Keeping your plants alive and healthy sounds complicated but it’s actually pretty simple. Today, we will share 7 effective tips on how to keep your plants alive and useful hacks for those who lack a green thumb. But first, let me start this blog by asking you to please join me in a moment of silence to mourn for all the houseplants that we all lost in the past year.
Now, let’s get down to business. If you have a graveyard of houseplants you just couldn’t keep alive like me. Yes, I have dozens of houseplants I thought I could take care of (I assumed that I had a green thumb), only to kill them and turn them into a heap of dust two weeks later. Also, I know I’m not the only one. Then there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re not all born with a green thumb. A lot of people struggle to keep plants alive, at first, because they were simply committing quite obvious rookie mistakes when it comes to planting care.
Certainly, there are a lot of ways to kill a plant. Over-watering or under-watering. Too little sunlight or too much sunlight. The list goes on, but you get the picture. Thankfully, we’ve put together seven effective tips on how to stop killing all your plants this year and hacks for those who lack a green thumb. Prepare your planting kit and let’s get started!
Tip #1 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Know Your Plant
OK, we know this seems obvious, but it’s the most overlooked factor on how to keep your plants alive and healthy. Try to figure out what your plant is, then research the growing requirements of your plant. Also, most plants come with tags explaining the conditions they most need. For example, Yucca plants require bright, indirect light, and it has a low water requirement. It’s advisable to water about once every ten days.
It’s important to read the tag carefully, to familiarize yourself with the plant’s requirements for sunlight and watering, and to follow the instructions. Rather than ignoring the explanation instead of what you think your plants need.
Bonus Tip: Every plant has a common name and a Latin name. Knowing the common name of your plant should allow you to find the caring tips of your plant. However, Latin names are often better because it will help you find further information on how to specifically grow your plant and how to fix any problems that may occur.
For example, Adam’s needle or yucca plant is Yucca Filamentosa. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow because it requires very little care. It needs well-drained soil, and it should be kept a bit on the dry side. Also, it does not need fertile soil, and it grows best in full sun.
Tip #2 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Use the Correct Potting Soil
You need to think about what type of potting soil is right for your plant. Buying a bag of potting soil at the store will be enough for most plants. This type of potting soil is light, fluffy, and made up of peat moss, pine bark, and perlite or vermiculite. Plus, it contains extra nutrients or fertilizers that will help your houseplant grow properly.
Note: Never use soil from your backyard or from out in the natural environment. This type of soil is not appropriate for houseplants ’cause it will often compact too much, and it will hold water too tightly, which leads to over-watering.
Bonus Tip: Instructables created a blog wherein you can make your own soil-less potting soil. It’s quite interesting. Some of the ingredients are sphagnum peat moss, coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite and concrete-grade sand, and bits of pine bark. Here is the full recipe:
Soil-less Potting Soil
1 part Sphagnum peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1 part coconut coir
1 part sphagnum peat moss
1/2 part perlite
1/2 part vermiculite
3 parts pine bark
1 part sand
1 part sphagnum peat moss
One that includes soil as well is 1 part soil
1 part sand
1 part sphagnum peat moss
All you have to do is to provide your houseplant with the necessary support, air, water, and nutrients it needs with this soil-less potting soil.
Tip #3 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Choose the Correct Pot and Re-pot Your Plant
One of the most important factors in choosing a new pot for your plant is the drainage. Ideally, a good pot must have drainage holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out of the soil. If there is no such hole, all the extra water is trapped in the soil, which will drown the plant or rot the plant’s roots.
Must Have: Omysa’s Mid Century Planter and Stand
Bonus Tip: How to add a drainage layer? A useful tip from Elle Decor is to fill the bottom half of your planter with packing peanuts. It will cut the weight in half while creating better drainage.
It’s ideal to re-pot your plant because the container and soil they came in might not be suited for their growth. Also, plants don’t enjoy living in plastic nursery pots for long periods. When you’re re-potting your plant, a common rule of thumb is to go about an inch or two larger than the plastic pot that they’re in so it has room to grow. A pot too small can hinder your houseplant’s growth and lead to health issues for the plant. Remember, we’re focusing on how to keep your plants alive and to let them grow.
In addition, do not fill the entire pot full to the brim with soil/plant. It’s better to leave a little space so that it will be easier to water the plant. As much as possible, try not to disturb the root ball and handle the roots carefully. You can also consider adding some weak sugar water to the new soil to prevent transplant shock. Yes, plants experience moving stress too. Lastly, give time for the plant to adjust to its new home.
Tip #4 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Water Properly: Not Too Much and Not Too Little
OK, we all experienced over-watering our plants and thought that we were being a great plant parent. Then be totally confused when our plants die after two weeks. WHY???—me screaming at my new houseplant.
This is the most common rookie mistake of every plant parent. Yes, we know that plants need water just like every other organism on Earth does. However, drowning a plant isn’t a good thing, and watering too little isn’t all that good for it either. So how do you conquer your watering fears? What are the signs of over and under-watering a plant?
Rule of thumb: water when the soil is dry. Although there are some plants, depending on the season, it may be watered every couple of days or every week or even every 2 weeks. However, it’s not advisable to leave your plants unwatered for more than 2 weeks because the soil starts to get too dry. Here are signs if you’re over or under-watering your plants:
It’s over-watered if:
- There are yellow leaves falling off
- Tips of the leaves are turning brown
- Stem’s base is soft and mushy
It’s under-watered if:
- Brown and crispy leaves’ edges
- Unhealthy looking lower leaves
- Your plant’s leaves are starting to curl
It’s advised to use warm water for your plants since tap water contains excessive levels of chlorine, which is toxic to plants. You can put tap water in a bucket and set it out in the sun for a day to evaporate the chlorine. This makes the water safe for your plants.
Also, you shouldn’t just pour the water to your plant because the soil wouldn’t absorb anything. The water will just rush down the sides of the pot, into the bottom. Instead, be gentle and be patient. To avoid drowning your plant, use an amount of water equal to one-third of the volume of the pot, then water a little bit at first, wait for the water to sink in, then water a little bit more. Repeat these steps until you see water build up in your saucer.
Tip #5 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Let the Sunshine In
It’s a no-brainer that plants need sunlight to grow. Light is food for plants. For them to grow healthy, they need as much sunlight as possible. However, different plants require different light requirements. Check your location or how much sunlight your home receives. Observe the microclimates of your place (warmth, humidity and airflow) then choose the right plant for these different parts of your home. Do not buy a plant just because it looks nice.
If you’re putting your houseplants near the window, be sure that’s where they should be. Although most plants love being placed right in front of a window where the sun is. However, you should also consider the duration of light because plants also need darkness to survive. A rule of thumb: 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. You don’t have to exactly follow this, but it’s better to give your plants at least a couple hours of darkness every night if possible.
Bonus Tip: Half-turning your plant every day or two will help and maintain the growth of your houseplant even since leaves automatically bend toward the light.
Tip #6 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive: Fertilizer
If your plant is finally growing (congratulations!), it will eventually need fertilizer. You can buy a bag of fertilizer at stores, or you can also create your own organic fertilizer by grinding up plant scraps, weeds, or lawn clippings.
A rule of thumb: Use a soluble fertilizer three times during the growing period, which is typically spring and summer. Plants won’t need as much fertilizer during the winter months because your plant’s growth rate slows down since the temperature is cooler, and the light source isn’t as bright.
Tip #7 on How to Keep Your Plants Alive:
Give Them TLC
Give the right amount of attention, proper care, and love. These three things will surely make your plant happy and grow healthy. Besides, avoid moving your plants too much. Plants like to stay put in one place. If you need to relocate your plant, handle it with care. Once you’ve found the perfect spot for your plant, leave it be. Remember, plants are sensitive, so moving it around too much can send it into a state of shock.
There you have it, folks! There is no magic to good plant care, but by following these seven simple steps, researching, and following instructions, your plant will surely live and thrive in the years to come. Now go and create your own indoor jungle!