How to keep your plants alive

Keep Your Plants Alive

If you want to improve the quality of the air you breathe, house plants are the perfect way to spruce up your home/office without going all-in on an interior overhaul. If you keep killing your houseplants find below few care tips for maintaining a vibrant and healthy houseplant:


1. Pick the Right Houseplant

Make sure the plant that you’re buying is the kind that can live in your space. Always make sure that you know your conditions at home. Things like access to light, temperature and humidity are things to take into consideration. The next thing you should ask yourself is, how much attention are you willing to give to your plant? Choose plants whose natural habitat matches your space. The varieties of plants you have to choose from are limitless, and each has evolved in a unique climate: there’s bound to be something perfectly suited to the place you’re hoping to spruce up.


Thinking through these simple factors and checking the natural conditions that each prospective houseplant likes will significantly increase your chances of finding the perfect match for your home or office.


2. Careful Plant Shopping! 

Cheap plant offers might catch your eye but beware: the quality and health of a plant can affect its longevity. If you’re a beginner, go to a local plant shop or nursery to get your plants. Also, be careful while shopping online. If you do go online make sure it’s a nursery or plant store, and buy from someone well established that follows regulations with shipping, etc.


3. Don’t over water or under-water!

Over-watering is the more common crime against houseplants! So what can you do? Always make sure that excess water can drain freely away from your plant’s roots. Pour away any excess water after about a half hour. Don’t pour it away immediately! It’s important to give your houseplant a bit of a chance to soak up the water before also making sure they don’t get too much of a chance.


Don’t re-pot a houseplant directly into a pot without drainage holes; it will make plant care that much more difficult! The “right” amount of moisture will depend on the type of houseplant, a good rule of forefinger is to shove your pointer finger into the soil beyond the second knuckle – if it’s not ”cool-to-damp” then try 0.5-1 cup of water.


When should you water? Early morning is best and room temperature water is ideal.


If the leaves are yellowing or droopy this can be a strong sign that you’re watering too much! That’s right! Easy to see how you might think this was under-watering right?! So if you’ve got yellowing and droop, maybe rein in your watering and check the drainage.


A clear sign of real under-watering is dry, curling leaves. Check the soil and try upping your watering routine for that plant. Keep in mind that some plants might simply be used to greater humidity than they’re getting where you have them. You could try spraying the leaves down on a daily basis or even moving your ailing houseplant to a room with higher humidity like the bathroom or kitchen.


4. Right Light 

When selecting your plant, think about the place in your home where it will live. What directions do your windows face? South-facing windows will get the most light every day, and north-facing a lot less. East and west-facing windows will be somewhere in the middle.


Once again, drooping leaves can be a sign of insufficient light; but keep an eye out for houseplants growing pale leave or shedding leaves altogether. These can be good early signs of a plant struggling to stay healthy. Give it a hand by moving it to a brighter location.


On the other hand, plants getting too much sun will have crisp leaves with yellow or brown spots and dry soil.


Beware of your own overreaction though; brown and crisping leaves may be a result of actual burning from sunlight that is too direct. Try shifting your suffering houseplant back from the window in stages, giving it at least a week in each location, until it finds a level it’s happy with.


5. Killer Plants vs. Plant-killing Pets/Kids

This is an important question that you might not think about at first. Houseplants that are going to be within the reach of little hands or pets, considering their toxicity is important – especially as the vibrant colours that make for an interesting houseplant might also be nature’s way of warning off curious mouths.


There are available lists of plants to avoid, which are toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, and indeed, toxic to many “mammals”, including curious toddlers. If you already have a plant from these lists, simply make sure to keep it out of reach. Hanging planters or tall shelves are good options.


6. Houseplant Cleaning

If you’re not dusting your surfaces regularly, then you will have bigger problems than keeping your houseplants alive! Anything that impedes light getting to a plants leaves - whether its shade, dirt on your windows or dust on the leaves themselves - will affect your plant’s ability to absorb the light it needs.

 

Dust can also clog a leaf’s pores, reducing a plant’s ability to breath.


For houseplants with smooth, waxy leaves, it’s best to wipe them down once a month with a damp cloth. For plants with “fuzzy” leaves, use a soft brush.


7. Getting the Humidity Right

Houseplants with delicate, thin leaves will be more susceptible to drying out. Place them in more humid rooms, such as the kitchen or bathroom. Or mist them to imitate a humid environment.


You should try to group humidity-loving plants together; as each of the plants release moisture through transpiration they’ll each feed into a climate better for all of them.


You could also pick up a humidifier - though the sustainability of using electricity isn’t the best option. A more sustainable alternative is to fill a tray with pebbles and add water to the halfway point; put your houseplants on the pebbles, ensuring they’re not actually in the water, and top the water up to the same level as necessary. This simple trick can increase the humidity of a room using nothing more than evaporation and really enable those rainforest plants to flourish.

8. Fertilizer is a must

If the plant runs out of nutrients where it is, it just grows its roots a little wider and finds new nutrients. Potting most houseplants in multipurpose soil will keep them happy for some years, with the notable exception of succulents and cacti which need a special soil of their own. Some outdoor plants also prefer an alternative soil called ericaceous soil. A lot of this is often boiled down to variation of acidity or “Ph”; but for most houseplants it’s multipurpose all the way.


Check that the nutrients are suitable to you particular plant, don’t exceed the recommended dosage and generally restrict using it to spring only, when your houseplants are at their most rapidly growing. These fertilisers can help, but too much can also poison.


9. Should You Trim Your Houseplants

Pruning will encourage your houseplants to grow and refresh by enabling them to focus their energy on new growth, but over-pruning will also kill them, so knowing what’s damaged and what’s dead is key.


Some flowering plants even require ‘deadheading’, which is the process of removing dead flowers from their stems; doing this as often as every few days in peak season will encourage your plant into flowering over and over again.


10. Is Your Houseplant Bugged

If you spot any webs, lumps, or bumps on your plant move the affected plant away from any others to stop the spread and then dig in for a solution.


Start with wiping the leaves down. This should crack down on the bugs and their eggs. Once that’s done, pick up an insecticidal spray to stop them coming back - organic options are available; which again can be an important consideration if you only want to kill the parasites without harming your pets, kids etc.

 

White mould can also crop up on the soil around the base of your houseplants. It’s generally harmless, but it’s probably a sign that the plant is overwatered and not draining properly. Scraping the mould off will take care of that, but fix your watering schedule!


11. Seasonal Care of your Houseplant

Most of us try to keep our homes a relatively stable temperature all year round, which is why tropical plants do so well as houseplants. Plants tend to be actively growing during the spring and summer and will slow down - or even go dormant - in winter. This means they’ll need much less water and nutrients in the cooler months. Be sure to keep checking the soil and only water when it’s dry an inch below the surface.


Then, think about the shorter daylight hours. Consider moving houseplants closer to windows to help them get enough light. Keeping their leaves clear of dust can also help them to maximise the rays available to them.


And make sure none of your houseplants are too close to any heaters, a radiator or air-conditioner in summer, because they will dry out soil and leaves and won’t help any plant survive the colder months. Another factor to keep in mind is to protect your houseplants from any cold drafts. Any dramatic changes in temperature can shock a houseplant, and they can freeze in minutes if exposed to cold air.


If you’re going away and turning off your heating, consider moving all your plants to the warmest spot in the house.


12. My Houseplant’s Leaves are Dropping Off

What if our houseplant’s leaves are dropping off? How do you know if it is normal or not! 

It’s Normal. Some plants shed leaves throughout the year to conserve energy during the darker months. Other plants shed leaves all-year-round so, if your houseplant looks consistently healthy despite the leaf dropping, don’t assume it’s a sign of illness.


However, if your plant isn’t looking well or wouldn’t normally be dropping leaves, it could be for one of the below reasons.


Shock

Plants will often drop leaves if they’re in shock. Any abrupt environmental could do it; this is why new plants to your home will sometimes seem unhealthy, with some yellowing leaves and dropped fronds. This may be part of a normal adjustment period, and it should present as only a portion of the plant. It will right itself in time without any special treatment.

If the whole plant is looking yellow, sad or drooping, then it’s an unhealthy sign. 


Lighting Change 

If you’ve had a plant for awhile, check that it’s still getting the same amount of light. Plants get their energy from light and leaves require energy to maintain, so if the light levels drop a houseplant may drop some leaves to save its strength.


Time to Re-pot

If the roots are starting to show on the surface of the soil or are coming out of the bottom of the nursery pot, then well done! It is the right time to move up a size and re-pot it!


Over-watering

Over-watering can also cause leaves to fall off. If there’s too much water in its system, it will start to flood the leaves, turning them yellow. This will move from the bottom up, affecting the lower leaves first and as they lose their structure the leaves won’t be able to support their own weight and they’ll drop off. It will all look a lot like the plant is rotting, because it is.


If it’s gone this far, there won’t be a lot you can do. You could try to dry the plant out: take the plant out of the pot and you’ll need to dry out the roots. Many will be black and rotten already: ditch those. Prepare a fresh, dry batch of soil and re-pot your plant, being sure to just give a moderate watering. Place your mistreated houseplant in a warm window with plenty of indirect sunlight!


Under-watering

If the leaves aren’t rotting off, but are brittle, dry and crisping off, then you might have been starving your houseplant of the good stuff instead. Under-watered plant cells can’t hold the leaves up. They’ll be curling up and looking plenty sad, so step up your watering regime! If the leaves are dry then the root system will be under-nourished too. Don’t drench it! Take it easy, you’ll need to nurse it back to health. Try a half cup of water in the morning and evening for a while, and hopefully build up from there.


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