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How to care for indoor plants

How to care for indoor plants

If you filled your home with happiness-boosting houseplants only to be left heartbroken that they died, all is not lost! You just need some handy tips to keep your plants green and healthy. Here are some care tips for indoor plants and how to prune them properly. It's easier than you think! As a reminder, it’s best to keep houseplants out of reach of children and pets as some varieties can be toxic if ingested.

How to keep houseplants alive

1. Do not overwater

Ironically, the number one reason for plants not thriving is overwatering. Some plants love moist soil, but most—especially succulents and cacti—prefer it when the soil dries out between watering. A general guideline is the thicker the leaves, the less water needed. Feathery ferns need more water than turgid succulents, which can get away with a monthly watering.

To water your plants, lift the leaves and pour directly onto the soil until you see a little water trickle from the bottom. Water caught in the plant pot saucer should be dumped after 30 minutes. Plants love a nice shower, not soaking in a bath.

2. To mist or not to mist

Some indoor plants love to be spritzed. Others don’t. Confusing, we know! Generally, tropical plants native to high-humidity regions thrive by being spritzed with water. Common tropical plant varieties to spray are zebra plants, anthurium, orchids, fittonia, palms, ferns, philodendrons, peace lily and corn plant.

It is best to mist your plants in the morning so they don’t sleep with wet feet.

3. Good drainage

Your plant pots should have drainage holes. A layer of (clay) pebbles at the bottom of the plant pot will keep water away from the roots. Poor drainage means too much water is kept in the pot, increasing the chance of rot.

4. The right amount of light

Different plants have different needs. Check the care label of your plant when you buy it. It is helpful to know whether your plant loves full sun, partial sun or hardly any light at all! If your indoor plant’s leaves are lanky or pale, it may indicate that it needs more light. Move it to a sunnier spot—but gradually. Plants can go into shock if moved too suddenly. They are delicate creatures!

Every once in a while, rotate sun-loving houseplants that grow toward the light to keep them growing more evenly. 

5. Check the roots

It is easy to overlook these underground lifelines, but they can tell a lot about the health of your plant. Check if the roots are outgrowing the planter, which can cause the roots to die and make the rest of the plant ill. If that’s the case, repot the plant in a bigger pot that has good drainage.

6. Know where your plant comes from

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way! Get to know your plants. Not only will it increase your bond with them (and feel-good factor), it will help you better care for your plants. Knowing if it is a tropical or desert plant will already tell you a lot about how you need to water it, for example.

How to prune houseplants

Pruning houseplants

Pruning can be scary. Take a breath and read these tips on pruning your houseplants properly to keep them healthy. 

Why prune at all?

By pruning or trimming your indoor plants, you can preserve plant health, manage the size and stop overcrowding, which can increase the overall health of your plants. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be done as often as with outdoor plants.

Generally, it’s best to prune in the spring when your houseplants are growing and can actively recover. Remove damaged or dead leaves anytime of the year.

Pruning tools

  • Gardening scissors
  • Gloves*
  • Dropcloth*

*Not necessary, but nice to have. Some plants leak sticky or poisonous sap when cut. 

How to prune indoor plants

1. Plan your pruning

As you can’t undo a cut, you don’t want to snip with wild abandon. Think about where you want to prune and why:

  • Is it to remove damaged leaves? If so, remove only the dead or dying leaves. 
  • Is it to reduce overcrowding? Doing this improves airflow and reduces the risk of fungal growth. It can also make your plant look that much nicer.
  • Or is it to improve the overall shape of the plant? 
2. Snip, snip

Time to prune! With sharp gardening scissors, trim on an angle about 1/8” above a leaf node. For larger branches, cut close to the main stem. Never prune more than 25 percent of the plant!

3. Grow a new plant

If you are removing some healthy plant growth—to combat an overgrown plant, for example—you may want to hold on to the branch you pruned. Some varieties will sprout roots if placed in a cup of water and transferred to a pot as a new plant! You can propagate a cutting from a succulent, for example, by planting it in soil. Isn't nature neat?! 

Feel that? That’s your thumb becoming greener! Use these general tips when caring for your houseplants, but check specific care instructions for each species to keep your plants looking their best.

Want more tips for the greenery in your life? Check out how to reuse your kitchen waste and use it to grow plants