A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Houseplants

What plants should you choose?

As a beginner, you’ll want to consider picking plants that are a little more forgiving than others. Later on, when you have more experience, you can graduate to plants that require special care and attention. But for now, why not start simple and see how it goes? Easy plants are just as beautiful as complex ones.

Ask around at any nursery or home improvement store – chances are high the staff will be happy to share their knowledge on easy-to-grow houseplants. But for now, here’s a list of common, less needy types:

Dracaena
Pothos
Philodendron
Peperomia
Spider plant
Snake plant
Rubber plant
Peace lily
Dieffenbachia

Where should you put your plants?

The ideal location for a houseplant comes down to the amount of light any given plant requires. Now naturally, you may need to make compromises with where you would absolutely love to have a plant, and where you can actually keep one alive and healthy.

Read the label on your new plant, or research ahead of time, and you’ll likely see one of the following descriptions:

High or Direct Light: Think of these plants as tiny green solar panels. While they don’t need to spend all day in harsh, direct light, they need to at least spend a good part of the day there. Here, go for open areas and south-facing windows that have the strongest light your place has to offer. If you don’t have much light in general, you may need to keep moving down the list.

Medium or Indirect Light: Here, it isn’t necessary to keep these plants up against a south-facing window. Look for areas in bright rooms that aren’t actually in direct sunlight. You’ll probably find your most luck with east or west-facing windows.

Low Light: Not to be confused with dark, low light simply means generally darker rooms, when compared to white-washed sunny ones. As you may already suspect, north-facing windows are an ideal spot for these plants.

How to pot your plants?

Size: When you first buy a plant, it will usually come in a plastic pot. This is a great point of reference – most houseplants can survive comfortably in that pot for up to a year. Of course, you’ll probably be looking for a pot that’s a bit more stylish, but use the plastic pot as a guideline. Rule out anything smaller, as well as anything significantly larger. Every couple years, you may need to upgrade your pot by an inch.

Drainage: Your pot should absolutely have at least one hole in the bottom. Without drainage, plants are left to sit in excess moisture, which leads to rot and drowning. Once you have a pot with drainage, place a small layer of coarse gravel on the bottom. This will help prevent soil building up and blocking the holes.

Soil: This part is easy. At your local store, look for soil that is made specifically for houseplants. It’s generally much lighter than an outdoor garden soil, and therefore much better on indoor plants.

How much should you water them?

As with light, every plant will have unique water requirements. Luckily, this isn’t as confusing as it sounds. In most cases, you’ll be given a great starting point just by looking at the label on the plant. If not, try a quick internet search for the plant in question, and you’ll find instructions in no time. From there, here are a few tips to really dial in how much water to use:

● Once per week, stick your finger an inch into the soil to feel for moisture. If it’s very dry, go ahead and add water. If it’s still damp, hold off until it’s dry.
● For even better results, pick up a plant moisture meter (for $10-15). These tell you exactly how much moisture is present even at the bottom of the pot.
● When watering, gently pour until a tiny bit of water drains out onto the tray.
● Plants don’t like to sit in water, so be careful to avoid overwatering, and make sure there is drainage.
● Use room temperature water to avoid shocking your plants with ice cold or piping hot water.
● Cut back in the winter from around every 10 days to every two weeks.
● When plants need water, they will start to droop. However, too much water is also unhealthy.

What about ongoing maintenance?

After you’re up and running, and starting to leave the beginner phase, it’s a good idea to start thinking about a few other factors. While we won’t go into detail here, we’ll leave you with a list of final tips and things to eventually look into.

● During the growing season, fertilizer and plant food can be a big help.
● Temperature and humidity influence the health of plants. While you may not need to worry at the start, this is something to eventually look into.
● When you notice it, carefully wipe dust off of the leaves.
● Gently remove dead (brown or yellow) leaves.
● Rotate your plants to promote even growth.

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