Houseplant Care 

A few Basic Tips for Healthy Plants  

Many people worry a lot when it comes to houseplant care, but there is no need to worry; there are just a few things you need to consider.

1. Watering

A watering can is a great help for houseplant care, though for bigger plants I often just fill a 2 liter pop bottle. But especially for smaller plants (that are in smaller pots) or very leafy plants, a watering can with a long narrow spout will ensure easier and more adequate watering, especially where you want to avoid spills.  

Best Pennywise Tip: Unsure when to water? Use the finger test: insert your index finger up to the first joint into the soil. If you feel that the soil is damp, don't water it. Otherwise, do.

You may also need a bottle with a spray nozzle to mist plants that require a higher humidity.

2. Soil

Pre-packaged sterilized potting soil available at nurseries or garden shops may be your best choice for indoor gardening as they are disease and bug free. Choose the variety that best suits your plant as many plants have different needs.  Of course, you can mix your own potting soil adding nutrients as needed.

3. Light for Best Houseplant Care

Plants like Sanseveria , the most indestructible of all houseplants, and Aspidistra require little light. They can be placed away from a window.

Spider plants need semi-shade: the solid green leafed ones need less light; the ones with white stripes need more. You can put plants like these near a window that does not get a lot of sunlight – or put a curtain between the window and plant to diffuse the light.

Others like Monstera, sometimes called Swiss Cheese plant, once accustomed to a location may thrive with little light. 

Agave or Century Plants need full sunlight and can withstand being placed outdoors in a sheltered but sunny location. Passionflower and Oleander are two other plants that prefer full sunlight during their growing periods.  

To find the full information about your houseplant care, read the plant stick or ask your nursery person. Most plants come with a plant information stick that gives you all the watering, sunlight and temperature information you need.

4. Temperature

Houseplants are generally tropical plants and as such require high temperatures throughout the year.   As with everything else though, different plants have different needs.

Some prefer Warm temperatures in a range of minimum 60-65 F – to a high of 85 F. Examples are: Crown of Thorns, Anthurium, Maidenhair Fern, Begonia, Bougainvillea and Sanseveria.

Medium temperature ranges would be 50-55 F with a high of 65-70 F. These plants may need ventilation also.  Examples are: Zygocactus, Schefflera, Asparagus Fern, Aloe and Poinsettia.

Cold temperature plants, require a minimum of 40-45 F at night up to a daytime maximum of 55 -60 F. These plants need fresh air and are often best placed outdoors in the summer. Cineraria, Passion-Flower, Norfolk Island Pine and Calceolaria.

Many plants need different temperatures in the different seasons to flower. Drastic fluctuations of temperature may not be good for any plants so avoid shocks like sudden temperature increases or a blast of cold air.  Gas heating is very detrimental to many tender varieties.

5. Humidity

For best houseplant care, you need to understand the needs of your plants for humidity or moisture in the air. In most homes, the air is too dry and once brought home from the nursery or florist shop many only last a short time at home. Some plants like Cactus, Agave Plant and Echeveria can withstand, indeed, prefer, drier air conditions. But some houseplants require a moderate or high humidity. These plants may require extra care.

1.       One tip to maximize humidity is to put the pot inside a larger pot and fill in the gaps with stones or compost to keep in the moisture. The compost will not dry out.

2.       Group plants. Plants are capable of creating their own climate if grouped together. This tip can also be used for keeping the soil moist. If you want, you can spray them with water once or twice a day depending on the day's temperature.

6. Repotting

Soil in indoor pots is quickly exhausted, the minerals are deleted and salts from tap water and fertilizers accumulate. Most plants should be repotted every Spring before the new growing season.

Old or slow growing  plants may not be suitable for this idea. They would not want their roots to be disturbed or other plants' root system is small.

Best Pennywise Tip: Check to see if your plant needs repotting by turning it upside down and tapping the pot all around in an upward motion. This will release the plant so you can check its roots. If roots are congested and pretty much all you see, then repot into a larger size pot.

More on Houseplant Care and the Soils you use:

If your plant needs a different soil type, this is what it is looking for:

Acid soil (A): a prepackaged houseplant soil mix with a pH of 4 to 5. Some Acid loving plants are: Begonia, Azalea, Calceolaria, Hydrangea and Amaryllis.

Alkaline (K): mix ordinary houseplant soil with some extra lime or sand – or look for a mixture containing loam or clay. This is for plants like: Asparagus Fern, Cacti, Hibiscus, Ivy, and Chrysanthemum,

Light Soil (L): a very light acid soil, usually for orchids and bromeliads.

With a little learning and a lot of love, you’ll soon reap the benefits with beautiful indoor plants. This may soon turn into a cherished hobby; one that brings you many hours of pleasure knowing that you not only have learned how to nurture life but also that you've greatly improved your personal indoor environment and air quality.

Now that you’ve done all this, I think it’s time for a nice cup of tea and, perhaps, a few homemade cookies. Hmmm…I’m thinking some fruit salad wouldn’t be amiss. Enjoy!

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