants aren’t used to getting up and walking to a new spot, so they can be slow to get comfortable in a new location. They will need some time to get used to changes, like the air, temperature, lighting, water, and their pots, so moving them around your home might just add to their list of troubles. Keeping them comfortable and cozy will help them to get acclimated to your home and leave you with a happier and healthier plant.
Everything needs some food and water to survive, and your houseplant is no different. But the specific needs of your plants can be dramatically different. Think about how different your plant’s needs for water could be if they are from a damp and boggy home, the desert, or the lush rainforest. To keep them happy, it’s up to you to provide for them.
Water: There is such a thing as too much! Once your plant’s thirst is quenched, they run out of room to put more water, and the roots stop absorbing. And if there’s too much extra water sitting in the soil with nowhere to go, it might even start rotting the roots of your darling plant! Underwatering is far easier to solve, as you can just add a little more water until your plant is happy.
Start your watering schedule by not following one at all. Simply poke your finger into the soil. When it’s dry up to your first knuckle, add some water. If it’s wet, wait to test again in a few days. You’ll find a rhythm soon enough and have a watering schedule tailored to your plant.
Food: Less is more for food, too. Your plant has many of its essentials right in the soil, so your houseplant shouldn’t need too much fertilizer to flourish. If you really want to give your plant a boost, though, once during growing season is plenty, and a half dose is usually most effective.
When picking a pot, you’ll naturally be choosing one that matches your home decor, but you’ll want to give your plant a home that helps to look after their needs, too. Pick something that has a little room to accommodate some growth from your plant, but doesn’t leave too much empty space to be filled. About double the volume of the plastic container your plant came in should be just right.
If your plant is happy and healthy, you’ll have to upgrade eventually – just like a kid outgrowing their shoes. If your plant starts dropping their leaves and you don’t know why, or you can see roots winding around or growing out of the pot, you know it’s time to move up a size.
You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to know what your plants are telling you! While they can’t just tell you what they need in English – that would be so much easier, though, wouldn’t it? – they do have ways to drop hints.
S.O.S. signs that your plant is asking for help are easy to spot. Stunted growth, discoloration, wilting, and dropping leaves are all clues. Your plant is showing what they need – like more light, water, or even nutrients. All you have to do is pay attention and be ready to troubleshoot.
Being a new plant parent and bringing your houseplant home can feel stressful, especially if you’re overwhelmed by feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t worry too much, though. By starting off right with a good fit for you, your houseplant will feel comfortable at home and bring a smile to your face every day you see it.