Learning a new skill is a proven, and positive, way to fight the winter blues. Having something new to concentrate on and look forward to can stimulate your mind and give you greater pleasure in everyday life. And we could all use a little bit more ‘happy’ this winter, right?
With that in mind, we’re sharing our team’s “top ten” houseplant tips with you below. These general tips were compiled with the thought in mind that it’s not a green thumb you’re lacking – but a starting point with concrete suggestions in plain english that you can easily digest and follow.
Not only will learning to pick and care for the perfect plants be therapeutic this winter, but so will the plants themselves. Plants have been proven to boost moods, increase creativity and productivity, convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, and naturally filter our indoor air of harmful toxins.
OUR TOP TEN PLANT CARE TIPS
1 – Pick your plant based on your light
Our #1 rule of thumb is to determine the amount of sunlight your space receives, and to choose your plant accordingly! If you’re not sure just by looking – start by figuring out which direction your windows face. If there’s something outside your window – a large tree or building, for example – that could obstruct sunlight, make sure to take that into consideration, too. Generally speaking:
South‐facing windows = bright light
East/West‐facing windows = moderate light
North‐facing windows = low light
Remember that while nearly all plants prefer bright light – be careful to protect them from intense direct sun. If the summer sun is intense enough to burn your skin, it’s certainly too much for your plant’s leaves! To protect your plants from burning, draw a sheer curtain during the day or move them a foot or two away from the window.
2 – Be mindful of your social life
Be sure to consider your daily schedule, travel frequency, and general forgetfulness (nothing to be ashamed about!) while you decide on a plant. If your absent-mindedness or crazy work schedule is what stands in the way of plant ownership – pick a plant that thrives from neglect. For example – if you have bright light, try a low maintenance succulent or cactus; if you have low light, try a low maintenance snake plant or ZZ plant.
3 – It is better to underwater, than to overwater
Beware of over-watering; it’s the easiest way to kill a plant! You may be tempted to water your plant on a strict schedule, but the best thing to do is to water it only when needed. Always check the soil first before giving it a drink.
Keep in mind that environmental and seasonal changes can throw your plant’s watering schedule off. For example – plants need less water in the winter, when they’re growing slower, days are shorter, and light is less intense. But if you’re blasting your heater… their soil might dry out quicker, and they might need more. A telltale sign your plant is past due for a watering? Wilting leaves or soil pulling away from the sides of the planter. If the soil is darker in color and sticks to your finger, your plant should be fine for the time being.
P.S. Always use tepid water to water your plant. Water directly in-to the soil, around the base of the plant. Let the potting soil soak up the water for about 15-‐30 minutes, then empty any remaining water from the saucer.
4 – Increase humidity when necessary
For plants that prefer more humid conditions such as ferns, ivies, or tropical plants, don’t be afraid to mist them using a small spray bottle in-between regular waterings. During the dry months of winter, grouping your plants together also helps to create a humid microclimate. A humidifier can help, too, and is an added bonus for your skin.
Keep in mind that drought-tolerant plants like succulents and cacti do not need added humidity – they don’t mind being dry! In fact, their native habitat – the desert – is pretty damn dry, and that’s how they like it ☺ And that brings us to another rule that pretty much applies to every single houseplant, and all these tips:
RECREATE YOUR PLANT’S NATIVE ENVIRONMENT (as best as possible, of course)
Most tropical plants prefer high humidity and moderate light, while most desert dwellers prefer dry air and bright light…
5 – Keep your plant’s environment as stable as possible
Plants, just like us, are most comfortable between 65 and 75 degrees F. Extreme fluctuation in a plant’s environment can seriously stress them out. Do your best to avoid placing your plant near temperature hazards like vents, radiators and exterior doors, which might create hot or cold spots and drafts.
6 – It’s totally OK to forgo fertilizer
If you’re a plant novice, it’s totally OK to stay away from fertilizer. Too much fertilizer is another easy way to kill your plant. Plants get their minerals from the soil, and their food from the sun. Houseplants tend to not need fertilizer as often as outdoor plants do. It is possible to have a healthy houseplant without additives. If you do choose to fertilizer your plant, it’s best to only do so during the growing season (i.e. spring and early summer) and follow the general rule of thumb ‘less is more’. Most store-‐bought fertilizers should be diluted with water before use.
7 – Purchase a healthy plant from a reputable source
Do your best to buy a quality plant from someone or somewhere with a little expertise. In most cases, you’ll want to stay away from department stores and supermarkets, where plants are stored in basements and dark warehouses, and instead stick to your local nurseries, garden centers, and specialty stores or florists. Definitely give your plant a once-‐over before purchasing: watch out for yellowed leaves, powdery mildew, leaf spots, brown leaf tips, weak or wobbly stems and other obvious signs of poor plant health.
An added bonus of purchasing from a source with plant expertise – they can answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, either. Most people who sell or work with plants, love talking about them ☺
8 – Show a little extra TLC in the beginning
Show your plant a little extra attention in the beginning of your relationship. When you bring a new plant home for the first time, establish a routine of checking in with it every 3 to 4 days. A little extra attention can go a long way – and it can be pretty therapeutic, we promise. Slight environmental changes can cause fluctuations in the
frequency of your care, so best not to just assume “every Monday is watering day.” Besides, it’s nice to check in and say “Hi” to your plant every few days. Watching it adapt and grow can be fulfilling.
9 – Do not be afraid to repot
A common misconception – repotting does not necessarily mean putting your plant in a new planter, but rather, changing your plant’s soil or potting mix. This is because plants receive some of their nutrients from their soil. Great news if you love your planter. But if you’re looking to splurge on a new one, try to choose one no more than 2-4 inches larger than the current planter, depending on your plant’s current size – i.e. you do not want your plant swimming in soil, which can lend itself to overwatering, and eventually root rot.
10 – Make sure your planter has drainage
Most plants are sold in plastic grow pots, which are not meant for long-term growth! More often than not, the plant has already overgrown it’s plastic pot at the nursery, and needs to be repotted into something more substantial. We recommend picking a planter slightly larger in size than the plant’s current grow pot, in a reliable material like ceramic, terra cotta, or fiberglass. If your plant’s new planter does not have a drainage hole at the bottom of it to allow excess water to escape from the potting soil – it is extremely important to create makeshift drainage. You can do this by lining the bottom of your planter with rocks to create crevices for the water to drain into. Here at The Sill, we use lava rocks because of their porous nature. This added precaution helps you from overwatering your plants in the long run.
P.S. Plant Care questions?
That’s what we’re here for. Leave a comment below, swing by The Sill Shop, reach us via email at email@example.com, or watch this awesome video of Chris Satch – head of Plant Education here at The Sill – by our neighbors Digg.