If you didn’t buy a dog during the pandemic, you likely filled your home with plant children.
Houseplants promote health and well-being. They purify the air, reduce stress, and enhance our environment. Rare varieties like the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) “Albo Variegata” have become collector’s items with different species selling at auction in excess of $20,000. The variegation refers to two different colors in the leaves. White variegation is a lack of green chlorophyll in the plant’s cells due to a cell mutation, with no two leaves alike.
Caring for houseplants has exploded as a new hobby, supporting a multibillion-dollar industry, with growers struggling to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, only 30% of the plants produced survive living in our homes.
The triangle of life for a houseplant is light, soil, and water. The tricky part is that not all plants require the same amount of each. But, with a little information, you can create the perfect houseplant-care routine.
Here, we took a look at the common challenges of houseplant care and suggest five easy steps to fine-tune your plant-parenting skills.
1. Select a plant that suits your needs and lifestyle.
If you’re a beginner, have a busy schedule, or just want an easy-care plant, consider these:
- The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): Thick, upright stems bearing narrow, dark-green, glossy leaves does best in bright to moderate light, but will be fine in extremely low levels of light. Indestructible.
- The cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior): Stems are glossy, with dark-green leaves growing up to 24 inches. It performs in low light and poor air quality.
- Air plant (Tillandsia): Rather than living in soil, it can be placed on any surface in bright, indirect light or partial shade. To water, soak in a bowl of distilled water for 20 to 40 minutes every one to two weeks.
2. Identify the light source.
Light is the essential factor for plant growth because plants use this energy to photosynthesize food.
Indirect or bright light means several hours of light without shining directly on the plant like full sun. Consider:
- Calathea orbifolia (Calathea orbifolia). Bold, silvery green stripes across big, broad leaves. A decorator’s dream. Keep moist.
- Goldfish plant (Nematanthus gregarious). Lustrous sprawling green foliage and goldfish-like flowers. Requires plenty of humidity and must not be allowed to dry out during the growing season.
- Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis). The most common and easiest orchid to grow. Keep in a clear plastic pot to determine when to water.
Low light or partially shaded means a few morning hours of sun—or place the plant a few feet from a window facing south or southwest, or directly in front of a north-facing window.
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum). Its large, pointed, green variegated leaves are heavily marbled with white, cream, silver, or red. Disease resistant.
- Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans). Elegant arching frons give a feathery canopy shape and are low maintenance. Let soil dry a bit in between watering.
3. Select appropriate soil.
Soil feeds the plant with nutrients. Look for commercial mixes labeled as potting soil that provide adequate aeration ingredients like perlite, coconut coir, or forest materials. Avoid pine. Leach soil to remove salts before planting and fertilize two weeks after. Repotting one to two times a year will replenish nutrients and reduce the need for fertilization.
4. Monitor your watering.
It’s better to underwater than overwater. Drooping or faded leaves are a sign of underwatering. Yellow or brown edges or dropping leaves could be a sign of overwatering or pests.
5. Identify pest and fungus problems.
Inspect your plant before bringing it home. Houseplants are tropical and most will welcome an occasional shower to prevent infestations. A spray of neem oil can be effective in warding off bugs.
Dormancy or rest period. When there is no new growth or blooms, avoid feeding, reduce watering in winter, and provide cool nights prior to the blooming period.
Pots. Clay provides excellent aeration for roots. Moisture is absorbed and released through the walls. Plastic is easy to sterilize, maintains moisture, and requires less frequent watering, easily fits into decorative pots, and can be rotated toward the light for even growth. Self-watering planters use a reservoir for plants to drink when thirsty.
Drainage. To avoid “wet feet,” elevate the plant from sitting in water using pebbles, a deep-ribbed saucer, or Drain Smart’s drainage discs, which are easy to cut to fit.
Leafy at 85 W. Colorado Blvd. Contemporary-style plant boutique.
Pasadena Roots mobile plant shop—pop-up dates on Instagram.
Learn more about pet-friendly plants.