It’s National Indoor Plant Week, and I (Shannon), thought I would share some of the top care tips that I thought were game changers in my indoor plant care routine, once I learned them, or implemented them.
I will not claim to be a plant expert. In fact, I am far from it. I will say that over the past few years,especially since we downsized, and opted for less material things, my devotion to plants has allowed me to become more knowledgeable than I ever thought I would be. I am, indeed, a minimalist who loves plants, especially when I learned about the benefits they have on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Oh, and they look really pretty. I love taking care of living things in my minimal space. It is so fulfilling. That is really what National Indoor Plant Week is all about: raising the awareness of the value of plants and their many attributes.
I have learned from the great plant stylists: Hilton Carter and Alvin Wayne. Hilton Carter’s books are wonderful resources on all things plant care and styling, but Alvin Wayne has many tips on not only care, but fabulous ideas on placement in small living areas, and that I can relate to, and appreciate. Plus, Alvin’s aesthetic appeal is minimalism, which I also adore.
There are some things I can share with you that I have learned along the way, from them, from plant nurseries where I purchased my plant babies, from experimenting, and the hard way.
Here are the top tips for showing your indoor plants the love and care they deserve:
Plants don’t follow a watering schedule that you set for them.
Plants need watering, of course, but they need watering when they need watering. You cannot just decide that they will get water every Sunday, and that’s it. Sure, you can make Sunday the day you check on your plants, but don’t give them water just because that is the day you decide they get it. Also, some plants need to be checked on more than once/week, so once/week is great for a good inspection day for leaves, soil, etc. but just know that you cannot set their watering schedule.
What is the watering schedule?
Well, a good rule of thumb that I learned from Hilton Carter is to put two fingers into the soil, about knuckle down. If you feel dampness, don’t water. If it is dry, water. You will learn the amount as you learn more about your plants. Also, a wine bottle makes for a wonderful watering vessel. It’s long neck makes getting into hard to reach areas much easier.
Plants talk through their leaves.
When you are doing a check on your plants, be sure to look, touch, and feel your plants, especially their leaves. You can usually tell if something is wrong by the looks of the leaves. If they are yellow, you may be under or over watering. Since your plants are living things, take the time to devote care to them by checking them from head to toe (leaf to root).
Your plants want to look good.
Speaking of the leaves, not only do you need to check them to make sure your plants are healthy, but don’t you think your plants want to look good, too? Of course they do! I walk around with a soft cloth and a small bucket of lukewarm water and I gently wipe down the leaves of my plants about once/month, and/or when they are dusty. You will also be eliminating potential disease. There are products you can buy to spray on a cloth to clean the leaves, but I like to use the least chemicals I can. So far, water on a cloth has been fine. Those leaves will be shiny and new, and I swear the plant seems to stand up taller afterwards.
Do you have aerial roots growing from your monstera plants?
This was something that I was completely freaked out about when it first happened to one of my monstera deliciosa. Apparently, in the jungle, which is where the monstera thrives, it uses aerial roots to climb trees, so they can reach higher points in the canopy with more light.They also help to absorb nutrients from rainwater in nature. Since they are indoors, and no rainwater is coming down, what should you do with them?
Well, there are a few options: (1) You could just leave them there. They are perfectly fine. (2) You can cut them off, if you find them unsightly. (3) You can take their ends and push them back into the soil, leaving looped roots in your plant. This actually gives nutrients back to the monstera. This is what I do, here and there, when I see the roots getting a little crazy.
How fickle is your fiddle leaf fig?
I remember wanting a fiddle leaf fig so badly. I looked everywhere and I was so jealous of people who had the tall fiddles. I finally found a small fiddle plant and just decided that I would do everything I could to keep it alive. I dove into learning everything I could, taking the best care of it. I watched every video that Hilton Carter had about fiddles, and read everything I could in his books about them, and finally, François (that’s my fiddle’s name) and I began to have an understanding. He knew I was going to take care of him, and he just began to thrive. So, how fickle is a fiddle? Pretty fickle, but as long as you give him/her what he/she wants, you’ll be fine.
Basics: (1) Bright indirect light, (2) Turn the plant once/month, (3) Water according to the water instructions above, but make sure that the water can drain from the bottom. A fiddle cannot sit in water, nor have a system that does not drain. I always make sure that the catch tray of water is removed after water runs to the bottom. (4) Fertilize only spring through fall once/month with an organic houseplant fertilizer. (5) Keep leaves clean per instructions above. (6) Fiddles don’t like to move locations, so other than turning, try not to move it’s location very often.
I’m not sure why this one was so difficult for me to grasp. I went through so many succulents before I finally stopped killing them. 🙁 Most succulents need plenty of sun, so I now place mine in or very close to a window. Allow the succulents to dry out completely in between watering. When watering, I place mine in the sink and spritz them quickly with the spray dish hose, let them drain a bit, then I put them back. That’s it.
Snake plants can tolerate low light and are great for corners that need a plant, but don’t give them an area where there is no light. As Hilton Carter says, “just because a plant is surviving in a dark area, doesn’t mean that it is enjoying it.” My snake plant is in a lower light corner, but still gets light. They just don’t enjoy bright light. They are really great, easy to care for plants, and propagate really well. I highly recommend these for people who feel like they are not great at houseplants. The snake plant will make you feel like a horticulture expert!
Re-pot overgrown plants.
When you are doing your plant checks, you should be looking to see if your plants are getting too big for their homes. Are their roots showing at the top of the soil (excluding aerial roots, such as the monsteras)? If the roots are showing, it is time. Spring and summer are the best times to re-pot, but if it needs to be done, do it. The rule of thumb is to move it to a pot that is just slightly larger.
Remove dry/dead leaves.
First, there is just nothing more unsightly than a dead plant leaf. If we feel that way, can you imagine what the plant is feeling? Seriously. Talk about insecurity issues! Get rid of them. Use sharp pruning scissors to remove, making a clean cup above any nodules or next leaves. Not only are you making the plant more aesthetically pleasing, ahem, your space more beautiful, but you are also encouraging growth and removing potential disease.
I’ve learned so much more, but these are the biggest lessons that really turned things around for me in the plant care world. I love caring for my plants. I truly feel like they are my babies, with personalities of their own. You can read more about that here. If you have any tricks of the trade, or gamechangers for indoor plants, let me know. I’d love to compare notes. Happy National Indoor Plant Week. Remember, if you take care of your plants, they will take care of you. <3
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