Houseplant Care - A Cheat Sheet
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
You have a new plant — exciting! You might be a little nervous and have a lot of questions. Don’t worry. You're reading this post, so you are already a thoughtful plant owner.
Learning to care for your houseplant takes time. Over days, weeks, and months you will learn how to read your plant, but in the meantime, here's an immediate strategy to ensure your houseplant gets off to a solid start.
1) Find out what type of plant you own.
This is key. Don’t worry, you don’t need to memorize a long scientific name, you just need to know its general type. Is it a tropical or a succulent?
In short, tropical plants grow in jungles and succulents grow in deserts. A horticulturist would probably be offended by that oversimplification, because thousands of plant types and categories exist, but we're not after complex science here, we just want your houseplant to be happy. So for now, you just need to know if your plant’s native climate is humid or dry.
2) Simulate its native climate - water accordingly.
Once you know your plant’s native climate, you’ll know its basic, short term needs.
If you have a tropical plant, picture a jungle — warm, humid, steamy, with lush green life thriving under a canopy of giant trees. Try to give your plant similar conditions. Keep the soil slightly damp, the way a jungle floor would be. Provide regular water, but never let your plant get soppy, and keep your plant away from a strong heating vent that might steal moisture.
If you have a succulent, picture a desert. Think Arizona or New Mexico — dry, dusty, arid, with warm sunshine and a big open sky. Succulents are pretty amazing because they can grow in gritty sandy soil, and go for long periods without rain.This means your succulent doesn’t want to stay damp for too long — it likes to be dry. Make sure to let the top inch or two of soil dry out before you water your succulent, and give it warm bright conditions.
3) Give it a real pot.
Plants end up in all sorts of getups, often for the sake of decor (especially around the holidays). If your plant is covered in glitter, trapped in strange wrapping, or in a sealed pot without drainage, make sure to give it some breathing room and a pot it can actually grow in.
Roots need both water and air circulation to grow. A good pot has drainage holes at the bottom where excess water can escape, and a drainage tray to protect your surface areas. It’s important to empty this tray so the plant doesn’t sit in stagnant water.
4) Find the right spot.
Now, find a spot in your home where it can thrive.
Place your plant in an area with the right lighting. Your tropical plant will be happiest near a window with gentle morning or late afternoon sunlight. You can also filter the light with a sheer curtain like the one in this photo.
Give your succulent a sunny spot where it is exposed to a large area of sky, but make sure it doesn’t burn in long hours of hot sunlight. If you're unsure, you might want to gradually increase sun exposure.
Plants like peace. Place your plant away from busy loud areas and drafty windows. This doesn’t mean you should stick your plant in a sad dark corner, but a nice little pocket with good airflow, where it can grow undisturbed.
You can do this.
You're going to be a great plant owner! You don't have to know everything about your plant, but it helps to learn a little bit about where it came from and what it needs.
Remember, this is just an immediate strategy. Each plant is different, and has unique requirements based on its environment. Use this information as a starting point, and feel free to send me your questions and a photo of your plant for help.