Plant Care 101 | How to keep Houseplants happy! | March 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog | 

I love being a plant parent. But I’ve had my fair share of misery when despite my best efforts one of my houseplants hasn’t survived. I really do care for my plants.

So why can't I keep my plants alive?

Over time I’ve learnt from some mistakes, but in the beginning, I rarely knew what had gone wrong. It’s not until I started reading the plant tags and doing some research that I discovered how important it is to get a few basics right. So I’m going to run through them below.

Choose plants for your space! 

This may sound simple but actually, most people do the exact opposite and choose plants that are attractive to them and worry about where they will put them later. Choosing plants that are suitable for the space you want to keep them in is very important to ensure their survival.

So what do I mean by choose plants for your space? Ask yourself these questions and your answers will lead you to the right plants for the conditions in your space. 

What kind of light or sun does the space get?

Indirect but bright light, full shade, part shade, full sun, afternoon sun? 

How big is the space? Do you want a small plant? (remember plants grow too!). A big plant in a large pot on the floor? Hanging baskets or plant hangers?

How often are you in the space/ will you notice it? Will you remember to water this plant? Is it easy to access so you can water it, check for bugs?

What’s the air flow like? Air conditioning blowing on the space, heating, humidity?

Plants will adapt to their environment but you can assist this process if you choose a plant that’s suitable for your space, you are making sure you have the right light, airflow, enough room and you can access it to water it. Most plants don't enjoy draughts or air conditioning directly blowing on them. Heating can also dry out the soil quicker. Consider where you want to put a plant before choosing a plant and you're halfway to happier plants.

Figure out how often you need to water your plant.

Figure out? Rachel, why can’t you just tell me! Sorry guys, it's because, it all depends on the plant type, the conditions you keep your plant in, the pot size and the soil. Here are a few quick tips.

What kind of plant did you choose? Tropical plants - or plants with leafy foliage; usually like to let the top soil dry out between watering except for some ferns which prefer to stay moist. Succulent or Cacti; most don’t require huge amounts of water, let the soil completely dry between drinks. 

Our tip: ask the nursery person when you buy or check out our Plant Profile's to see if your plant is listed. 

Where is the plant kept? The amount of light a plant receives will determine how much water it uses. Full sun plants need a daily drink in summer, except some established dry tolerant garden plants. Shade plants in dry shade or humid shade. Dry shade plants will need more water. In winter many houseplants will go into dormancy and won't require regular watering over this period. 

Indoor plants in bright indirect light; check the top soil is dry first and then water as required, don’t allow plants to sit in saucers of water for long, unless treating a dehydrated plant.

How big is the pot in comparison to the plant? A big plant in a small pot can have lots of roots, which means there is less soil and less chance of holding water. A small plant or recently potted plant in a bigger pot usually means there is lots of soil, and less roots. Therefore less water soaked up by the roots, and is held in the soil. 

What kind of soil did you use? Specialised planting mix for the species of plant is the best option for water holding capacity. Premium all purpose potting mix is a great all round option, you may you find you need to water different plants at different rates. Generally speaking the cheapest potting mix you can find will work for some hardy plants and even succulents as it often contains more bark chips, however it lacks the added fertilisers and trace elements plant need when they are being repotted

One of the quickest ways to make a plant unhappy is to over or under water them. In my experience you can bring a plant back from under watering if caught early. Overwatering a plant unfortunately will send it to plant heaven.

Maintain your plants!  

Plants are like babies, OK not really that much alike but you can't just forget about them and hope they stay alive! They need food, water, cleaning and even changing on occasion.

Food - plants need fertiliser, in actual fact it's not really food for plants but nutrients they use to grow strong. So if you want the best out of your plants fertilise them! Use a liquid or slow release fertiliser composed of granules.

Water - see above

Cleaning - old yellowing leaves on your plant might fall off but you can remove them. If the leaves aren’t old but are turning yellow this could mean there is a problem. Some plants require pruning, others might get bugs. Keep an eye on your plants and clean their leaves at least monthly

Changing - As plants grow they will need a new pot! It’s important to change your plants pot before it becomes too pot bound (when the roots run out if room). Some plants can survive being pot bound but others will not, if you can see roots at the top of the pot this can indicate its ready for a new pot. It all depends on the plant as to how often a pot change is required, we suggest every 12-18 months

The best advice we can give is to learn as much as you can about your plant so you can care for it properly. The advice above is very general and that’s why you will need to answer the questions mentioned for your plant to achieve the best outcome.

I hope this helps! 

Tell us in the comments below, your best tips for plant care.


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ebook cover, an image of green houseplants in white pots with the title: A plant for any room, the beginners guide to bringing plants indoors by Rachel Okell Owner and Founder of Our Green Sanctuary. Featuring 5 ways you are torturing your houseplants and how to stop it in one day or less



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About the Author Rachel Okell

A self confessed plant nerd, Rachel loves indoor plants, tropical plants and learning about new plants. Rachel is currently working as a Horticulturist helping people solve problems, pick plants & plan gardens. The best part of her job is being surrounded by plants all day! Rachel has a deep appreciation for all things green & hopes to share her knowledge and passion to help people learn about plants.

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