Raise your hand if you added more plants to your home in 2020. Many of us did, some for the first time.
I love the color and life that they add to your home. They’re a healthy addition to your home with their air-cleaning properties. Also, there’s the joy they bring when they thrive, the feeling of success. They can bring a feeling a calmness as you spend time nurturing them. Plants are therapeutic. They can help when dealing with depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
I’ve always had houseplants since I’ve lived on my own. In college, it was violets (my sorority flower) and they thrived. Off and on over the years, I’ve had a few plants. Some thrived but more died. I never really paid attention as to why some thrived and others died. In recent years my collection has grown. This past year with more time at home I really started to focus on why some were doing great and others weren’t. I started to add plant varieties that I had previously killed. This past year has been tough for everyone. The last few years have been a lot of change personally. My houseplants are selfcare.
I’m not a gardening master. Far from it. If you really want to dive deep into growing plants, there are gardening forums filled with experts. I have joined a few Facebook groups to learn some simple tips (especially for seeking out those ‘easy to grow’ varieties). I have, however, finally achieved houseplant success with a few simple changes. I share photos of my plants on my Instagram stories and get so many questions and comments that I decided to write a few posts.
7 Tips for Successfully Growing Houseplants
ONE – Distilled Water. This depends on your water source but straight tap water here in Phoenix is not good for some houseplants. Some plants do fine with tap water, others were getting huge brown spots, brown tips, and dying. Over time, I’ve learned which of my plants need the distilled water – I’ve moved them all together so that watering is easier.
If you have a well or water that is naturally softer, tap water might work fine for you. Some people collect rainwater which is another great source. Living here in the desert, rainwater isn’t a consistent source.
Fluoride in water can also cause issues for some plants. In places with high fluoride, people have found success with letting their water sit out overnight (this only helps for fluoride and does not help with hard water issues).
TWO– Feed your plants. Plants need nutrients to grow. Especially if you have overwatered because this can flush the nutrients out of the soil over time. But with anything, it’s a balance. Too much fertilizer can burn the plants and kill them. Research the fertilizer you’re using and your plants to find out how often to fertilize.
THREE – Plants need good soil drainage. Choose a good soil mixture for the type of plant that allows drainage. For houseplants, I mix my soil with perlite and bark. For succulents, I use a cactus mix and add in pumice. Choose a pot with drainage holes (not absolutely needed, but good if you tend to water on the heavier side). Buy pots with holes in them or add your own using a drill and diamond bit.
FOUR – Don’t overwater. Too much water will cause root rot and kill a plant. When a plant isn’t doing well, the instinct is to give it more water. Because root rot is occurring below the surface, it’s not obvious why your plant is dying.
Using a moisture meter was the best thing I ever did for my plants. I thought I had cut back on watering but once I started using the meter, I realized I was still watering them too much.
Some plants do best when you allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Others do best if you don’t allow the soil to dry out. Research and also this is something you will learn with time.
Too little water and a plant will also die but it’s more common than it’s too much water. Of course, a neglected plant that isn’t water will die but I’m referring to when plants that you are taking care of regularly.
FIVE – Correct amount of sun. Low light plants still need light. Many low light plants will do better with more light.
For some plants, direct sunlight is too much and will cause them to die. Most common house plants thrive on lots of indirect sunlight in my experience.
SIX – Use the proper size pot. For years I was replanting my pots after bringing them home into much larger pots. Plants often need to stay in the current pot when first coming home and then when you repot only go up slightly in size. Some plants thrive on being rootbound (such as Snake plants) and some need replanting sooner. But a plant doesn’t start growing the leaves as much until the roots have become more established in the current pot.
SEVEN – Start with ‘easy houseplants’. There are plants that are relatively easy and forgiving. Others are so finicky that if you look at them a certain way, they will die. Now that I have more experience and have started to really understand my plants, I am trying some more difficult ones – String of Pearls and Peace Lily are the ones I’m focusing on right now.
What tools do you need to take care of your plants?
Want to learn more about plants? Here are a few of my favorite sources for education and inspiration