General Plant Care
All indoor plants need some level of attention and they all need light, water, and nutrients in order to thrive. Some plants are more tolerant than others when it comes to specific needs but with time and awareness you'll learn what makes your plant the happiest and healthiest!
The sun will be your plant’s source of light and most important source of energy unless you have specialized grow lights. Some plants, like cacti, can handle full and direct sun, but most will need what’s called indirect light. Bright indirect light means close to a window but not getting the intense rays of the sun. Indirect light levels vary within a room and different plants have different requirements in order to thrive.
Morning sunlight from an east facing window is less intense than afternoon sunlight (west facing window) and most plants do very well getting a little bit of direct morning sun from an east facing window even if they are labeled as needing bright indirect light.
North facing windows provide the least amount of light. Unobstructed south facing windows will provide light for many hours of the day.
It may take time to find the perfect placement for your plant- be observant and be willing to adjust your plant’s placement in a room if it seems unhappy. No plant should be expected to thrive in a shaded spot far away from any windows. “Low light” plants still need some sunlight for a good portion of the day.
Remember to gently dust the leaves of your plants regularly with a damp sponge or cloth as a build up of dust will block sunlight from being able to do it’s photosynthesizing. Dry the leaves of ones that don’t like to be wet. Fuzzy leaves can be lightly brushed with a soft paint or cosmetic brush.
Indoor plants will do best in pots with drainage holes. If you have a favorite decorative cachepot without a drainage hole, rather than putting rocks or other material at the bottom and placing the potting mix and plant on top, simply keep the plant in it’s plastic nursery pot so you can lift it out of the cachepot at watering time. Then allow it to fully drain before placing it back in your cachepot. Drainage holes can make a huge difference in the health of your plant.
Watering from the bottom: either pour water directly into the saucer and allow it to draw upwards, or place the pot in a few inches of water in a larger container for 10 min up to 30 or 40 min (depends on the size of the pot and the potting mix). For saucer watering, you may have to repeat if the saucer is small. Be sure to remove any remaining water that doesn’t get drawn up after an hour or so. For immersion watering, check periodically and remove the plant from the water before the top of the potting mix gets saturated. Some mixes soak up water faster than others.
Watering from the top: remember that some potting mixes will drain very fast and you might end up with water spilling out of the saucer and onto the floor if you’re not careful. If the potting mix is completely dry and you water only until you see a bit drain into the saucer, you’re likely not giving your plant enough water. Pots can be placed in a sink or shower/tub to avoid puddles. Slowly pour water over the entire surface of the potting mix for more even watering. Some experts recommend using a chopstick or skewer to aerate the soil before watering. Removing water from the saucer that doesn’t get absorbed is a must no matter your technique!
How often should I water? This depends on the type of plant, the amount of light it receives, the level of humidity in the air, the season (most plants require less water during the winter), the type of pot (Terra Cotta pots tend to dry the potting mix faster), and the type of potting mix. So… not an easy question to answer! Learn about your plant and then build a relationship with it- watch and observe, feel the potting mix, look for signs that it’s telling you it needs water or it’s had too much (keep reading!). Get to know the weight of the pot when the potting mix is dry.
⚠ Problems and Pests
Plants are living things and unless you are able to provide them with an exact replica of their most desired environment (nearly impossible!), they may not always look like perfect specimens. Expect some imperfections especially during the adjustment period as your new plant gets used to a new environment. Sometimes leaves get droopy or get a crispy brown edge or turn yellow and fall off. And sometimes pests make a home on your favorite plant. It can be difficult to diagnose some plant problems but here is some helpful info:
- If the potting mix is very dry, it’s probably telling you it needs water.
- If the potting mix is wet, it’s probably been overwatered and you may need to repot with dry mix to avoid root rot.
- If the leaves are yellowing and the mix is very dry, it probably needs water.
- If they are yellowing and the mix is wet, it’s probably been overwatered and you may need to repot with dry mix to avoid root rot.
- If it’s been a really long time since you repotted your plant and the roots are overcrowding the pot, this can also cause yellowing of leaves.
- If it’s been a long time since you fertilized, your plant may be lacking nutrients.
- It may be getting too little sun.
- It may be getting too much sun.
- Too many maybes and not enough answers? Try to reflect on what’s been going on with the plant for the past few weeks- what has it’s care been like? What has it’s environment been like? This may help diagnose the problem!
- If potting mix is very dry, it might just need more frequent watering.
- If it’s a plant that likes humidity- you could try a small diffuser or humidifier.
- If the coloring is in layers from normal leaf color to yellow to brown, it’s likely getting too much water.
- If the edges are brown and crispy, it could be from too little water or just to little humidity in the air.
- Brown leaf tips can also result from over fertilizing.
- This is likely caused by root rot from overwatering. Repot the plant into dry potting mix and remove any rotted leaves and roots that are soft and brown rather than firm and white. If all roots are damaged, you can try to propagate any healthy stems/leaves to salvage the plant.
- This is from watering too frequently or from air that is very humid. Scoop off the top layer and allow the mix to dry. Try bottom watering to keep the top layer dry.
- If you’d rather see your plant more full and lush but the leaves are few and far between, try moving it to where it will get brighter light for more hours of the day.
Plant is “weeping”
- Some plants that have more water than they need will “sweat” or “cry” the excess water out of their leaves as droplets that often drip from the tips.
- These are called fungus gnats or soil gnats and they are annoying but fortunately they will not harm your plants. They like moist environments and will often show up on the surface of potting mix that stays damp. Overwatering is usually the reason you'll find them and it's an invitation they will not pass on! As soon as you notice one, let your potting mix dry out and then only water from the bottom for the next several weeks and allow the top few inches to remain dry at all times. Other things to try: 1. place a small bowl or jar lid full of apple cider vinegar with a drop of dish soap near the plant 2. place yellow sticky paper near the plant to trap the adult gnats 3. when the top layer of potting mix is dry you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the surface 4. there's a product called Mosquito Bits that also is used to control gnats. Unfortunately, fungus gnats are common and you must be diligent to get rid of them! Another good reason to practice bottom watering!
- Could be from spider mites :( They are very tiny, usually red and can damage your plant in a hurry. They like dry environments and often show up during the winter months or on plants that get watered very infrequently. Wash each leaf and stem with soap and water, rinse well and then spray the entire plant with a neem oil/water mixture, a rubbing alcohol/water mixture or spot treat with a Qtip/cotton ball/cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Keep the plant separate from your other plants until you’re sure they’re gone! If you also see webbing, they’ve been there for a while and you have a bigger infestation. If there’s a lot of webbing covering a good portion of your plant, it might be time to say goodbye to this one and find a new green friend to bring home! There are plant-friendly spiders that may make your plant their home. Not every web is from spider mites. Please research your visitor so you know if it’s welcome or not!