I got up this morning, poured a cup of coffee and let the dog out. I gazed out the widow and saw the sun struggling to shine through the clouds while the trees desired in the wind. Another grey morning, I thought. la sigh.
Then I looked down at my plants next to the window. The outdoor plants we brought in for the winter are all huddled together by the bay window. I noticed a few new leaves slowly unfolding in the pothos, and suddenly my heart filled with sunshine.
Fern was a little droopy last week and I moved it into the corner, a little further from the window. Today it is all green and bushy, standing tall telling me how much it loves it there. It’s happy. I’m happy. And there we are. My mind and spirit got a lift before the first cup of coffee.
It’s going to be cold and rainy/icy so today is not a good day for outside yard work. It will be a good day to stay inside and give some attention to the houseplants. I always like to give my plants a boost mid-winter. They could use a little pick-me-up, and frankly so could I. When is been grey and cold for days – months now! it feels so good to dig in the dirt, tickle the leaves, and interact with nature.
Rewilding the house by filling it with potted plants lifts my spirit by filling the home with life even in the darkest winter days. Over the years, I’ve gone through a fair amount of trial and error in learning to garden and care for houseplants as well. Through my experience with a variety of plants, I’ve learned what to do to keep plants alive – and what I definitely should not do. As I’ve researched, experimented, and picked up pointers on plant care, I’ve found a routine that works.
It may take a little research, or simple trial and error, but you too can find an impressive roster of plants that will thrive in your house, office, or even a dimly lit apartment. In this post, we’ll go over the basics on care and maintenance and some basic practices to keep these guys safe and happy. When you’ve got a better understanding of these practices, you’ll practically see your thumb turning green before your very eyes.
Keep reading for my daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal plant care routines!
Caring for Your Plants
All plants require water, light, and food, but the trick to success is to practice moderation. We’ll get into the details later to explain why this works, but first, repeat after me:
“Everything in moderation.”
All plants need some water – not too much, not too little. Some sunlight, too much will burn and dry it out. Like most of life, even the basic necessities should be given in moderation. Other than that, follow plant tags for specific information. Each variety of plant has it’s specific needs, so be sure to follow instructions for watering and light.
Routine is helpful. All living things benefit from a little routine. It helps to keep track of watering and fertilizing on a regular schedule, although just like any routine chore, there are times to give a little extra care. These gloomy nearly spring days are a good time to check on the health of your little planties and make sure they have the light, water and nutrients they need to thrive. Just be aware that some houseplants go dormant in winter, they naturally need a little sleepy time too.
Also, I’m going to share a little secret with you: if you are afraid of killing plants, understand that all people have an occasional difficult plant. Even master gardeners and commercial growing greenhouses have some plants that just do not make it. Each plant and each seedling is different. This is why farmers sow many seeds and thin them out as they grow. Most plants have growing cycles as well, and sometimes dormancy is misdiagnosed and a sleepy plant is sadly discarded. Gardening is an art – there really is not a right way or wrong way to do things. Dig in – pun intended! And give plants a chance, you may find elation in growing a happy, green, flowering plant by the window. If you have a dying plant, check that it is not over or under-watered, that it’s light and temperature are good, and then give it patience-you may be surprised how happy it is after a little adjustment. There are many plant groups such as your local garden extension or gardening club that can help with diagnosing plant problems should it persist.
Most of the time, people are concerned they aren’t watering enough, when in fact they are watering far too much! Unless noted otherwise, most houseplants would prefer being slightly dry than soaking wet. They do not like wet feet.
A good trick is to test the test by sticking your finger in the soil between the edge of the pot and the base of the plant. Put your finger in up to the first knuckle so you’re touching about an inch or two down. When you pull your finger out, if there is no dirt sticking to your finger and the soil felt dry it needs water; if you have soil lightly covering your finger, it is good no need to water.
Also, you can pick up the container of the plant and see how much it weighs; the lighter it is, the more it needs a drink.
A watering schedule of once or twice a week is suitable for most plants, where you water the plant thoroughly but infrequently. When I water my houseplants, I will pour water onto the soil at a slow, deliberate pace, until the water starts escaping from the drainage holes of the container. That’s your signal to stop watering!
During winter months, a plant typically only needs watering a few times a month.
Placing a tray underneath the potted plant’s container is the best way to catch that excess water and prevent a mess. These can be bought for a few dollars or reuse an old plate or plastic top.
Purchasing a simple spray bottle is also helpful for houseplants. A light misting once or twice a day is usually beneficial. Remember that we’re trying to duplicate the natural environment for these plants, and that means humidity and misting!
In between scheduled waterings, I’ll walk around and give my plants and soil a quick spritz of water to make sure my plants aren’t drying out. When it starts to get warm, I’ll add a spritz into my daily routine. Ferns enjoy high humidity and will love a spritz or gentle spray, while plants like aloe plants do not need a spray. Before you start spritzing, make sure you do a bit of research to understand which of your plants love moisture!
Some plants want more water, and some want less… but that’s what this guide is for!
Light is just as important as water. All plants need light to carry out their necessary biological processes.. Although all plants need some light to grow, some plants require a lot less than others.
Plants will either require bright or direct light (sunlight from a south-facing window) or indirect or filtered light (sunlight through a curtain or light from a bulb).
If they don’t get the light they need, houseplants won’t necessarily die, but they will stop producing new growth.
Sad plant? One of the first and easiest things you can start to experiment with is your light! Try moving it closer or further from your window. We have many plants in front of our windows facing east and west, and my eastern facing windows get a ton of bright light throughout the day. We’ve made sure to place the plants that require more light by that window, and those who are ok with less light in the other.
Aim to keep the plant in a warm environment with some air circulation, and rotate it occasionally towards the light for even growth. If your plant is in a sunny location, it’s important to give it a small rotation regularly to ensure even growth. If you imagine the “face” of your plant is facing the main light source, turn the plant one-quarter turn each week to help guarantee even growth.
Although many plants do well in front of a window, Keep plants away from areas of cold drafts in the winter.
Dead heading, or removing dead leaves and flowers from your plant will encourage new growth. Clip off any dead and crispy bits. You can also gently pull off yellowing leaves.
Pruning really depends on how your plants are doing and the appearance you want to maintain!
If your vining plants are getting unruly, you can snip long vines and propagate them to start a new plant.
Many houseplants are self-propagating, and you may notice “pups” or baby plants that are ready to be repotted. Succulents can be grown from fallen leaves or by gently removing lower leaves. Click here to learn more about propagating succulents.
The green leaves on your plants can also use an occasional dusting. In your weekly or monthly routine, use a cloth to wipe down the leaves of your plants to prevent the buildup and coating of dust that can impact their health. When I wipe off their leaves its like a gentle sponge bath and they feel like they can breathe better.
I have been lucky enough that my plants grow year-round, without needing fertilizer, but I’ve opted for a small amount in the spring just to see if it’ll supercharge them. Many gardeners swear by regular feeding schedules, generally done seasonally.
To fertilize, I drop a small amount of indoor plant fertilizer into my watering can, and water my plants as usual. I do this once a month during growing season (let them rest in winter). You can also use fertilizer spikes, these are easy to gently push into the soil once or twice a year.
This one is an on-a-need basis. If your plants are starting to outgrow their planters, move them into one that gives them a little bit more space to grow. How do you know if your plants are outgrowing their pots? A few signs include:
Roots growing out of the planter drainage holes
Your soil no longer holds moisture
Foliage has stopped growing or has drastically slowed
When repotting, I typically go up one pot size at a time so roots have more space, but don’t get lost in a planter.
On indoor days like this, I will put down an old bed sheet or canvas cloth on the living room floor and go to cleaning, deadheading, and repotting. Afterwards, just fold up the sheet and take it outside for a good shake-off. This makes for easy cleanup without having to find a place in the garage or shed and lug each plant in and out one-by-one. Then I will sit down and have a cup of tea and admire the plants showing off like they went to the salon, all clean, trimmed up and happy!
Thanks for stopping by to take a look at my houseplant care routine. I hope this helps you establish a routine that brings the best out of your plants!