The Sill’s Top 10 Plant Care Tips
For the plant-weary and the houseplant hoarders, alike. No green thumb required.
1. Always pick your plant based on your light
Our #1 rule of (green) 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.
- South-facing windows provide bright light for the majority of the day. Choose almost any plant, and situate them a few feet or more from the windows, depending on whether they prefer direct or indirect light.
- East- and west-facing windows both provide medium light for the majority of the day. Keep your plants well within a few feet of the window, or choose a plant that tolerates moderate to low light.
- North-facing windows provide the lowest level of light. Choose plants that can tolerate low-light conditions and keep them as close to their light source as possible.
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 absentmindedness (or more realistically – your crazy work schedule) is what stands in the way of plant ownership, pick a plant that thrives from neglect. If you have bright light, try a succulent or cactus, and if you have low light, try a snake plant or ZZ plant. Truly, the only way to kill those four is over-care!
3. It is better to underwater, than to overwater…
Beware of overwatering; 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. 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. 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. Let the potting soil soak up the water for about 15-30 minutes, then empty any remaining water from the saucer. Idle water can lead to root rot!
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 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.
5. Keep your plant’s environment as stable as possible
Plants, just like us, are most comfortable between 65 and 75 degrees. 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 OK to forgo fertilizer
If you’re a novice, it’s totally OK to stay away from fertilizer. It’s another easy way to kill your plant. Plants get minerals from the air, water, and their potting mix – and are nourished and energized by sunlight. It is entirely possible to have a healthy plant without additives! If you do choose to fertilizer your plant, it’s best to only do so during the growing season (spring/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 with at least some expertise. In most cases, you’ll want to stay away from department stores and supermarkets, where plants can be stores in basements and dark warehouses, etc., 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. Trust us!
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! Slight environmental 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 extremely 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 plant-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 – or create it
If your plant’s planter does not have a drainage hole (or multiple) 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 will help you from overwatering your plants in the long run.