It is true that some houseplants are fickle and need pampering, but most are not. Still, untold numbers die every year because their owners didn’t know how to meet their basic needs. This tragedy does not have to happen. Here are four simple solutions for keeping houseplants alive.
1. Read the Instructions
Houseplants that are bought in nurseries come with instructions printed on a laminated cardboard dart that is stuck into the soil of their pot. Read it. Indeed, wipe it off, and keep it in a place where it is easily accessible in case the care instructions are forgotten, or the plant needs to be cared for while the owner is away or the plant is given away to someone else.
2. Do Not Overwater
Overwatering kills more plants than letting the soil dry out. Most plants that don’t require soil to be constantly moist can recover from a period of dryness, but wet soil causes the roots to rot. This will kill a plant faster than just about anything. To find out if the plant needs watering, the owner should stick their finger in the soil to about a half inch. If the soil is still dry at that depth, the plant might need watering though there are plants such as succulents that still could go without watering. Also, some plants look a bit droopy when they need watering. Make sure that the watering is thorough. The water should seep into the plate that holds the pot. Then, don’t water again until the plant needs it.
Another tip to know is that the soil in clay pots dries out much faster than it does in plastic pots. People who are used to watering plants in clay pots find to their dismay that they kill plants in plastic pots if they water them the same way.
Yet another tip is to make sure the soil drains well. Sandy soil drains beautifully, but it is not appropriate for all plants. Some gardening experts recommend placing a few pieces of a broken clay pot at the bottom of a pot before filling it with soil. Some gravel or pebbles will also do the trick of helping the pot drain.
3. Do Not Overfeed
Some plants appreciate some fertilizer while some can do without it. Again, how much to fertilize a plant is on the instruction dart. More fertilizer is not better, for fertilizer can burn the plant’s roots. When it comes to fertilizer, follow both the instructions that came with the plant, and follow the instructions on the box of fertilizer.
4. Put It in the Right Window
Plants thrive in all kinds of light, and again, the little instruction dart will tell a homeowner what sort of light a plant needs. A plant that needs hours of full, brilliant sunlight can be put in a southern window. A plant that does best in a few hours of sunlight can be placed in an east, southeast or southwest window. If it needs fewer hours of sun, it can be placed in a west window or a northwest window, which gets some afternoon sunlight or a northeast window, which gets some morning sunlight. A plant that likes shade can be placed in a north window as a north window does not receive direct sunlight.
There are those very tough plants that don’t particularly care which window they are placed in. A snakeplant can be happy in a gloomy corner, but if it’s placed in bright light it may reward its owner with spikes of white flowers. However, other plants put in the wrong light can fail to thrive, get leggy or have pale, weak leaves.
Another tip for plants and light is to wash the windows regularly, both inside and out. It is amazing how even a thin film of dirt or grime can cut down on the light a plant needs.