The Anatomy of a Great Plant - Caring for indoor plants and other tips for beginners
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
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If you are new to caring for live indoor plants, you might be wondering what you should look for before you buy. Or maybe you are like me and you went to the grocery store and couldn’t help yourself when you saw an exotic plant and you are now sitting at home wondering, “What the heck do I do with this thing now?”. What are the signs you have a healthy houseplant and how do you take good care of them? Here are a few tips for new and future plant parents.
Healthy leaves can vary from plant to plant but all great plants have this in common. A healthy plant should have healthy leaves. Leaves that do not match the overall colors of the plant such as yellow, faded or brown leaves that look either wilted or dead are a sign the plant may not be healthy and some changes are needed.
These could be signs that the plant does not have good drainage, overcrowded or damaged roots or a lack of proper nutrients. In many cases, plants can be revived with pruning techniques, better soil or a pot with better drainage.
New leaves and shoots are a sign your plant is healthy and happy. Growth cycles are another thing that can vary from species to species but new growth of leaves and shoots is a pretty universal sign that the plant is doing well. New growth is usually a lighter color green and often looks like a curled up shoot poking out of a stem.
Some plants will bloom when in season too - if a plant is a flowering species you should see some buds or flowers if the plant is healthy and thriving. When shopping for your new plants, choose ones that have lots of new growth or buds if possible.
Houseplants need nutritious, well-drained soil to help them grow and to keep the roots healthy. Some plants need a unique type of soil like a peat moss mix or a special blend for cacti etc. Most plants can do well with a quality potting soil but if you are not sure you can always ask a nursery specialist. Many plants also come with a care card that includes a description of what the plant will need.
Some plants may also require fertilizer from time to time which will help to replenish the nutrients used by the plant and lost through drainage after watering.
The Right Amount of Water
Every plant is unique but to be a healthy, happy plant - they all need water at some point! A good rule of thumb for most plants is to give the soil a chance to dry out some to prevent overwatering. If you place your finger in the top few inches of soil and it seems dry, this is probably a good time to water.
Some plants require little water so be sure to read what your species needs to thrive. In some cases, tropical and other species of plants like humid environments and will do well with a few sprays of water on the leaves from a spray bottle.
Don’t forget, every great plant needs the right lighting to grow too! Some plants prefer bright, direct sunlight whereas others might be better suited to less direct light. When deciding where to put your new addition, be sure to learn what lighting your plant will like best.
The Perfect Pot
No matter what type of indoor plant you have or what kind of care is required, one universal truth remains - you can't go wrong with a cute planter! You can find amazing pots for your plants online, at department stores, at your local nursery and plant shops or you can even make your own from recycled materials! (Stay tuned for a DIY for a recycled boho planter!) You can also upcycle some things like old vases, buckets, baskets etc. into planters.
Just be sure that the planter you choose will allow for proper drainage to prevent the roots from rotting. Another thing to consider when choosing your new pot is the size you will need.
Make sure your plant will have plenty of space to grow and spread out it’s roots as you don’t want the roots to become too crowded if the planter is too small. Also, some pots will be pretty heavy once the potting soil and the plant are added.
Keep in mind, as your plants grow they may need to be transplanted into a bigger pot!
To keep happy, healthy plants - keep these basics in mind. Each plant is unique and the best care will vary depending on the species.
It’s always a good idea to research the best care your new plant will need. A good environment, good soil, proper watering, the right amount of light and a good pot will all help your plant have healthy leaves and roots, new growth and if you are lucky maybe even a few blooms! Good luck all you new plant parents!