Keeping house plants is a fun and rewarding hobby that can bring a host of benefits to you and your home. It may seem like there are lots of things to consider when starting out with indoor plants but actually, following a few simple rules will work wonders. Read on to discover our easy care guide.
Identify your house plant
The first thing you have to do is identify your plant. This should be made clear to you on purchase but for plants which are gifted to you or that you’ve inherited, the internet is going to be your best friend here. There are many plant ID apps that can recognise your plant from photos so this can be a quick and easy way to find a match. You can also field your question on any of these gardening forums to try and get an ID – this is also a great way of getting involved with a community of enthusiasts!
Once you’ve successfully got the name of your house plant you can familiarise yourself with what it needs. There’s a ton of information out there to get lost in but you can focus on just two key things when setting up; light and water. Get these two elements right from the start and you’ll have a healthy and lush plant.
All plants require light in order to kickstart photosynthesis. The process where sunlight is converted into sugars to aid the healthy growth of the plant. The main thing you need to concern yourself with is the amount of light that your house plant requires. A Yucca plant, for example, will love basking in bright sunlight for the majority of the day whereas some Calathea plants prefer to spend their days in the shade.
We use terms like direct light, bright indirect and filtered light to describe the differences in light around our homes and this is your best indicator for where to place your plant. Take a look at the infographic below to see the typical breakdown of light levels
Water is essential for a healthy plant and you’ll be glad to know that house plants are actually pretty good at telling us when they need water, we just need to know what to look out for.
Check Your Soil
Your first and best way to see if your plant needs watering is to check the soil. Push your finger into the top layer of soil – what do you feel? If it’s still wet you can hold off watering; if it’s damp you can maybe top up with a little water; if it’s totally dry it will probably benefit from a drink.
It’s much better to check your plants regularly and respond rather than watering to a strict schedule. Remember though that different plants will have different requirements. With a Snake plant its okay to let the top inch or so dry out completely between waterings but we shouldn’t do this with a Fern which should be kept relatively damp at all times. These distinctions will be made clear on the Primrose website when purchasing your plant.
Check The Leaves
Other things to look out for are the activity of the leaves. If they are dry and curling at the edges this can be a sign of needing water. Some plants like the Peace Lilly will droop its leaves when in need of a drink and they’ll spring back up again once they’ve been watered! If your plant’s leaves begin to yellow and droop than this could be a sign of overwatering and you should hold off for a while to let it recover.
Golden Rules Of Watering:
Here are just a few simple rules that will put you in good stead when watering your plants.
- Always check the top level of the soil to see if your plant needs watering again.
- Never let your plant sit in water. Allow water to run through the soil, out of the base of the pot and drain away before returning it to a display pot.
- Try and get close to the conditions of its natural environment; a cactus will want to be kept dry but a monstera can appreciate some moisture.
- Too little water is easier to deal with than too much water. Remember that it’s much quicker to kill a plant with over-watering than it is from forgetting to water occasionally.
If you are concerned about remembering to water your plants than you can always purchase a houseplant that can stand a little neglect. Many varieties such as the snake plant, yucca, aloe vera and more are pretty drought resistant, meaning they’ll forgive the times when we forget to water them and survive without too much help from us.
Below are some other considerations that you can take into account when looking after your plant. These bits are good to know but remember, as long as you have the light and water right you and your plant will do just fine.
The easiest way to get the right humidity for your plant is to think of its natural environment. If it comes from dry desert locations then you’ll want to avoid placing it in a room where the air is full of water such as the bathroom. But if you have a plant that comes from tropical regions such as an orchid, then the bathroom can be ideal. Some plants like the monstera will prefer an increase in humidity only when temperatures begin to rise and this is easily addressed with a spray bottle of water.
The majority of nutrients that your plant receives will be taken up from the soil they are potted in. It’s good to replenish this or give an extra boost during the growing seasons and one of the best ways to do this is with a plant feed. This is usually sold as a liquid fertilizer that can be diluted in water. It provides an extra hit of all the nutrients your plant needs and you’ll see the effects coming through in better-coloured leaves, more abundant flowers or extra spurts of new growth. Always follow the instructions when using fertiliser and remember that using it once in a while will have better results than using it constantly.
You’ll soon encounter the phrase “potting up” when you start keeping house plants. This simply means transferring your house plant from its current pot to a bigger one to give it extra room to grow into. You won’t have to do this very often. One of the obvious signs a plant may need potting up is if you find it “root bound” which simply means when the roots of the plant have run out of space and begun pushing out of the bottom of the pot. You may even take it out of the pot to see the roots have bound themselves into tight circles.
When summer comes around, there are some extra things you need to consider for your house plant care. More sunlight, more heat and a change in growing conditions means stepping up the attention: take a look at what you need to do differently in summertime.
This is something you’ll want to do gradually, to save drowning your plant or letting the roots go to rot. The heat will make more water evaporate from the soil before it reaches your plant, as well as increasing transpiration (water loss) from the plant itself.
Counter this with a bit more water than normal, but still do the finger test so you don’t accidentally overdo it. Keep an eye out for wilting leaves if you want to be certain more water is needed, but it’s better to catch it ahead of time.
A year-round consideration and not just relegated to ‘spring cleaning’ – remove gross dust from your plants’ leaves to let it make the most of the sunlight. Make sure you do this before misting, or at least check the leaves first – otherwise water gets caught up in the dust and your leaves will look like they’ve got (removable) grey marks on them.
It’s also just nice getting rid of dust, so win-win.
‘Be sure to catch my good side’ said no plant ever – every side’s a good side when you’re nothing but big green leaves. Too much light on any given side can lead to scorching on one side and leaves looking a little wan on the other. Rotate your plant pots every few days to make sure the light is applied evenly to all leaves, maximising the tasty photosynthesis your house plant will do.
We’re not talking about getting teary eyed as your plant grows big and strong – this is applying a spritz or spray of water on all the leaves to increase humidity and imitate tropical conditions. Most house plants hail from tropical, humid climes, so give them a sense of home with a water spray and encourage bonus summer growth.
This also helps them not get too hot in bright sunlight – another thing that can cause wilting leaves.
Snip and prune
No-one likes a sad-looking plant, so if you’ve got wilting or dead leaves prune them right off. And remove any dead leaves that might be sitting on the soil as these can bring in disease or pests. This is more likely to be a spring job, but some house plants like to stretch their wilting out to summer.
You can start fertilizing soil every couple of weeks in summer, using a liquid house plant feed mixed up according to instructions. This’ll give your plant every chance to grow as big and strong as it can, or even flower if it’s a flowering type.
Scott was a copywriter making content for the Primrose site and blog. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.