Here are this week’s Life Pro Tips.
1. Overwatering kills more houseplants than underwatering, and its symptoms are very similar. When in doubt, don’t water.
Many people enthusiastically bring home a pretty houseplant for the first time and proceed to water it every day to keep it happy. While understandable, you’re setting yourself for heartbreak and frustration. It is natural to assume that the one thing we know we have to do to plants should be done often, and the more often the better, but root rot is usually not fixable and will slowly kill your lovely plant. Underwatering, on the other hand, can be fixed very easily. As a rule of thumb, once a week is perfect for most plants.
Here is a rather conclusive guide working for the vast majority of widely available plants:
- Give them a sunny spot. Seems obvious, but we might be tempted to place them for aesthetics out of the sun. There are plants that don’t mind (ferns are the best example), but most do. Give them sun or grow light. Remember that more sun makes them dry up more often (so on a sunny window sill, water once every 5 days, in a shadowy corner, once every week)
- Once every 2 weeks, take a soft cloth, slightly wet, and clean the leaves. Dust sets on them as well, and it makes it harder for them to undertake photosynthesis properly. It is also a rather soothing activity. Everyone wins.
- Get plant food. They are usually cheap and you can also make your own, and they can make your plant grow like crazy. Don’t overfertilize tho – about once every 3 months enough. Too much fertilizer is a thing, and it can burn them. Don’t fertilize in the winter.
- ⚠️ on the topic of eating, many houseplants are toxic to pets if ingested. If you have pets, particularly playful ones, make sure to research ahead to avoid the trouble!
- Don’t rush to repot. I know you want to put them in these cute pots you got, but keep them in nursery pots for at least a month. Many plants experience environmental change shock between you taking them from the store and bringing them home, so don’t make it harder for them, they will thank you with many happy years in those sweet pots of yours.
- Speaking of pots, always have drainage. Try not to put plants straight into a decorative pot without drainage – get a bigger planter and put it in with nursery pot and tray.
- Chop of leaves that go yellow – they won’t go green again, and the plant is wasting resources on it.
- If cactuses or succulents, you still have to water them, albeit rarely. Many people recommend cactuses as the most beginner houseplants, but you can absolutely kill both cactuses and succulents, and not only as a beginner. But even if they do not die on you, they will not look as lush as when bought in few months unless quite a lot of care is given. If you really want an unkillable plant, get a pothos or peace lily. They both droop when thirsty (so they give you a clear indication as to when to water them), have lovely chunky foliage, are quite cheap, and very sturdy. Other great ones are snake plants. Most cactuses and succulents would go on 4th and 5th place on the “hardest to kill” list.
- Your plant may experience a bit of a shock after about half a year since you bought it, as the fertilizer is given in-store usually runs out around that time. Don’t panic, it is not dying, just give it a little love and plant food and it will be happy again.
Follow these and you should be just fine for the majority of plants.
Houseplants are awesome decorations that can light up any place, and more than you think are extremely low maintenance. It is a nice hobby for the soul, and don’t stress if you kill one, happens to everyone every now and then. Some species are drama queens, and some specimens of no-fuss plants are ungrateful. That being said, most will comply, because they want to be alive just as much as you want them alive. Here is a little guide on what to expect from common low-maintenance species. Good luck! 💚