House Plant Care

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When it comes to house plant care, there are a few factors that are key: the plants you buy, light, watering schedule, temperature and good soil. Depending on what kind of conditions your indoor space has, some plants will thrive, while others will not. Choosing the correct types of plants that suit your indoor growing conditions will make plant care a lot easier. Providing the correct amount of light and watering will ensure your plants thrive.

I have been in your shoes! I chose plants that looked cool, but required a lot more light than my indoor space could provide. What followed was a lot of confusion as to why my plants were not thriving. Slowly but surely, I started doing the things I advise in this blog post and my plants started doing a lot better.

Table of Contents

Mimic Natural Environment

Soil and Potting House Plants

Watering

Light

Fertilizer

Temperature

Dust Removal

Pruning

Preventing Disease

Summary

Mimic Natural Environment

The first thing you need to remember with houseplants is what their natural environment is like. Houseplants would prefer to be outside, but if you can give them the growing conditions where they are from, they can do well inside too. Figure out where the houseplants are from and try to mimic those growing conditions indoors to the best of your abilities. If you do not have many windows, choose plants that grow well in lower light conditions.

Soil and Potting House Plants

Bell Pepper Plants

First off, it is important to plant in well draining soil in a good sized pot. A great soil mix is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite/perlite and compost. An all-purpose potting mix such as Espoma is also a great choice [1]. Any high quality potting mixture should be fine. High quality potting mixtures provide the plants enough nutrients to grow healthily.

For some specialist plants, such as orchids, you may need a special potting mixture. Repotting may need to be done if the roots start to circle in the container. If you need to water the plants more than once a week, the plant may also be too big for the pot. It is most often quite easy to see if the plant is too big for the pot. Use common sense and you should be fine. If you want to learn more about the basics of plant nutrients and how good soil affects growth of plants, feel free to read my Plant Nutrients post.

Watering

All house plants require water to survive, however each plant requires different amounts of water.  Water the plants when the top inch of the soil is dry. This can be monitored by sticking the top inch of your index finger in the soil. Watering once or twice a week should be good enough for most plants [1]. During winter, plants can be watered less frequently. Overwatering is a common cause of death for house plants, so it is better for plants to be a bit too dry than too wet.  Cacti and succulents need less water, while flowering plants often require more [2]. It is also a good idea to have a spray bottle on hand to mist plants occasionally to add some humidity to the leaves.

Light

Another important factor to consider is the amount of light the houseplants receive. Depending on whether you have a lot of windows (especially south facing ones), this should help you decide what types of houseplants to buy. Plants normally go in one of three categories: high light (>= 6 hours per day), medium light (4-6 hours per day) and low light (< 3 hours per day). Some plants prefer direct sunlight, while others prefer indirect light. Plants that don’t receive enough sunlight may not die, but will stop growing [1]. If you have plants that do not thrive in their current location, it may be because they are receiving too much or too little sunlight. Also remember to rotate the plants so that they grow evenly.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer provides house plants with healthy nutrients they require to grow healthily. To learn more about plant nutrients, feel free to read my introduction. Fertilizer is not as important as light and water, but should be given every two weeks or so during the growing season (i.e. spring to summer). Water soluble fertilizer, such as JR Peters Jacks Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose fertilizer, are easiest to dose correctly [1].

Temperature

Temperature is another important factor to consider. Plants should ideally stay above temperatures of 55 degrees F/ 13 Celsius. Warmer conditions tend to be better. Take care to keep plants away from drafty windows. In addition, some form of air circulation is preferred. If you have ceiling fans or regular fans, it can be a good idea to use these. Disease spreads a lot easier without good air circulation [1].

Dust Removal

Removing dust from indoor plants is a good idea to let the plant leaves soak up more light. This can either be done via water at room temperature or dusting with a soft brush. Dusting with a soft brush is better if the plants have hairy leaves. It’s also possible to use a wet cloth to wipe away dust [2].

Pruning

When it comes to pruning, it’s a good idea to do this during fall. Pruning is a good idea to make sure the plants do not get too big.  Cut back the plant stem above a set of buds or side shoots about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm). Also remove any dead or diseased leaves. Pruning also helps encourage new plant growth [2].

Preventing Disease

When it comes to insect pests, insecticidal soap can help against aphids and spider mites. Rubbing alcohol is useful against scale and mealybugs. Just dab the rubbing alcohol on the insects. You may need to treat the plants once a week for a month or longer to fully get rid of the disease. Fungus gnats can often be confused with fruit flies and often appear if the plants are overwatered. To get rid of fungus gnats, allow the soil to dry up more between watering. Also make sure to clear away dead leaves from the soil [2].

Summary

If you buy the right types of plants, plant in big enough pots, use high quality soil and water at a frequent interval, your plants should do fine. Do not overwater and do not place by a drafty window. If you want to learn more about container gardening, feel free to read my intro.

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AUTHOR

Every since studying engineering, Bjorn has been interested in how technology can help grow plants quicker.

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