You never want to feel this way again.
The pain, suffering, and regret just don’t seem worth it.
You’ve tried your hand at growing houseplants before. And all you managed to do was kill them.
It was not a pretty sight watching your plants curl up, shrivel, and die.
Maybe you needed to give them more water. Or maybe a bit more fertilizer. Or maybe you shouldn’t have neglected the dark spots on their leaves.
But it’s not the time for regret. It’s time to look forward to growing a beautiful indoor garden. A garden that is full of wonderful houseplants that deserve your love and attention.
But you’re afraid history might repeat itself. That your houseplants may end up dead. Again.
Growing houseplants is simple and easy once you know what you’re doing. And it’s the job of this guide to help you do exactly that.
Why should you bother spending your energy on growing houseplants?
After all, growing plants is hard work.
You have to water them, feed them fertilizer, and take care of them like a child.
So what’s in it for you?
Houseplants can save your life
Really, I’m serious.
You know all the stuff we gather in our homes – the furniture, the carpets, and appliances? They expel harmful toxins in your home.
That’s the bad stuff like benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Not something you want to breathe all the time.
Houseplants help take in these toxins and push them into the soil where microorganisms gobble them up and make food for the plants.
Even the science guys at NASA believe plants can help improve air quality by doing this. They don’t mind having plants in space.
Maybe you should grow some at your workplace.
Houseplants can make your boss happy
Do you want a raise?
Maybe that’s a dumb question to ask. Of course, you do. But that means making your grumpy boss happy. So how do you do that?
Work more and improve your productivity.
So how the heck is an inanimate, potted plant going to help you do that?
Plants use something called as transpiration. It’s a fancy term that means plants take in the moisture through the roots to the leaves where it is released as vapor. So you get a free humidifier in your house.
So fewer sick leaves due to cold, cough, flu, or a sore throat.
We know houseplants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen – at least during the day. More oxygen means better focus and creativity when you work.
Your work will improve and your boss will be happy. But if he can be happy with houseplants, you and your family could too.
Houseplants can improve your life
Closed rooms mean less oxygen.
And what better way to increase the oxygen supply in your house than growing houseplants. They’ll take in the carbon dioxide and release life-giving oxygen for you.
But that’s only during the day, you say. What about the night when they release carbon dioxide as well.
Don’t worry because there are houseplants that release oxygen even at night.
So if you’re having trouble getting the required eight hours of sleep, the boost in oxygen can help you relax.
Plants like lavender and jasmine release vapors at night that can put you in a relaxed state and prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Houseplants make us feel relaxed. Just try looking at them and you’ll know this is true. That’s why studies suggest growing plants as they can help with loneliness and depression.
I’m sure I’ve sold you on houseplants but you have no idea about growing plants.
But don’t worry. Like most things in life, let’s start with a plan.
How to design your indoor garden even if you’re a noob
I can hear it now.
Kevin, I’m not good at designing things. I’m not the artistic type.
Let me assure you that if you’ve drawn with crayons as a child, you’re cool enough to design your indoor garden.
Show off your houseplants with pride
Don’t be shy.
Keep your houseplants where everyone can see them.
This could be on the table, the window sill, or right in the middle of the room.
Try growing plants vertically
Don’t have much space? No problem. Keep plants on the window sill or hang them in containers by the window. They get the sunlight and you get to watch beautiful plants grow.
You can use a combination of poles and shelves to grow houseplants vertically. Poles can be used to grow hanging plants while shelves can help you grow potted plants.
You can use baskets made of plastic, wood, metal, or terracotta for hanging plants. Just make sure they are secure when you hang them using a metal clip.
Watering hanging plants can be a bit awkward. What about the excess water? Will it ruin your carpet?
Most hanging pots come with a reservoir or tray to catch this water which you can dump in the sink. A better way is to take the pots down, water them, and drain the excess water before hanging them again.
Grow plants in a closed space
If you’re the type to grow plants together, you might like the idea of a terrarium. The easiest way to get started is using a glass container that would make an aquarium.
No, that’s not strange.
You place your houseplants in the glass container with the right amount of soil, light, and moisture. You can grow the plants directly in soil or use potted plants.
Let’s see how we can set this up.
Spread a layer of gravel on the floor of the glass container. How much depends on the size of your container but at least 1 inch of gravel. Then put potting soil that should be about 3 inches above the gravel.
It’s good to add water to the potting soil and let it sit overnight before you add it to your container. Makes the planting easier to manage.
You’re almost done.
All you need to do is place your plants in the soil and give them plenty of water. Make sure the water does not rise above the layer of gravel or your plant roots will rot.
You’re free to place the plants however you like but make sure they’re not touching each other. That’s an invitation to pests and diseases.
There’ll be plenty of humidity in such a setup so you don’t need to water as often. But do check on your plants at least once a week to see how they’re doing.
Your plants are going to need light, so keep this terrarium near the window. If you can’t, then you need to use full-spectrum fluorescent tubes above the terrarium.
Bring your hidden creativity out
You don’t need to limit yourself.
Your houseplants don’t care whether you grow them in a store-bought container, a kid’s dumpster truck or an antique birdcage.
So get creative.
See what container strikes a chord with your inner creative genius and grow your plants like a boss.
What catches your fancy? Maybe it’s a pair of old hiking boots lying in the attic, maybe an old tea set, or a few coffee mugs.
Not feeling that crazy? Maybe using a cachepot could work for you. That’s having the actual pot inside another more attractive pot.
So you could have your plants in a plastic pot that’s great to retain moisture but sucks in the beauty aspect. And you place the plastic pot inside a more aesthetically pleasing porcelain pot that you have.
Just remember to occasionally drain out the excess water from the cachepot.
How to choose houseplants that make your home awesome
Choose plants with interesting leaves
Leaves make a plant attractive.
They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. So what better way to make your home stand out than by using plants with different leaf types.
Let’s take a look at some plants with interesting leaves.
The first on our list is an earth star. Guess what shape the leaves of this plant are. A green star pattern with stripes of red or white.
The next on our list is croton. This strangely named plant has shiny leaves that come in a variety of patterns, shapes, and colors.
An interesting choice for your house is a fern. You must be thinking “Oh no! Aren’t those difficult to maintain?”.
The good news is there are a lot of fern varieties that don’t need much maintenance. Take the footed fern for example which is quite hardy. Or the rabbit’s foot fern that develops fantastic blue-green leaves.
If you’re looking for a small plant for your windowsill, you’ll love the mosaic plant. The leaves are dark green with beautiful pink or white veins.
It’s time to take a look at philodendrons which are a common houseplant but beautiful nonetheless. The foliage can be large and a glossy deep green.
Another interesting plant for your house is the prayer plant with it’s red, pink, and green shades.
Fun story of how it got its name.
These plants move from a horizontal position to a vertical one in the dark which someone thought looked like hands joined in prayer.
The snake plant is quite common as a houseplant and has wonderful leaves in a variety of sizes and colors. The aptly named Mother-in-law’s tongue is a variant of this plant having yellow leaf margins with a dark green center.
Plants with flowers can make your house beautiful
What can be more beautiful than flowers in your home? But there’s a problem.
Most flowering plants need a lot of sunlight to be able to grow flowers. So how the heck do you grow them in your house?
Don’t worry because there are plenty of flowering plants that do well indoors. You won’t get a large bloom but it should be good enough as an attraction in your house.
The African violet is a great flowering houseplant. It is dependable, hardy, easy to maintain and the flowers come in a variety of colors.
Angel wing begonias are another wonderful flowering plant for your house. They are hardy and need less maintenance. The flowers can be in shades of white and pink.
Who would have thought an orange plant could be great indoors. But that’s quite true.
You can grow citrus plants like the Calamondin orange inside your house. Just make sure to give it plenty of sunlight maybe planting it near a window.
They get plenty of fragrant flowers and the fruits are a wonderful bright orange. You can leave them on the plant or eat them if you like tart fruits.
Clivias work well as a flowering houseplant. They’ll give you a wonderful bloom of orange or yellow flowers at the end of winter.
Crown of thorns. What an interesting name for a flowering plant.
But true to its name, this plant comes with thorns you need to be careful about. But if you can get past them, this plant has beautiful flowers that may be yellow, white, red, or pink in color.
Lipstick plants is another one with a great name. The flowers look like bright-colored lipstick and that’s why the name. They can be brilliant red or orange in color.
Moth orchids are easy to grow and inexpensive. The flowers come in a range of colors that can be simple to bright.
If you like to grow houseplants in hanging baskets, the wax plants can work great for you. They’re vining plants with pink flowers that can vary in size.
It’s time to bring out the big guns in your indoor garden
Sometimes small plants won’t cut it for your garden.
Maybe you need something bigger. Maybe you need to plant trees.
No, I’m not joking. There are certain trees you can grow in your indoor garden without problems.
Aralias are small trees you can have in your garden. They have delicate leaves that don’t enjoy cold weather. If the stems grow more than three feet, you’ll need to stake them.
The lady palm can be an interesting houseplant because of its fronds. They are slightly pleated being dark green with notched tips. They do tend to take a while to grow to a mature height.
An interesting looking plant for your garden is the pencil cactus.
It’s a succulent whose leaves drop off after a few weeks. The green stems are the ones that have to use photosynthesis and make food for the plant.
If you’re looking for something a little large, an umbrella tree is the one for you. You’ll need to keep pruning it every few years to restrict its height.
They may be prickly but they make a beautiful houseplant
Cacti are fun to grow, easy to maintain, and make a wonderful houseplant. They can be the desert kind or the jungle type. Pick some for your indoor garden to make it beautiful.
Holiday cacti are super easy and provide plenty of bloom for a few weeks. The flowers are white, red, or pink based on the variety.
An interestingly named cactus is the mistletoe cacti. They are known so because their flowers are followed by the small red or white berries like a mistletoe. It’s best to grow them in a hanging basket because the plants cascade from the sides.
The golden barrel cactus is aptly named because of its barrel-shaped body and golden spines that are curved.
The pincushion cactus is a rounded cactus that needs plenty of sunlight. The flowers form a circle on the top of the cactus and are followed by red berries that last for months.
The sea urchin cactus is one of the easiest you can grow in your indoor garden. All it needs is a little sunlight and water to keep growing well. The flowers are white and pink and emerge from furry buds.
How to buy houseplants that don’t make you cry
So you picked the kind of houseplants you want to grow, went to the garden center and bought them.
But you then notice something is wrong in a few days.
The leaves are wilting and there seems to be some weird growth on the stem. That’s when you’re almost in tears.
It’s not your fault. You just picked the wrong plants.
But you don’t have to be that person. You don’t have to suffer that fate.
Let’s take a look at steps you can take to make sure you get healthy plants in your home.
Do you trust your garden center?
Houseplants need tender, loving care. So does your garden center provide it to them?
Check out where the garden center keeps the plants. Do they keep them out of direct sunlight? Do they keep them away from drafts? If they don’t, it’s time to find another one.
If you don’t know, go ask the management how they deal with their plants? Ask them questions about where they place the plant, what nutrients they provide them, and how often they check them.
Be a little sneaky.
Ask them when they get their shipment and arrive on that day to get the best plants possible.
Check if your plants are feeling happy
What do we do when we’re happy?
We laugh, we smile, we dance, and show the world how wonderful it is.
Plants show they’re happy and you just need to look out for the signs.
If the plants are having new grow like leaves, flowers, and shoots, it means they’re living the good life.
If the leaves look fresh and green in color, and the roots are firm and well anchored in the soil, it means they like the place they live in.
Check if your plants are feeling sad
But plants can get sad as well and they’ll tell you about it.
The first obvious thing to look at is if there are pests on the plant. But sometimes it won’t be as obvious.
Check the leaves of the plant. Are they wilted and drooping? Do they have a pale color? That could be a sign of a fungal infection.
If the roots are brown or black in color and squishy, it could be overwatering that’s causing root rot.
If the roots are a circling mass of mess in the container, it means the plants have not got the right nutrients and water.
And if the plant is leaning on one side almost ready to topple over, it means lack of good sunlight.
Now that you’ve picked happy houseplants, it’s time to make them a member of your family.
What are some essentials for your houseplants?
Houseplants are quite accommodating entities. They don’t need much.
All you need to do is provide sufficient light, water, and nutrition and they’ll be good to go.
Give your plants the light they need
If there’s one thing you really need to provide your plants it’s the right amount of light.
Houseplants can require low, medium, or high light depending on their type.
You can give your houseplants low light by planting them in the northern area of the house that gets light. Or in a place where the east and west area of the house is obstructed to get partial light. Or inside a room.
If your houseplants need medium light, you can place them in the east or west area of the house that gets sunlight. The light should either be indirect light or a few hours of sunlight.
For houseplants that need high light, you need to place them in the south area of the house that gets plenty of sunlight. This means about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
That’s an easy way to know how much light you’re giving the plants, right?
It’s not that simple because each situation can be different and cause a fluctuation in the light your plants get.
Maybe the southern area of your house has a big spruce tree in front and it won’t get full sunlight.
How to find out the light your house receives
It’s good if you can measure how much light an area of your house receives.
Wait. Don’t freak out.
I know you’re not a techno geek who can get his head around such things. But it’s quite easy if you use one of the methods we’ll see.
Using the shadow method
This method is super easy because all you need to use is your hand and eyes.
Go to the spot in the house where you want to grow your houseplant. Do it during the day when there’s plenty of sunlight.
Hold your hand out about a foot above the area or table where you want to place the plant. You need to do this once every hour for at least 6 hours.
If every time you do this, you see a shadow of your hand with sharp edges it means that’s a high-light location. If you see a shadow of your hand with slightly blurred edges, you have a medium-light location. If the shadow has fuzzy edges, it’s a low-light location.
If there is no shadow at all, it’s a no-light situation which means you’ll need to get some supplemental lights to grow houseplants.
Using a light meter
I know it’s still a little bit of work using the shadow method.
What if you need some help figuring out the lighting conditions of your house?
Don’t worry because you can use a light meter that gives you a very good reading of the lighting situation in your house.
You do need to understand how the readings of the light meter work. They’re measured in foot-candles.
I know it sounds weird but a foot candle means the approximate light given off by a candle kept a foot away.
High-light plants need about 3000 foot-candles, medium-light plants need about 1500 to 3000 foot-candles, and low-light plants need about 1000 foot-candles.
The good thing about using a light meter is it gives you the measurement in foot-candles. So you know exactly how much light an area of your house gets.
What if your house does not get enough light for houseplants?
Uh oh! You just did the shadow test and there’s not enough light for the houseplants.
Does this mean you can’t grow plants inside your house?
Of course not. You just need to use some extra equipment that gives sufficient light to the plants.
This artificial light equipment should give the right intensity, color, and duration of light that the plants need.
The intensity of the light helps your plants grow strong and healthy. Without the right intensity, the plants won’t be able to grow flowers and fruits.
The light from the sun has a combination of colors like red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and violet which combined together appear as white.
But plants prefer certain colors to grow well and you need to know them. Colors like blue, orange and red are preferred by plants for best growth.
If light from the sun is available, plants only need them for a certain duration. But when you use artificial lights which are weaker, you can provide the light for a lot longer. This increased quantity of light helps compensate for the reduced quality.
Let’s take a look at some types of artificial lights you can choose.
These are the cheapest lights you can get.
You can choose the cool white bulb or the warm white tubes of fluorescent light. The white bulb gives off a bluish spectrum of light while the white tube gives off a reddish spectrum.
Both are fine to use for starting seeds or growing plants that have good foliage.
There are professional fluorescent tubes that give a range of light spectrum to the plants while keeping a nice sunlight effect in your room. But they tend to be a little expensive.
As a beginner, you can start with the cheaper white bulb or tube. And if you find that the light is not attractive enough for you, you can consider buying the expensive ones.
The good thing about these lights is that they don’t expend a lot of heat. So you can keep your plants quite close to them like 5 or 6 inches.
Also, the tubes have more intensity at the center than at the ends. So plants that need less intense light can be grown near the ends.
If you’re going to be using the lights for 14 hours every day, you’ll need to replace them every 12 to 18 months.
These are the cheap bulbs you use in your homes.
They don’t emit a lot of light because most of their energy is dissipated as heat. So they’re only useful for plants that need low lighting conditions.
You can use them near a partially obstructed window to increase the light available to the plants.
The good thing is they fit in the regular house fittings and you don’t need to do extra work to use them.
The bad thing is they are not that intense and get quite hot. So make sure to keep the plants at least 18 to 24 inches away from these bulbs or they’ll burn.
High-intensity Discharge Lights
These are some serious indoor lights because of the intensity they produce.
You can get either metal halide or high-pressure sodium based HID lights. They are quite different from each other because they emit a different spectrum of light. They also use different fixtures because of different electric requirements. You can’t use them in the regular bulb fixtures and need to have a separate electric fixture set up.
The metal halide bulbs give off a light in the blue spectrum which makes them good to grow foliage plants.
They tend to be cheaper than the high-pressure sodium lights but also burn out quicker. You need to replace them every year.
The metal halide bulbs don’t distort the color of the plants and the people in the room.
The high-pressure sodium bulbs give off a light in the orange/red spectrum which makes them good to grow fruit and flower plants.
They tend to be more expensive than the metal halide bulbs but also last a lot longer.
And they tend to distort the color of everything that they illuminate which is something you should consider.
If you’re a beginner it’s better to start off with either fluorescent bulbs or LED lights.
The LED lights don’t need special electric fittings and you can use them in your household lamp fittings.
They tend to be expensive compared to fluorescent bulbs but are quite efficient because they don’t dissipate a lot of heat. You can grow plants at a distance of 12 inches without any problems.
The light from these LEDs is easy on the eyes so you won’t have a problem of distortion. The light is also a lot more intense than those from fluorescent bulbs.
If you want to grow a group of plants or want to focus the light on a particular plant the LED lights are great because they work as a spotlight. If you want to grow several plants then a fluorescent light is better because it covers more growing space.
Give your plants sufficient water
What could go wrong with watering a plant?
Just give them some water every day and you’re good to go.
Well, some plants can be forgiving enough that they survive with less or excess watering. But most plants will let you know you’re messing up.
They start dying.
The problem can happen with under-watering or over-watering. When you under-water you provide less water to the plant’s roots and they dry out. If you over-water you provide excess water to the plant’s roots and they rot.
The symptoms for both situations will seem the same as the plants don’t get sufficient moisture so the leaves and flowers start to dry out.
But it’s not rocket science so you can learn to water your plants. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll become quite good at it.
You’ll be able to look at the plants and know whether they need water. You’ll recognize the changes in the color, swelling, and feel of the leaves. And by sticking your fingers in the soil you’ll know how dry it is to need watering.
Learn to water your houseplants like a boss
We know indoor plants need a good watering. That is obvious.
But let’s take a look at why your houseplants need the water.
The roots of plants have the work of taking in nutrients and moisture from the soil. The moisture travels from the roots through the stem to the leaves.
It is used by the plant for photosynthesis where it makes its own food. And the water is expended out through pores at the underside of the leaves through evaporation.
Outdoor plants have freedom. Their roots can extend into the soil searching for nutrients and moisture.
Indoor plants are caged in their potting soil. So it’s your duty to provide them with sufficient nutrients and moisture.
When you’re watering the potting soil, make sure to water it thoroughly till the water drains out of the holes at the bottom of the pot.
That’s because the roots of your houseplants will only grow to the lengths where they can find the moisture in the soil. You don’t want to have a houseplant with a weak root system as it will topple over as soon as it grows to a certain height.
Now you know how much to water your houseplants. The other question is how often should you water your houseplants?
The potting soil that you use is hopefully well-draining material which means it has plenty of space between the soil particles.
When the potting soil is dry, this space fills up with oxygen and when it’s wet, it fills up with moisture that is stuck between the particles.
The best way to do this is water as soon as you find the soil has dried out. But once you’ve watered your plants let them be till the soil has dried out again.
The roots of your plants will get sufficient moisture from the watering. And they’ll be happy getting the required oxygen when the soil has dried out.
Learn to water your plants based on their needs
Houseplants come in a ton of varieties.
And one important factor of houseplants is the type of leaves they have. You can decide on how much water the plants need based on their leaves.
Houseplants that come with a waxy coating on their leaves will not lose water as quickly. The same will be the case for houseplants that have thick leaves. So you don’t need to water these houseplants as often.
Some other houseplants will come with thin leaves or thin stems. These are the ones that will lose a lot of moisture quickly and you need to water them frequently.
Plants like cacti have adapted themselves to survive with little moisture. They usually have spine leaves and stems that are modified to store a lot of moisture. They can survive for days without you watering them.
Water your houseplants based on the season
You may have noticed it.
Most plants don’t need as much water in winter.
That’s because the temperature has dropped and so have the daylight hours which means plants are not growing as rapidly.
As spring begins, many plants want to grow more, so their need for nutrients and moisture increases.
So you need to remember to water your houseplants often from spring to fall when they need the most moisture.
There are some exceptional plants that grow during the winter such as a holiday cactus.
Just remember that the moment you see new leaves or buds growing on a plant, it means you need to increase the amount of water you provide.
But the weather is not the only thing you need to care about.
Know your environment to know how to water your plants
It might be winter but the occasional dry weather can mess up your plants. So you need to be careful and check how the weather is.
How much you need to water your plants should change based on this.
If you use a thermostat then it’s best to keep the indoor temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the night and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
This will help ensure your plants need less watering because they will face less heat and dryness.
It’s good to know the position of your plants as that can help with the watering. If your plants are in the north-facing area of the house they get less light and heat. So they need less watering.
But if your plants are in the south-facing area of the house they’ll get more light and heat. Which means you need to water them often.
If you don’t get sufficient light in your house, you may be using artificial lights for your houseplants. And you need to use them for a longer period of time than direct sunlight.
Some types of artificial lighting may even generate a lot more heat based on how much is the distance from the plants.
You’ll need to water your plants accordingly based on how much light and heat they are receiving for their growth.
Your container choices can change your watering needs
What’s the point of growing houseplants if we can’t show them off.
That’s why we grow them in beautiful pots made from a variety of materials. Some of them like wood, ceramic, terracotta have some beautiful designs that look attractive.
But others like plastic and metal might seem a bit plain to look at.
You do need to realize that the container choice determines how often you need to water the houseplants.
Containers that are porous such as wood, concrete, terracotta, and clay tend to lose moisture from the sides due to evaporation as well as from the top of the soil. So you need to water the plants in such containers more often.
Containers like plastic and metal don’t have this problem of losing moisture from the sides but only from the top of the soil. But they do tend to be unattractive to look at.
There’s a better way which gives you the benefit of both worlds.
You can grow your plants in a non-porous container like plastic. And then you can place the plastic container inside a bigger beautiful pot made from ceramic.
If your plants are in containers that are up to 12 inches deep, you can stick your finger about an inch in the soil to check whether it needs watering.
If your plants are in containers that are more than 14 inches deep, you need to stick your finger about two inches into the soil to know whether they need water.
Some tools that can help you with the watering
Watering your houseplants is going to be a frequent task for you. It’s good to have tools that’ll help you make that task a bit easier.
The good old watering can is one of the best tools to water your houseplants.
If you have small containers, it’s good to go with a watering can that has a narrow spout. It will help you water precisely the area you want to.
But if you have large containers, it can take quite some time to water them with such a watering can. It’s better to go with a larger spout that can water a larger area of the soil.
The other option is to use an indoor hose that comes with a wand attachment and can be hooked up to your sink with an adapter.
They are lightweight and coil up so you can store them away when not in use.
If you have a lot of hanging containers, it might be good to take them down, water them over a washbasin, allow them to drip-dry and hang them back again.
Choose the right soil for your houseplants
It’s easy to take some soil from your garden and grow houseplants, right?
Too many problems arise when using such garden soil.
Garden soil is too heavy which makes it troublesome if you want to move your pots from one place to another. It doesn’t drain well which means your plant roots stay in moisture a lot longer increasing their risk of rotting.
And the worst thing about garden soil is it can contain all kinds of pests and diseases which can destroy your plants.
That’s why it’s best to choose a good potting mix that will treat your houseplants well.
The potting mix you get can be soil-based or soil-less. Both the types are sterile and made to use for your houseplants.
The soil-based potting mix can retain a lot more moisture and are suited for plants that like good moisture. You’ll need to water this potting mix less often.
The soil-less potting mix drains quicker than the soil-based one and is useful for plants that don’t need a lot of moisture to grow in.
Most potting mixes contain things like peat moss, coco peat, vermiculite, and perlite that make the mix light and retain enough moisture while draining out the excess. They also may contain macro and micronutrients that your plants need.
Give plants that little extra nutrition but be careful
Plants make their own food with photosynthesis.
But houseplants have limited growing space and maybe less light to grow with.
The potting mix you use usually consists of peat moss or coco peat, perlite and vermiculite. These are great to retain moisture and give your plants breathing space. But they hardly contain nutrition.
That’s why you may need to give your plants a little extra nutrition if they want it. That’s where a fertilizer can help you.
You can get an organic or non-organic fertilizer but we always recommend using an organic one because it has a slower release and is better for your plants.
The fertilizer can be liquid or granular. With a liquid fertilizer, you mix it with water and spray it directly on the foliage. This is also known as foliar feeding and is the quickest way for your plants to get some nutrition.
The other way is by adding granules of the fertilizer to the soil which is slowly released into the soil and enriches it with nutrients.
There are three categories of fertilizer based on your needs. They could be balanced, high nitrogen, and bloom booster.
The fertilizers have the three nutrients as written on the package. This is known as the N-P-K values of the fertilizer.
The N stands for the nitrogen, P stands for the phosphorus, and K stands for the potassium in the fertilizer.
Nitrogen is used by the plants for growing foliage, phosphorus will help fruits and flowers to develop, while potassium helps the roots grow.
A balanced fertilizer means it has equal amounts of N-P-K. So a 5-5-5 or a 10-10-10 is a balanced fertilizer. Usually, that’s all your houseplants will need.
But if you want to grow dense foliage on your plants, you can consider a high nitrogen fertilizer. It has a higher amount of nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium. So values could be like 10-5-5.
If you want to develop better fruits and flowers on your houseplants, you’ll need a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Values like 5-10-5 on the fertilizer should be suitable for your plants.
The important thing is to not fertilizer your plants a lot because you can burn the roots of your plants.
It’s OK to fertilizer only when the plants are in the growing stages from spring to fall. Every few weeks you can dilute the fertilizer with a good amount of water and spray it on your plants.
You don’t need to spray fertilizer on the plants in the winter when they won’t be growing as much.
With fertilizer, it’s always good to provide less rather than more as that can damage your plants and even kill them.
Some gardening tools that make your life a little easier
Taking care of your houseplants does not need you to be a technology freak.
Having said that, there are certain gardening tools that can make your life a little easy.
The first tool you should have is a good pruner that can help you prune the branches and stems of your plants.
A bypass pruner has two sharp blades that cross each other like a scissor while an anvil pruner has one sharp blade that falls onto another flat blade like a hammer on an anvil.
It’s best that you get yourself a bypass pruner as they cut the plant cleanly allowing it to heal faster and grow again. An anvil pruner works by crushing the stem or branch because of its anvil action. It’s great if you want to trim dead branches that need extra cutting power but not something your houseplants will need.
A piece of advice. Always go for a bypass pruner of good quality even if it costs a bit more. You don’t want to be uncomfortable using the pruner and having to replace it every year because it broke down.
The bypass pruner comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It may come with a rotating handle that makes it easy on your wrist. It may have a ratcheting feature that makes it a lot easier to prune thick branches.
Why the heck would you need floral snips when you have a bypass pruner?
The good thing about floral snips is they can reach in small places where the pruners cannot. So if you want to snip hard to reach stems and branches, this can help.
Floral snips are quite useful when you want to snip delicate flowers and branches.
They also double up as scissors in case you need to cut a packet of seeds or fertilizer which a bypass pruner is not suited for.
If you want a versatile tool for your houseplants, a trowel is a good choice.
You can get it in various shapes with some having a sharp edge while others do not.
They work great when you want to open a bag of potting soil and transfer the contents from the bag to a pot.
You can also use them to dig into the soil when you would like to transplant the plant from one pot to another.
Choose one based on how comfortable you feel using it. Some come with a rubber handle while others are wooden. Some come with a wide blade while others have a narrow one.
There are two types of gardeners – those who love working with gloves and those who do not.
Those who like to wear gloves don’t want their hands to get dirty with the soil while those who don’t wear gloves want to feel the soil and plants they work with.
If you’re one that likes gloves, remember to buy a few pairs of good quality ones as they tend to get lost. That’s a common problem because you need to wear and remove them quite often while working in the garden.
You could buy a glove clip that can attach to your belt and keep your gloves safe when you’re not using them.
I know what you’re thinking.
You want to use the spray bottles for watering your houseplants. But that’s not the best use for them.
They are better suited to spray fertilizer as a foliar feed on your plants. You can also use them to spray pesticides on your houseplants.
But do remember to keep the spray bottles separate for the fertilizer and pesticides by clearly marking them.
Why use a pruning saw when you have a bypass pruner?
You don’t need one if you’re just planting small houseplants. But if you’re growing some indoor trees like citrus plants, you’re going to need one.
The bypass pruner can help you prune branches that are up to 1 inch thick. But anything more than 1 inch thick can damage your pruner. It’s better to either use a lopper or a pruning saw for this.
A pruning saw is a better choice because it can fold and go into your pocket or holster when not in use. It also makes a clean cut on the branch allowing the plant to heal faster and avoid disease.
A potting tray can help you keep your house clean as you work with your plants and transplanting them.
It also helps you keep the work area neat and organized. You can use any regular plastic tray as a potting tray though there are specially designed trays that even come with shelves.
If you take a look at your houseplants every day you’ll know about pests as soon as one arrives.
You don’t need to use harmful pesticides to get rid of the problem Just keep some cotton swab and rubbing alcohol ready in your potting tray.
You just need to dab the cotton swab in the rubbing alcohol and swipe the pests away from the plant’s leaves.
Move your plants to a bigger home when they need it
It’s amazing to watch your houseplants grow.
But there’s going to be a time when you need to move them to a bigger pot.
Plants that grow in pots don’t get the room to spread their roots in search of water and nutrition. So you need to provide them with regular water and food.
But as the plants grow bigger, their needs grow bigger as well and it’s time to move them. This is known as repotting the plants.
But how do you know when the time is right to repot a plant?
It’s the signals that the plant will let you know when it’s feeling uncomfortable.
If you see the plant’s roots coming out from the bottom drainage hole of the pot, your plants need more space. If you see the plant’s roots circling the top of the pot, your plants need more space. And if your plants have spent more than a few years in the same pot, your plants need more space.
An easy way to know if your plants need repotting is to observe them after watering. If the water drains out very fast, it means the roots have grown and taken the place of the soil.
Your plant needs repotting if the size of the top of the plant is very large compared to what’s in the pot.
Let’s take a look at how to repot your plant.
Find the right new pot
Your plant has outgrown the old pot, so it’s time to find a new one.
It’s good to get the new one a size greater than the old one. Pots are usually available in 2-inch increments. So if you’re old pot was 6 inches in diameter, it’s time to buy a pot that is 8 inches in diameter. This will give the plant an additional inch all around to grow.
But then isn’t it better to get an even bigger pot? Maybe a 12-inch one?
Don’t do that because you may end up killing your plant.
If you use a 12-inch pot to replace a 6 inch one, it will give your plant roots 3 inches all around to grow.
The problem is that when you water the soil, the roots will absorb the required water but the rest of the soil will remain damp. This means your plant roots can end up rotting and destroying the plant.
Remove the plant from the old pot
Before you remove the plant, take the new pot and cover the drainage hole with a stone or shard so the soil does not fall out. Then add a few inches of potting soil in it.
Turn the old pot over holding the plant stem gently and then try to knock the plant out of the pot.
You may need to knock the pot against the side of a table to loosen the plant. Or if it’s a plastic pot, you can cut the plastic and remove the plant.
It may happen that the plant has attached itself to the pot made of terracotta. If that is the case, you may need to break the pot with a hammer and take the plant out.
If the roots are tangled up, you may need to loosen them with your fingers by gently moving them apart.
Repot the plant into the new pot
Now that you’ve removed the plant from the old pot, place it in the center of the new one where you added the soil.
Add more potting soil to the pot until it covers the plant. You can press the soil in firmly to cover the plant.
Keep adding and pressing the soil till you reach about an inch from the top of the pot. You don’t want to fill the pot with soil till the top because the water will spill out while watering.
Water the plant in the new pot
Once you’re done repotting the plant in the new pot, you need to water the soil thoroughly.
If the soil settles down into the pot, you can add more potting soil to cover the plant again.
If after some days, your plant looks droopy, it needs time to readjust to the new pot. You can keep it shade away from the stress of sunlight or heat. After a few days, your plant should become healthy and you can move it back to the original place.
Trim your plants when they get out of shape
Your houseplants will like to grow when you provide the right nutrition and water.
But they can grow in an awkward manner that damages their beauty or can cause harm to the plant by being off balance.
You need to know these situations and prune the houseplants.
If you have small houseplants, you can use your hands to pinch off leaves, stems, or flowers. But if the stem is woody and tough you’ll need a tool.
A floral snip works great for most houseplants as it can reach into hard to reach places for the pruning. If you have thicker plant stems a bypass pruner might be helpful.
Just make sure not to scrap the blades against the plant and cause damage to them.
A node is the portion of a plant from where new growth tends to happen. You should prune the plant by making a 45 degree cut across the node.
It’s best to prune the plant as soon as you find the need to. For example, if you find that a few leaves of the plants are weak and wilting, you can prune them off immediately. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on growing new, healthy leaves.
Pruning the top of houseplants
Sometimes your houseplants can grow quickly and cover a certain area of your home.
You love the plant and don’t want to repot or move it elsewhere. The other option is to prune the plant to a size that fits your home so it stays in the same spot.
It’s always good to start small with your pruning so you don’t cause damage to the plant and avoid the psychological stress of chopping up a large portion of your plant.
You can be conservative and prune about 10 percent of your plant in the region which needs pruning.
Step back and check your plant for areas that have grown too much and you can decide to prune those.
Once you’ve pruned 10 percent of the plant, take a look at whether more pruning is required or not.
Some plants might drop some milky sap from the cuts and it’s best to keep newspaper or cloth below so it does not stain your furniture or the floor.
Pruning the roots of houseplants
Once you’ve pruned the stems and branches of your houseplants, you’ll be in a position to prune the roots as well.
Why the heck would you want to do that?
It’s something you need to do if you want to avoid repotting the plant otherwise you can just go ahead and pot it in another plant.
If you do want to trim the roots, knock the plant out of the pot.
Trim the roots from all the sides of the pot depending on the size of the pot. If it’s a 12-inch pot, you can trim about 2 inches from all sides. If the pot is 8 inches, you can trim an inch from all sides.
Then put the plant back in the pot and cover the roots well with potting soil. You can water the plant a little more for a few days so the roots can recover from this pruning.
When you prune the roots, do not prune the top of the plant. That will signal the plant roots to try and get in more nutrients and moisture. Not something you want your plant roots to do after a surgery.
Prune your houseplants to make them pretty
Sometimes you may need to prune to make your plants look pretty.
If your plants suffer from over or under watering, the leaves will start to yellow at the edges. You can prune the edges with a small scissor so they look better.
If your plants are having yellow or brown leaves, there’s no point in letting them hang around taking the plants energy. You can pinch these leaves off the plant and they’ll be more attractive.
You can make your vining plants look attractive even if they start losing their bottom leaves. Twine the leafless vine stems around the inside edges of the pot and pin them there with a paper clip that is bent into a U shape. The stem will start growing new roots and new plants from the rooted system.
Protecting the houseplants from pests
It’s nasty having to watch pests in your houseplants.
The good news is that there are just a few pests that can attack your houseplants.
It’s best that you use natural methods to take care of the pests rather than using pesticides. That’s because the chemicals can cause harm to your children and pets.
Instead, you should monitor your houseplants to check when pests start attacking it. You can then try some safe methods to get rid of them. If they don’t work you can try a different approach or get rid of the plant completely.
Make use of integrated pest management techniques
It’s best to always try the least toxic method to get rid of a pest infestation. You can do this with a combination of cultural, chemical and physical tools.
Here are the steps you can follow as part of such pest management.
When you buy a houseplant, make sure it is healthy and free from pests. It’s OK if the plant has a broken branch but it’s not OK if you can see pests crawling along the plant.
Once you bring the houseplant into your house, keep it isolated and away from other plants for a week. This will help you know if there are any pest problems with the plants and avoid infecting the other plants.
Take care of the plants by providing them with the right amount of sunlight, temperature, moisture, and nutrition. This will help the plants grow strong and healthy to fight off any pest infestation.
Take a look at your houseplants at least every week to check if there is any pest infestation. The sooner you find out about the problem, the faster you can resolve it.
Keep your growing areas free from debris like dead leaves and flowers because they provide a nesting place for the pests.
If there are pests on the houseplant, you can use natural methods like dishwashing soap, rubbing alcohol, and mineral oil to get rid of the pests.
Slugs are not a common problem for houseplants but they can reach your home with a plant from a nursery or a greenhouse.
You won’t know they’re attacking your plants because they come out at night. But if you see damage on your plants and silver trails on the leaves, they may be the problem.
The easiest way to get rid of slugs is to keep saucers of beer near your plants. The slugs like their beer and end up dissolving in the liquid.
Once the problem goes away after a few days, you can remove the saucers of beer.
Spider mites are not an insect but of the arachnid family because they have six legs. But they’re not spiders that can be beneficial by preying on pests.
It’s hard to detect spider mites because they are quite tiny. They will suck the chlorophyll out of the leaves and cause them to dry out and die.
The best way to know if spider mites are damaging your plants is to spray water under the leaves. If the droplets cling to the webs below the leaves, you possibly have a spider mite infestation.
If the infestation is small, you can get rid of them by rubbing both sides of the leaves with dishwashing soap every three days till the problem goes away.
If the infestation is very large, it’s best to get rid of the plants because there’s not much you can do unless you want to spray chemicals on your plants.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the spider mites, keep spraying the soap mixture every couple of weeks.
Scale and Mealybugs
Both scale and mealybugs are sucking pests that damage your plants by sucking the chlorophyll out of them.
It’s hard to detect these pests when they are immature because they may not be visible. The mature scale is visible as dark brown spots on woody plants. If you can scrape the spot with your fingernail, it’s a scale. The mature mealybugs are brown colored pests inside a soft, white shell.
You can get rid of the immature scale and mealybugs by using a spray made with 1 part mineral oil, 1 part soap, and 8 parts water.
To get rid of the mature scale, you’ll need to manually take them off your plant. If the infestation is large, it’s going to be a tedious task.
To get rid of the mature mealybugs, you’ll need to take them out with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. Then spray the plant with the same mixture of mineral oil, soap, and water to keep them away.
Aphids are a common pest on houseplants. They can bear live young as well as lay eggs and that helps them multiply like crazy.
Once there are a few aphids on your houseplants, it won’t take long to get a full-blown infestation.
The good thing is that aphids are soft-bodied insects and it’s easy to get rid of them. If you can take the plant outside in warm weather and spray it with water, you’ll knock off most of the aphids.
If the weather is cold, you can keep your plants indoors and spray them with a mixture of 1 part dishwashing soap and 9 parts water which kills the aphids. You need to keep spraying this mixture every day till the problem goes away.
Don’t let diseases kill your houseplants
It can be difficult to detect a disease in your houseplants.
The good thing is that it’s quite rare for a houseplant to get infected with a nasty disease. And you can use similar techniques as for the pest management to prevent issues in the first place.
The most common diseases caused in plants are due to viruses, fungi, or bacteria so look out for those.
Can you prevent diseases in your houseplant?
If you take some precautions, it’s possible to keep your houseplants free of diseases.
When you’re buying a houseplant, make sure that the plant is healthy. You can check the leaves and stem of the plant to see that they are a healthy green color.
Make sure the potting mix is not smelly and moist. If that’s the case, tap the plant out of the pot and check whether the roots are healthy. If they are they’ll have a white color but if not they’ll have a brown color.
When you bring the houseplant to your home, keep it isolated for about a week so you can detect any disease problems. And if there are any they won’t affect the other plants because fungi and bacteria spread through physical contact.
Make sure to give your plants the right amount of light, temperature, moisture, and nutrition so they’re healthy and capable of fighting diseases.
When you’re pruning the leaves or stems of the plants with scissors or a pruner make sure to sterilize the tools with alcohol or heat before using it across different plants. This will keep the cuts clean and prevent fungi, viruses, and bacteria from entering them.
If your plant has a disease, it’s going to be a fungal problem in most situations.
The fungi are deposited on the plant in the form of spores from the air, physical contact, or a splash of water.
Once the fungi reach your plant, they will enter into the tissue of the leaves or stem and extract their food from them, damaging the plant in the process.
There are many symptoms that can show your plant has a fungal disease but a common one is leaf spot where leaves have a dark brown or black colored spot.
To know if your plant is facing a fungal disease, cut a part of the leaf that has the leaf spot. Then put it in a plastic bag and place it in a warm area for a week. If you see fungal growth from the spot it means your plant has a fungal problem otherwise it’s a bacterial infection.
The best way to prevent a fungal infection in your houseplants is to keep the area clean and dry. Fungi love to grow in a spot that is cool and damp.
Water your plants early in the morning before the sun comes out. This helps your plants get the moisture they need and dries out the excess when the sunlight arrives.
If your houseplant is infected with a fungal disease, isolate it from the other plants. Then cut off the infected leaves or stems of the plant and spray a fungicide on the cuts.
Bacteria are unicellular and smaller than fungi. So you won’t be able to detect them with the naked eye. They enter the plant through the leaves or cuts.
If your houseplants suffer from a bacterial infection they may have the same symptoms as a fungal infection. It may be that the leaves have a black or brown spot on them.
If you recognize that it’s not a fungal infection then it’s quite possible that the problem is a bacterial infection.
If it’s a full-blown problem then the best thing would be to get rid of the infected plant. But if a few leaves and stems have been infected, you can cut off the infected parts. And then spray your plant with an antibacterial spray to prevent further problems.
Viruses are an invisible enemy of your plants as well.
The bad thing is that it’s quite difficult to diagnose that your houseplants are suffering from a viral infection. The good thing is that viral infections are quite rare in houseplants.
The viruses can’t reproduce on their own. They infect the cell of the plant and then use it to multiply. Once they have multiplied enough, the cell breaks and they spread further.
It’s hard to diagnose a viral infection but some symptoms include yellowing of the leaves, yellowing veins, stunted growth, or a pattern of yellow concentric rings.
If you find that your plant is infected, it’s best to get rid of the plant and the potting mix. You can then keep the pot in a solution that contains 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for about an hour before you reuse it.
I know it’s been a long guide. But it’s to help you grow your beautiful houseplants.
No longer will you need to worry about killing the plants. No longer will you need to feel the pain of watching them die. And no longer will you need to feel the guilt.
With the right tools and the knowledge from this guide, you’ll be able to grow a beautiful indoor garden.
Just take that first step and start designing your indoor garden. It’ll help you move forward and towards selecting the houseplants you love.
Start the journey to grow your lovely houseplants.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.