8 Pro Tips for Happier and Healthier Houseplants
Adopt these best practices for easy and effective indoor plant care.
Many indoor plants require minimal effort, making it easy for even the most laid-back gardener to care for them. However, all plants flourish better with consistent attention. Discover how to determine your plants’ daily light intake, refine your watering methods, avoid dust that can inhibit growth, and enhance soil and drainage with these eight must-know tips.
1. Clean Their Leaves Often
Ever noticed that rejuvenated feeling you get post-shower? Plants feel a similar sensation. Placing your indoor plants in the sink or shower, or for bigger ones, cleaning the leaves with a damp, soft cloth, significantly boosts their well-being and growth.
Cleaning or misting your plants not only removes potential pests residing on the leaves but also clears off accumulated dust. This dust can limit the light reaching your plants. To minimize soil spillage, consider wrapping the pot in a plastic bag.
2. Ensure Proper Drainage — Filler-Free!
Given that potted plants have less soil surrounding them than those planted in the ground, ensuring proper drainage is crucial. Both the container and the soil within should facilitate water flow away from the plant’s roots.
While many indoor plant enthusiasts place stones, bark, or other materials at the base of their pots to enhance drainage, this can sometimes be counterproductive. Such fillers can cause a zone of saturation, making the soil above the filler retain water. This not only restricts root space but also traps moisture at the bottom part of the soil. This trapped moisture can result in root harm and fungal infections. It’s wiser to invest in quality potting soil and prevent future issues.
3. Check the Roots
Inspect the roots of your plants annually and repot them before they get rootbound. If you remove the plant from its container and see that it’s predominantly roots with little potting mix, it’s a sign the plant needs more room. Though many typical indoor plants can withstand tight root spaces — with some even mistakenly believed to prefer such conditions — repotting them before they’re constrained ensures they grow best and remain healthy.
4. Mix New and Old Soil
When repotting your plant, blend the fresh potting mix with the existing one rather than discarding the old soil completely. Gently loosen the plant’s roots to mix both soil types, ensuring better drainage. Simply placing the rootball in a new container and filling it with new soil might cause inconsistent moisture retention because of the two types of soil not being integrated properly, increasing the risk of overwatering or underwatering.
5. Water Dry Plants Slowly
When watering a plant with dry soil, introduce the water gradually instead of drenching it. Several standard mixes can resist water when they become overly dry, which means if you water heavily until it drains out the bottom, the dried-out potting mix might not take in much. The more gently you water, the more effectively it is absorbed.
For particularly thirsty plants, target the roots directly. If the soil is so dry that water just slides off, immersing the rootball in water for about 20 minutes can help ensure it becomes thoroughly hydrated.
6. Consider Bottom Watering
When you water plants from the top, it can increase their susceptibility to rot. Orchids, for instance, are particularly prone to crown rot from lingering moisture. Considering this, watering from the bottom might be a better alternative.
When using the bottom watering technique, immerse the pot in a filled sink, basin, or tray for roughly 15 minutes. This process lets the soil draw moisture up from the drainage holes. Bottom watering ensures thorough soil hydration, encourages deeper root development, and minimizes the likelihood of fungal infections. However, one downside is the potential buildup of fertilizer salts in the soil, which should be periodically flushed out using top watering.
For plants preferring arid conditions, such as cacti, only use bottom watering if they’re planted in a specialized succulent or cactus mix. Saturating their soil through bottom watering could lead to overhydration if the soil doesn’t drain effectively.
7. Ensure Optimal Light Exposure
Understanding the lighting requirements of your indoor plants and the light your home offers is essential for nurturing plants that thrive. Determine the type of light your windows give, whether it’s intense or dim and direct or diffused, and then match plants to their ideal location.
Direct sunlight occurs when the sun’s rays directly touch your plant without any obstruction. On the other hand, light that passes through barriers, like curtains, is considered indirect. Adjusting to the right lighting often requires some experimentation. If a plant’s leaves begin to fade or show brown, crispy tips, it may be getting too much sunlight. Conversely, if there’s no new growth or if the leaves appear dull, consider increasing the light’s duration or intensity.
8. Try Slow-Release Fertilizer
Giving your plants excessive fertilizer can harm their roots. However, using time-release fertilizer granules offers a convenient method to nourish your plants appropriately and right when they need it. This type of fertilizer benefits plants by gradually supplying nutrients over several weeks, unlike water-soluble fertilizers that release all at once. It’s akin to your plants grazing throughout the day instead of having just a single daily meal.