Research has time and time again shown the myriad benefits bringing houseplants into your home brings. But, once you find that perfect plant (or perfect plants!), what do you do now? Whether you're new to plant parenthood or you're looking to answer a specific question (say, why are some of my leaves turning yellow?), then you've found the right place!
1. Which Houseplant is right for me?
Whether you are new to caring for houseplants or are a seasoned hand, you likely already know that there is a broad spectrum of ease or difficulty in caring for a new plant. But, just because you may be new to the lifestyle, does that mean you necessarily need to start with the easiest plant to grow? I would argue that if you can provide adequate light, potting soil, nutrients, air movement, and dedicated time, then you can choose whichever plant you damn well please!
For example, if you don't have a lot of south-facing windows, tend to forget to water plants, are unsure of the right potting soils and nutrients to use, and you are busy with the many other commitments in your life, then a Pilea Peperomioides "Chinese Money Plant" might be the perfect choice for you! These wonderful disc-bois are one of the hardiest and easiest-to-maintain houseplants out there.
Or, if you've got a grow light, some fancy soil (like our preferred "Fox Farms Organic" soil), a good handle on making compost tea, and great humidity, then a Philodendron "Pink Princess" might be the choice for you!
Since the answer is complicated use this checklist to determine which kind of houseplant might be right for you:
- Do I have time to dedicate to my houseplants?
- Can I commit to a watering routine?
- Can I provide bright, indirect light for my plant?
- Do I feel comfortable transplanting using the right soils?
- Can I make/buy organic fertilizer?
If you answered Yes! to most of these questions, then you, my dear reader, can buy any houseplants that suits your fancy! However, if you answered No! to most of these questions, then start out with some of the easier care varieties of plant. You can, of course, find houseplants requiring various levels of care in the Houseplants Collection section of our store.
2. When should I water my plants?
For the majority of houseplants sold in the store, the simple answer is you should water your plants when the TOP 2 INCHES of soil are dry. There are many, many, many (Many!) exceptions to this rule. For example, plants such as cacti or succulents prefer to have their soils completely dried out before offering more water. Or, plants that naturally occur in boggy conditions (like pitcher plants, Venus fly traps, or orchids), prefer their soil to be moist - not soggy - at all times!
At PlantVeritas we take a somewhat different approach. We have a "watering schedule" where we water all of our plants once every 10 days. Even though I just said that houseplants have a general rule with multiple exceptions, our routine, though very regular, involves adding the correct amount of water to each kind of plant in the correct amounts.
To be a bit more concrete: on any given "watering day" we may fully drench our philodendrons, make sure the carnivorous plant bogs are well-moist, give just enough water to pileas or our parlor palms, and potentially avoid watering our cacti and succulents. So, even though we are committed to this 10 day watering cycle, we are really only watering the plants that need it. The cycle is just a nice way for us to delineate the care of our houseplants into manageable chunks of time.
3. Why are my houseplant leaves turning Yellow?!?!?!?
Oh boy! This can be one of the most disheartening things to happen to new houseplant parents. You've just bought a (potentially) expensive piece of flora, and after a few weeks the plant appears to be dying! Absolutely heartbreaking.
Fear not! Your plant is most likely not dying. Plant leaves turn yellow for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that if one or just a few leaves near the base of the plant are turning yellow, then you're experiencing the natural lifecycle of the plant. The second, and most probable, reason is likely that you are either overwatering your plants or otherwise underwatering them! Be sure to make sure that you are abiding by the second section above, and be sure to look up your specific plant online if the physical measures aren't working.
The final reason the leaves may turn yellow is because the plant is either getting too little or too much light. If the plant appears elongated and isn't growing new shoots or stems, then move it to a space with more light. If the leaves appear washed out or seemingly burned, then move the plant to somewhere with less light!
While a yellow leaf or two may seem like a tragedy at first, you now have the power to ameliorate the situation and return the houseplant back to a beautiful state.
4. Why are my plant's leaves turning brown!?
Similar to the yellowing problem, brown leaves tend to worry many a new plant parent. However, and similar to the problem of yellowing leaves, brown leaves problems typically comes down to two problems - underwatering or nutrient deficiency/overabundance.
Underwatering is time and time again one of the biggest culprits for indoor houseplant problems. Generally be sure to check whether the soil is dry down to two inches then give the plant a good soaking. Over time this will likely solve the brown leaf issue.
The second problem - nutrient deficiency/abundance - is often described as a plant being "root bound" or the plant being potted in the wrong kind of soil. This is an easy issue to fix! All you have to do is pull the plant out of its current pot, gently remove any soil sticking to the roots (be careful not to break any roots), and repot in a larger container with the correct soil for your particular plant. After having been repotted, the plant should produce new, bright young foliage and be off to the races!
5. How Do I get rid of gnats and fruit flies?
Honestly, this is an inevitable part of caring for multiple plants in your house. And, we agree, it can be annoying!
While this is a natural part of keeping plants, we have found two incredible ways to deal with these tiny, annoying creatures. First, we take a small glass or bowl, fill it with an inch or so of red wine, cover it with cling film, and then poke holes in the film! The gnats and flies are attracted to the sweet smell of the wine and meet their eventual death while sipping the best Napa Valley has to offer.
The second method we use came to us by accident. In order to maintain consistent levels of humidity in our tropical plants room we use ultrasonic mist humidifiers. For whichever reason, the gnats and tiny flies love finding their way to the basin of the machines. They tend not to be able to get out of the basin and, again, meet their doom. As a bonus, we collect these insects and feed them to our carnivorous plants! Win win.
If you've liked some of the suggestions made in this post, then be sure to check out our other posts on the Plant Blog. Also, we would love for you to check out our wonderful collections of plants, accessories, books, and livery at PlantVeritas!