Taking care of plants is tricky. How much water is too much? Is watering weekly not enough? What type of soil should you use? There are a lot of unknowns about plant care and many ways you can get discouraged. If you’re a serial black thumb and have sent a few too many plants to a sad, lonely, shriveled up death it can be easy to give up hope. Fear not! Taking care of plants is simple if you know what to look for in terms of health and vitality as well as signs of distress, and how to react accordingly.
There are numerous benefits to having plants in your home — from the boost in happiness to the cleaner air and reduction in stress, plants are a great way to make your living space happier and healthier. That is, if you can keep them alive and well.
Plants need sun, water and proper fertilization. Oh, and a little bit of encouragement too. We’ll help you find correct levels of the former three and keep your plants living their best lives. Here’s how to take care of plants of all varieties in all types of homes, and keep yourself surrounded by the lush, green power of these all-natural roommates.
Find the Right Plant
Make sure, first and foremost, that you choose the right plant. Some plants just can’t grow indoors, and others can only tolerate a very specific climate. Ask about the types of plants that suit your city’s climate as well as the kinds that fit with your lifestyle. If you’re an incredibly busy person who has trouble remembering to water their plants, a snake plant or cactus might be a good fit for you. If you’ve got a sprawling garden or a trellis that you’re dying to use, those are also opportunities for certain types of plants to grow.
Shop Succulents Collection of 12 Live Succulent Plants
Jumpstart your indoor garden with these live succulent plants you can order directly from Amazon. Included in each purchase are succulents of a bunch of different varieties all fully rooted in soil and ready to repot. Water them once a week in the summer and once every 2-3 weeks in the winter, adding a bit of diluted fertilizer to the water during the growing season. Use well-drained soil and make sure your pot has drainage holes so the roots don’t rot.
Costa Farms Majesty Palm Tree
If you want to bring some island vibes to your apartment, and you’ve got the space a palm tree is a great option. They grow best near an East or West window that will get plenty of sun early or late in the day, and only need water when the first couple inches of the soil are dry. They ship when they’re about three feet tall and come in a lightweight 10-inch decorative planter.
American Plant Exchange Indoor/Outdoor Golden Pothos
This beautiful indoor plant produces those IG-worthy trailing vines that look great draped over a bookshelf or off the shelves in a kitchen. This plant grows easily and purifies the surrounding air. It works great in shaded areas and will survive and thrive even if you forget to water it as it’s a very black thumb-friendly plant.
Find the Right Amount of Light
All plants need light, but there is such a thing as too much light. Typically plants will come with instructions for how much light they need to grow and prosper — these could range from “full sun” to “partial sun,” “dappled sun” or even “shade.” Yes, there are plants that prefer no light at all and will thrive in your windowless cave of an NYC apartment. Follow these instructions carefully and if a plant’s leaves start to lose their color this could be a sign of too much sun and you may want to move them to the shade.
A great way to sidestep the lack of light in your apartment or living in a colder climate but having a passion for tropical plants is plant grow lights. Grow lights are a great way to supplement a lack of sun in the winter and create a comfortable environment for your plant anywhere. You can also adjust the light with grow lights to your plant’s exact needs, a perk the sun doesn’t necessarily provide.
EZORKAS LED Grow Lights
These grow lights have a 5-star rating on Amazon with over 2500 reviews for a reason. They’re the latest in plant growth technology and come with an automatic timing function you can use to adjust the number of hours of sunlight your plants get every day. The lights also have nine different dimmable modes and three different spectral modes to accommodate different stages of plant growing. Each light is made up of 80 efficient growing LEDs, divided up with 52 red ones and 28 blue ones. The red lights promote photosynthesis and the blue lights ensure your plants are absorbing the chlorophyl they need for energy and germination.
Juhefa LED Grow Light
These grow lights from Juhefa have a circular memory timer that allows them to turn on and off throughout the day according to your settings. The dual bulb design enables a 360-degree coverage of your plants so the light touches everything, and the gooseneck design is fully flexible and adjustable. The lights have three lighting modes and ten different dimmable levels so you can adjust the light to your exact specifications.
Find the Right Pot
A plant’s pot is its home, so you want to find the right one and be sure to repot them as necessary. Once a plant’s roots begin to become pot-pound its growth will be stunted and the soil will dry out quickly. If you see the roots wrapping around the base of the pot or growing out the top or sides, it’s time to size up.
You’ll want to repot them in a plant that’s at least 50% larger than the previous one, wet the soil first and untie a few of the roots so they can immediately go to work. Plants, like the rest of us, fear change, so be sure to be gentle during the repotting transition, and immediately water the plant in its new pot to rid the soil of any air holes.
Here are a few fun plant pots you can order online to prepare for your new arrival or purchase as a new home for one of your growing plant friends.
SE SUN-E Marble Ceramic Flower Pot
These petite planters are adorable for small succulents, herbs or other plants just beginning their journey. The marble design is decorative and uses neutral colors that’ll blend in with your existing decor. They’re made of ceramic clay and have about 2.5 square inches of planting space.
La Jolie Muse Large Indoor Planter Pot
This pot planter is perfect for larger plants looking for a more spacious home with 14.2″ diameter. It’s got a speckled design that will work inside or outside and raised drainage holes that ensure your plant’s roots stay healthy. It has a water reservoir at the base so there’s no chance of overwatering your plants, and the pot is made to be weather resistant so you can use it outdoors as well without worrying about damage. It’s made of lightweight recycled plastic and natural stone powder so it’s easy to lift and move around if you need to rearrange.
A saucer is needed for indoor use and is not included with the pot, so be sure to order that separately if you plan on using it indoors.
HOMENOTE Natural Wood Ceramic Planter
If you want the look and feel of a wooden planter without the rot, these pots are for you. They’re perfect for medium-sized plants and have the design of textured wood on the outside with sturdy ceramic on the inside that you want cradling your plants. Each set comes with two pots that look harmonious next to one another and each pot has a drainage hole on the bottom to protect from root rot.
Find the Right Potting Soil
After you’ve found the right pot, you’ve got to fill it with something good. Standard dirt contains all sorts of weeds, fungi, pests and even seeds of other plants. You never want to combine plants into the same pot too close to one another, so putting plants where other seedlings may be hatching is also not a great idea. Your local garden center will have a great mix of soil that contains nurturing organic matter, and you can also pick one of the brands below to try.
“Soil” is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the greatest stuff to put your plants in is a combination of peat moss, vermiculite/perlite and compost. These three ingredients are your recipe for success when it comes to plant care. Also, make sure the soil is damp when you first plant your plants so the roots have something to sink into.
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, 8 qt. (2 Pack)
This potting mix grows plants that are twice as big when compared to unfed plants and can feed your plants continuously for up to six months. This potting soil works for both indoor and outdoor plants and can be effectively used in pots, containers and other plant homes. Enjoy more blossoms and more color with this nutritious potting mix.
Burpee Organic Premium Growing Mix
This organic premium growing mix has nutritious Burpee plant food in it for thriving flowers, vegetables and herbs. It’s made to be used in plant pots, containers as well as for bed gardening as it’s got a slow-release plant food that can feed plants for up to three months. This mix contains coconut coir, a sustainable resource that helps the soil retain moisture between waterings so your plants don’t go thirsty.
Fox Farm Happy Frog Potting Soil, 12-Quart Bag
This potting soil from Fox Farm is highly nutritious and pH adjusted for the maximum nutrient uptake for your plants. It’s best for container gardens rather than beds, and produces strong plants, speedy growth and maximized flower and fruit production. This mix is also very much alive with certain types of fungi and soil microbes that aid in your plant’s growth.
Find the Right Watering Schedule
Over-watering is probably the biggest cause of plants’ demises, and it’s something that’s very easily avoidable. There are only a few plants out there that prefer very moist soil all the time, many of them only require a good dunk when the first few inches or centimeters of their soil is dry, depending on the size of the plant. Stick your finger into the soil near the edge of the pot and if it’s dry a bit below the surface, it’s time for a watering.
There are also self-watering pots and water detection devices that can help you figure out when your plant needs more water. These tools can be incredibly helpful in knowing what your plant needs before you do and helping you stay on top of it.
Atree Soil pH Meter
This meter tests for three critical metrics for your plant’s health including moisture, pH level and sunlight intensity. After inserting the probe it’ll tell you if your plant needs more or less sun, more or less water and where the soil’s pH level is at. It works for both indoor and outdoor plants and there’s no battery or electricity needed.
To water your plant effectively, place it in the sink and water until a few drips come out of the drainage hole. If your saucer has excess water in it, dump it after about 30 minutes if there’s still water in it. Plants love a nice shower, but would never want to soak in a bath for too long.
Find the Dead Stuff and Cut It Off
Lastly, as your plant grows some leaves or flowers may not make it — and that’s okay? It’s not a sign that your plant is not doing well, but rather it’s moving on to bigger and better bulbs. Trim off those dead compatriots as they’ll only suck nutrients and energy away from the plant in the meantime. You can do this effectively with pruning shears, kitchen scissors or even your hands on smaller plants.
gonicc 8″ Professional Sharp Pruning Shears
These pruning shears from gonicc have a high-quality carbon steel blade made with ultra-fine polishing technology. The shears have drop forged handles that are ergonomically designed and non-slip. They’re strong and comfortable to hold, and the blade has a sap groove that keeps the shears from sticking. They’re great for trimming, shaping and harvesting vegetables and herbs. These pruners can handle branches up to 3/4″ in diameter, but remain lightweight and easy to carry.