My houseplants and I are pretty tight. We’ve been with each other through the ups and downs and we do our best to persevere. Sometime, just sometimes, there comes a point where we have to call it quits and go our separate ways. But, overall we lead a happy, fulfilled life together.
Unfortunately for my children, plants are the only other living thing that are allowed occupancy in our home…at this time. No dogs, cats, rats, snakes or anything like unto it. Hence, the reason why you never see posts from me on the topic “pets”. My kids can have as many pet plants as they want. Yipee!
Lots of times I’ve had people tell me that they wish that they could raise houseplants without killing them…and so that is who this post is for. I’ve got a few suggestions based on experience with lots of different houseplants…that will hopefully help you develop your green thumb.
Analyze the lighting in your house. Obviously, plants need and love light. Do you have places with enough light and a space to put a plant??? Here’s the scoop on light…
Southern Sun Exposure – Windows that face south get the most sun. They let in bright light early in the morning, full sunlight in the middle of the day and bright light in the evening. Most plants will be really happy in a room with south facing windows…as long as the room doesn’t get overly hot.
Eastern Sun Exposure – Windows that face east get full sun for a short period in the morning then bright light all day. The morning sun is cool so you won’t overheat plants. In eastern rooms, plants need to be as close to the window as possible to survive.
Western Sun Exposure – Western windows get the afternoon full sun which is much hotter than the morning sun that comes in the eastern windows. Plants can easily wilt because of too much sunlight and heat. Light levels drop quickly as you back up from a window in a western room so plants are not receiving enough light and are really hot. So, if you have a western window…you can still put plants near it just watch them and take note of room temperatures so that they don’t overheat.
Northern Sun Exposure – North facing rooms are the most difficult to grow plants in unless the plant is right next to the windowpane. The light is medium in intensity and drops off quickly as you move away from the window.
* If a plant is not receiving enough light you will likely see weak, elongated, pale green growth, small leaves, and bending towards the light. Eventually your plant will die. So, look for the sign and move the plant if it’s unhappy!
* Every time you water your plants, rotate them a quarter turn to encourage even growth and sunlight.
Let’s learn about watering your plants. A huge reason that plants die in your home is because they are either over-watered or under-watered. If you water a plant too often the roots will rot, the plant will attract yucky bugs, and it just won’t grow well. If you don’t water enough…well, that’s obvious what will happen. So, get it right! Here’s how: buy a water meter. This is one of my favorite things in the world! These puppies are so cheap you would be crazy not to have one! You can get them at Wal-Mart for around 5 bucks. I think I have like 10 of them floating around my house. Every week, on watering day, I take my water meter and my watering can and frolic around to each plant. I stick my meter down into the soil and it tells me “Dry, Moist, or Wet”. How handy is that? Sometimes its hard to tell if your plant has guzzled all of it’s water because your finger just isn’t long enough, but this meter will tell you! If it’s dry or almost dry…give it water. If it’s wet or moist…come back later.
The more you check on your plants the more you will learn about each one. I have a handful of plants that want water twice a week! I have others that can go a couple weeks without water. This water meter will make you and your plants so happy! Just don’t forget to water them, set a schedule where you check your plants every certain days…like Monday and Thursday.
*Watering tip – water with tepid water…not warm or cold…like rainwater! You can damage roots and leaves with water that is too cold.
Pick some plants…but, not just any plant if you are a beginner! Every plant has it’s own “personality” and some are easier to get along with than others. There are many other factors that go into raising plants…humidity levels, circulation, fertilizing, potting mixes, pests, etc. but we won’t get into that now. I’ll just introduce you to some plants that are happy-go-lucky and if you monitor their lighting and water like we talked about…they should be your friend for a long time. If you become good friends you can learn more about them and try to make their life even better!
I think I have four of these in my house! They are so good-natured! They can tolerate moderate light and quickly perk up and recover if you forget a watering. They can grow long and look great draping off of the top of cabinets. There is also a really cool neon green variation.
Arrowheads are also very forgiving. Mine has looked like it might die a couple times (due to lack of light) but will a little TLC and more light it came right back. What a sweetie.
Maybe you want something that blooms. Peace lily’s are so lovely and kind. They thrive in the deep shade of rain forests…so, they also tolerate low light…tolerate being a key word. These are thirsty little buggers (think rain forest) so you may be watering every few days. But, the nice thing is a peace lily will easily let you know when it wants water…the leaves will start to droop. You water it and within hours they are perky again!
There is a good reason that snake plants are seen in the mall…low light. They tolerate it. They are interesting looking, easy to grow, and what else do you need??
Maybe you want to try your hand at a succulent. Aloe Vera plants are way cool! They grow really fast and are handy for sunburns or bug bites. Just cut off a stem…rub the gel on the menace. It’s tolerate of irregular waterings but loves bright light. Remember to use your water meter so that you don’t over water!
So, I hope that’s a good start for you. Beware that when you go to the nursery you will see lots and lots of fabulous plants that you will want to buy. But, know that you…as a beginner…might not be quite up for the challenge of some of the fickle plants. I would start with the easy ones and the more you learn the more you “branch out” and test your skills and knowledge on more ‘difficult to grow’ plants. If you would like to learn more and don’t want to wait for me to teach you….check out just one of the super great plant books that I love….Houseplants for Dummies.
I would love to hear about your beginner experiences!