Top 10 tips for taking care of indoor plants
So if you want to jump into the houseplant game but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Keep reading to learn our top 10 tips for taking care of indoor plants.
1. Understand Lighting Needs
Some of your indoor plants, like your succulents, may have originated in the deserts of Africa. There, the UV index climbs as high as 9 or 10. This means that they’re made to withstand intense sunlight and dry conditions.
Your Monstera deliciosa, though, is native to the rainforests of Central America. There, they attach themselves to the trunks of other trees. The holes, or fenestrations, in their leaves allow dappled light to reach the rest of their leaves.
Before bringing home a new indoor plant baby, consider its lightning needs. Place succulents or other drought-resistant plants like sansevierias or cacti in south-facing windows. West-facing windows will work well, too.
For climbing plants like Monsteras or Epipremnums that appreciate lower light, consider an east-facing window.
2. Know When to Water
As with sunlight, plants have very different water requirements depending on the species. Your succulents don’t need to be watered unless their soil is completely dried out. Imagine them in their native desert environment where months may go by between rains.
If you’re unsure whether you need to water your succulents or cacti, lift the base of the plant gently to see if you feel any resistance. If the indoor plant rises easily out of the pot, it’s time to water. You may also notice the leaves starting to look puckered or feel soft.
Typical Watering Schedules
With most houseplants you get in the shop, you can get away with watering them once a week from spring to fall. When in doubt, stick your finger into the soil and see if it’s wet. If the soil feels dry, you can water your plant.
Some plants are pickier with their watering schedule. Fittonias, begonias, and waffle plants like to be watered more often. The same goes for calatheas and marantas.
Other plants, like ZZ’s and ponytail palms, collect water inside their trunks and stems. Don’t water these plants nearly as often. Always remember that it’s easier to revive an underwatered plant than it is to save an overwatered plant.
3. Choose Plants That Suit Your Life
If you know you never remember to water your plants, choose varieties that can handle neglect. If you have a green thumb, try a more challenging species as long as you can care for it.
Consider how realistic it will be for you to water your plants once or twice a week. If that seems overwhelming, succulents, snake plants, and ZZ’s may fit your life better.
But maybe you’re ready to buy a humidifier and a set of indoor plant lights. You’ve cared for plants and know what you’re getting into. In that case, you could try your hand at caring for a finicky ficus or calathea.
Also, consider your home. If you have one north-facing window in your flat, you may need to invest in extra lighting. Or, choose low-light indoor plants.
4. Water (And Fertilize) Less Often in the Winter
Many houseplants you’ll buy in the shop go dormant in the winter. This is a response to changing levels of sunlight in their natural environments. As a result, their growth slows down and they don’t need as much food, light, or water.
In the winter, temperatures and humidity levels drop, so water your plants less often. You can still check for signs of dry soil or drooping leaves. But you may only have to water them every few weeks.
Don’t fertilize them as much in the winter, either. Give them a dose of fertilizer in the fall and then skip a few months. It’s okay for most plants to go the entire winter without fertilizer, but be sure you pick it back up again in the spring.
5. Use a Humidifier
Humidity levels in Sydney hover between 50 and 60%. But indoor levels can be lower, especially in the winter.
For plant varieties that need high humidity year-round, use a humidifier. Humidifiers create that near-constant moisture that helps keep them from drying out. Even if your house stays humid, plants like ferns and philodendrons will still enjoy added moisture.
You’ll know your plant needs more humidity if its leaves start to brown at the edges. Leaves may turn yellow and fall off, or they might feel crunchy and crispy to the touch.
If you have any kind of fern, calathea, maranta, ficus, or anthurium, the higher humidity, the better. Peace lilies and air plants love humidity too, as do nerve plants.
6. Dust Your Leaves
It may seem strange, but dusting your indoor house plants regularly is a must! Outside, rain and wind wash debris off of plants. But inside, dust can collect on their leaves and inhibit their growth.
When leaves become dusty, a plant can’t absorb as much sunlight. That will cause its growth to slow down. It may even start to wither.
To keep your plant healthy, take notice of any dust on its leaves. Wipe each leaf clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. To limit the amount of dust, spray your plants daily with room-temperature water.
7. Look Out for Pests
Pests are every plant owner’s worst nightmare, as they can destroy a healthy plant in a very short amount of time. Thrips, mealybugs, and spider mites are some of the most common.
You’ll be able to spot thrips on the leaves of your plant, but you may have to look closely. Your first sign might be that new leaves aren’t growing in well or there may be spotting on established leaves. Check underneath your leaves to find the culprits.
Mealybugs leave behind a white, cotton-like residue. They also tuck themselves away in the folds of leaves. Look out for white bugs with long antennae.
Spider mites are harder to see but noticeable by the webs they create between stems or leaf edges. Whenever you see signs of pests, use a diluted insecticidal soap to spray them off. Be sure to coat your plant in the diluted mixture twice a day for a few weeks until all signs of the bugs are gone.
8. Prune Dead or Dying Leaves
Always look for yellow or brown leaves on your plants. If you notice some leaves have died and fallen off, remove them from the pot. Dead or rotting foliage can invite pests to set up camp in your plant’s leaves or soil.
If you notice one stem of your plant is growing spotted or yellowing leaves, you may want to prune it back or remove it.
9. Repot in the Spring
Spring is the time of year when plants emerge from their dormant state. They enter their active state and begin growing at their normal pace again.
Because of this, you want to schedule any repotting for the spring. Check your indoor plant pots to see if any roots are poking out of the holes at the bottom. If they are, that means your plant is starting to become root-bound.
Root-bound plants won’t grow and need repotting. Select a pot that’s at least one inch larger. Take your plant out of its root-bound pot, untangle its roots, and repot it.
Some plants, like ZZs and other succulents, don’t mind being root-bound. Others, like Monsteras, may outgrow their pot each season. To keep a wild Monstera from spreading to the ceiling, keep it in a smaller pot.
10. Learn How Your Plants Communicate
Some plants, when they’re thirsty, start to wilt. Others will wilt when you’ve overwatered them. Others still will start to look puckered and dimpled.
Knowing how your plants communicate will help you give them the care they need. If a leaf is turning brown on your peace lily, is it getting too much sun? Or is the humidity around it too low?
Did your cactus turn mushy and soft seemingly overnight? That’s a sign you overwatered it.
Are the leaves on your fiddle leaf fig drooping? It may be thirsty or not getting enough light.
It takes time, as well as trial and error, to understand what’s going on when your plant looks droopy or off-colour. When in doubt, check your plant’s water, light, and humidity levels.
Taking Care of Indoor Plants
The best indoor plants are ones that fit your home and lifestyle. If you have a low-light house, now you know not to bring home succulents or cacti. If you love to water your plants, now you know to choose a moisture-loving lily or calathea.