THE SILL‘S TOP TEN PLANT CARE TIPS
Because plants are for everyone. No “green thumb” required.
1. Always pick your plant based on your light
Our number one rule of thumb is to determine the amount of sunlight your space receives, and then to choose your plant accordingly! If you’re not sure just by looking – start by figuring out which direction the windows in your space 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 most houseplants prefer bright (indirect*) 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.
*For your tropical plants! Most cacti, and some other types of succulents like the aloe below, can handle bright, direct light.
2. Be mindful of your work schedule + social life
Be sure to consider your daily schedule, travel frequency, and general forgetfulness (nothing to be ashamed about!) when deciding on a new plant. If your absent-mindedness or crazy work schedule is what stands in the way of plant ownership – pick a plant that tolerates from neglect. For example – if you have bright light, try a bunch of super low-maintenance succulents; and if you have lower 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 houseplant! You may be tempted to water your plant on a strict schedule, or create a Google Calendar alert (guilty!), but the best thing to do is to water it only when needed. Always check the soil first before giving it a drink to make sure it’s dry.
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.
Always use tepid water to water your plant! Water directly into the soil, around the base of the plant. Never water directly on top of the plant, as most plants do not absorb water through their leaves*. Let the potting soil soak up the water for half a day or so, then empty any remaining water from the saucer.
*Epiphytes, like the air plants (Tillandsia spp.) flanking the cacti below, are an exception to this tip.
4. Increase humidity when necessary
For plants that prefer more humid conditions such as ferns, ivies, or some 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 more 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. Misting them will do more harm than good.
Keeping a houseplant’s native environment in mind should always apply to your plant care routine. You are trying to recreate that environment inside your home to help your plant thrive. Most tropical plants prefer high humidity and bright to moderate, indirect light; while most desert dwellers prefer dry air and bright, direct light (there’s no shade in the desert!).
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 skip fertilizer
If you’re a plant novice, it’s 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, and 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 (early spring to early fall) and follow the general rule of thumb ‘less is more’. Most store-bought fertilizers should be diluted with water before use.
Find our top 5 tips for fertilizing houseplants HERE.
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 larger 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 all your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, either. Most people who sell or work with plants, love talking about them! (We definitely do.)
8. Show a little extra TLC in the beginning
Show your plant a little extra attention in the beginning of your plantship. When you bring a new plant home for the first time, establish a routine of checking in with it every 3 to 4 days to ensure it’s looking happy and healthy. 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 for all my plants.”
Besides, it’s nice to check in and say “hello!” to your plant every few days. Watching it adapt and grow in its new environment can be fulfilling, even if you are not a first-time plant parent.
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 out your plant’s soil with fresh potting mix. This is because plants receive some of the nutrients they need to thrive from their soil. This is great news if you love your current planter.
If you’re looking to splurge on a new one to change up a space’s decor, or if you plant needs a little more wiggle room, try to choose a planter that is no more than 2 to 4 inches larger than the current planter, depending on your plant’s current size. You do not want your plant swimming in soil! Excess soil can lend itself to overwatering, and eventually root rot.
Find our signs you need to repot your plants, and steps for how-to, HERE.
10. Make sure your planter has drainage – or create it
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.
But most importantly, remember to have fun! Being a plant parent should be a positive experience. Enjoy learning about your new plants, caring for them, and watching them grow.
Questions about your particular plants? Email our help hotline at email@example.com!