Have you just gotten a new indoor plant to give your living space a touch of nature but don’t know what to do next? We’re here to help you kickstart your green thumb adventure.
Whether you’re a seasoned planter or a newbie, here are some tips and tricks to keep your indoor plants happy and healthy.
1. Water your houseplants regularly.
Although plants vary in watering requirements, it’s best to water them as needed rather than following a strict calendar schedule. When in doubt, keep the soil moist and dry naturally.
So, generally, plants in a well-drained potting mix need water when the top half to one inch of soil feels dry.
Here are common signs to check your plant’s watering needs.
|• Discolored leaves
• Lack of leaf growth
• Loss of leaves
• Soft, rotten patches
|• Slow leaf growth
• Brown, dried leaf edges
• Yellow, curled, low-lying leaves
Watering requirements also vary by plant type. For instance, succulents and cacti need less water than flowering plants.
• As you quench your plant’s thirst, never overwater them. It’s better to be dry than drown them to death in the water, attracting pests, bacteria or fungi.
• Direct the droplets onto the soil when you water your plants. Avoid splashing onto the leaves and stems because these moist surfaces are prone to becoming breeding grounds for fungi or bacteria that cause plant diseases.
2. Provide ample access to sunlight.
Plants need sunlight to make food through photosynthesis and survive. So, the key is keeping them in a well-lit room where they can get enough light daily.
You should also avoid moving your plants around, especially from one area to another with different temperatures.
If you wish to move the plant, gradually take it to the new area for an hour a day and increase the time until the plant can fully adapt to its new environment.
Generally, flowering plants need 12 to 16 hours of daylight, while foliage plants need 14 to 16 hours of sun daily.
3. Feed your indoor plants.
Houseplants rely on soil and fertilizers to get all the necessary nutrients. Feeding your indoor plants with fertilizers rests on two essential factors: the type of macronutrient and the timing.
For instance, houseplants experience a growth spurt during spring and summer, so to support the growth of their leaves and stem, it’s best to give them nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
But to encourage a plant to produce fruits and flowers, you’ll need to feed them with phosphorus and potassium-rich fertilizers.
Ultimately, avoid overfertilizing your houseplants to prevent burning their roots, stunting their growth or preventing them from flowering. Only apply the needed nutrients based on the deficiency needed to be addressed for your indoor plant.
Fertilizers are commonly labeled with NPK, which stands for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – the three macronutrients every plant needs. These fertilizers vary in NPK content to meet the plant’s needs in every stage of its life cycle.
4. Maintain cleanliness and prune your plants regularly.
Houseplants are bound to collect dust indoors, so regular cleaning is necessary. It not only improves your plant’s physical appearance, but with fewer distractions, it will also help it absorb more light.
Generally, you can wash the leaves with room-temperature water, but if your plant has hairy leaves, it’s better to dust them off with a soft brush to prevent moisture and plant diseases.
Another way to keep your plants clean is to prune them regularly. Pruning encourages the plant for new growth or removes dead or infected leaves and stems to prevent the diseases from spreading to the whole plant.
One way to do this is by pinching or removing the topmost stem and leaves by hand or pruning shears. This is a proven and tested trick to encourage the plant to grow side buds and to keep the plant’s compact and fuller habit.
Always practice proper hygiene when dealing with plants. Make sure to wipe off your pruning scissors with rubbing alcohol before using it again on other plants to avoid spreading diseases.
5. Prevent pest infestations.
It turns out we’re not the only ones who love indoor plants; many pests and insects love them too, but it’s the kind of love that can kill the plant in the long run.
There are many ways to control insect pests and prevent them from attacking your houseplant.
For instance, never put tea or coffee into your houseplant because it will attract flies and other insects that will eat your plant.
On the other hand, insecticidal soaps are an easy and effective treatment against soft-bodied pests like spider mites or aphids.
When it comes to pests with waxy coatings like mealy bugs and scales, you can dab a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol to keep them away.
Fungus gnats are also common houseplant pests. They’re tiny black flies that camp around the soil whenever plants get overwatered.
That’s why you should always allow the soil to dry between waterings and regularly remove dead leaves where pests like fungus gnats can thrive.
6. Protect your houseplant from diseases.
The main culprits for plant diseases are moist leaves and stem, as they become breeding grounds for fungi, bacteria and pests that infect the plants.
The best thing you can do is to check your plant regularly and watch out for symptoms of plant diseases. Here are some common houseplant diseases, their symptoms and how to treat them.
|Prevention & Treatment
|Powdery white spots on leaves, stems, and flowers
|• Water plants in the morning so leaves can dry before nighttime.
• Prune infected leaves.
• Apply fungicide.
|Fungal Leaf Spots
|Yellow, black or brown spots on leaves that will eventually drop off
|• Water plants regularly.
• Remove infected leaves.
• Apply fungicide.
|Dark, mushy roots due to overwatering
Yellow, wilted leaves
|• Water plants only when the soil is dry to touch.
|Wilted leaves, stems and flowers
|• Water plants deeply.
• Remove the infected plant part right away.
|Brown leaves Sunken areas on stems
|• Remove the infected plant part.
• Apply fungicide
|Yellowing of leaves
|• Feed the plant with a balanced fertilizer.
• Increase sun exposure.
|Stunted growthVariegated leavesLeaf spots
|• Remove the whole infected plant.
7. Propagate your houseplants.
When you’ve finally got the hang of caring for indoor plants, propagating houseplants is a great life hack to get more plants for free. It not only encourages new growth but also rejuvenates overgrown plants.
For instance, when bromeliads develop new shoots at the bottom of the plant, you can divide them and plant them in a new pot.
On the other hand, climbing plants like photos, philodendrons or African violets develop new roots when their stems come in contact with soil. Once the new roots form, you can grow a new plant from these stem cuttings.
Other plants must develop roots from their stems or runners, such as strawberry begonias and spider plants. All you have to do is to soak these runners in water for days and replant them once they develop new roots.
8. Give the roots space to breathe.
Since indoor plants are grown in containers, overgrown plants usually lead roots circling inside the containers. So, when you see this, it’s a surefire sign to give the roots a space to breathe.
The best time to make these adjustments is during the spring and summer. You can either transfer the plant into a larger container or trim off some roots and replant it in fresh potting soil.
While repotting, you can also take this time to divide those stems and propagate new plants.
FAQs on Indoor Plants
Indoor plants usually need watering once or twice a week during summer and spring, while less watering during autumn and winter. Potting soils must be moist but not wet to prevent plant diseases.
Most houseplants do not need direct sunlight and thrive better under the indirect sun near windows.
You can spray a leaf cleaner solution, a mixture of half a teaspoon of vinegar, two drops of dish soap and two drops of coconut oil to keep your leaves glossy.
You can spray water on indoor plants, especially tropical species, to raise the humidity around the leaves.