Happy Healthy Houseplants: All You Need to Know

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Most plant parents have sooner or later made the experience that one of their plants just didn’t seem to be happy where it was. Sometimes, it is hard to figure out why a plant isn’t thriving – they are complex beings after all.

This post will help understand what exactly plants need and give hands-on advice to keep them happy and healthy.

Short Sum-Up: Optimal houseplant care involves understanding light conditions and choosing plants suited to ones skill level. It is recommended to prioritize appropriate watering, soil quality, and periodic fertilization as well as to monitor plant health regularly.

Keeping your houseplants healthy and happy is not rocket science – just keep these simple tips in mind and your houseplants won’t die on you!

What Plants Need For A Happy Plant Life

Everyone knows that plants need light and water to grow. But what else is among the essentials that make up a healthy plant metabolism?

There is more that matters, such as the soil, air, temperature, and space both above and below the ground. Some of these factors are limiting to plant growth if scarce, others are not as essential. Find out what plants really need and why in my post about plant needs.

Keep’em Thriving: Hands-on Advice For Happy And Healthy Houseplants

Here are the most important best practices that will keep your indoor plants all happy and healthy. From thinking about the light conditions in your home before buying a plant to specific tips to create a real luxurious plant spa, here is all you need to know!

Know the Light Conditions Of Your Home: Check Windows Or Use A Light Meter

Before buying plants at all, it is good to know what light conditions your home offers. Do you have a bright apartment with lots of windows or is bright light a rare good in your home? Plants need varying light conditions and knowing what you can offer them helps choose plants.

In general, the following goes for all windows:

  • South-facing windows: Bright Light
  • East/West-facing windows: Medium Light
  • North-facing windows: Low light

Take also into account if there are any obstacles in front or behind the windows that obstruct the light from getting to the plants (trees, other buildings, curtains, blinds).

By figuring out what directions your windows face and whether there are obstacles, you already know more or less what window is the brightest and how much space you have at each window or in each room for plants.

Tip: By using the light meter of a plant care app, you can calculate much more exactly how much light each spot in your home gets. Many plant apps even suggest plant types for you that suit a specific spot in your home. Check out the 7 best free plant care apps through this link and pick one that suits your needs!

Know the Plant Type: Look Up the Water And Light Needs

Now that you know what light conditions you can offer, it is essential to know what plant type you want to buy, or what plant types you already have at home. Each plant type evolved in its very specific natural habitat and has varying water and light needs to stay healthy.

Most common houseplants come from tropical or subtropical regions and hence enjoy bright indirect light but there are also a few that do well in either full sun or full shade – it’s just about knowing what plant type prefers what light conditions.

You don’t know what plant type it is that you have in front of you? No worries! There are plenty of great plant identifier apps which help you figure out the plant type. Most even give you lots of information about the plant and its needs.

Choose Houseplants That Suit Your Experience As a Plant Parent

Some of you might have had houseplants for years and have kept them alive well, others might be newbies to keeping houseplants. I recommend choosing houseplants that suit your level of experience with plants.

Let’s say the first houseplant you get is a Boston Fern, you might end up thinking you have the blackest thumb ever because it immediately dies on you. Ferns are delicate plants and very sensitive to changes. If instead, you pick a beginner plant, it will be much less demanding and chances are much higher that co-living will be fun for both you and the plant.

With more time spent as a plant parent, you can slowly work your way towards more sensitive plants. Besides, there are so many common houseplants that are stunning and easy to care for, so why make your plant parent responsibilities complicated?

Get started: Get to know 9 great beginner plants and how to care for them right here through this link!

Creatures Of Habit: Once Your Plant Finds Its Sweet Spot, Let It Be

I know that plants are also a decorative feature of a room and when redecorating, it is tempting to move them to whatever spot looks best. However, plants are creatures of habit and by being immobile, they’ve evolved to stay in one spot.

If you keep moving plant pots around frequently, it causes stress to the plant as it has to readjust to new light conditions (and maybe temperature and humidity) each time. I recommend moving plants only if the current spot doesn’t seem to make them thrive.

Once a plant is in a spot that clearly suits it well, just leave it there. That will make it the happiest!

Create No Swamps: Do Not Overwater

This piece of advice is simple but essential. Overwatering is probably the number one plant care mistake that we humans make when dealing with houseplants. With good intentions, we pour too much water and too often into the pots.

The most important tip to avoid overwatering is to only water when the plant needs it instead of sticking to a strict watering routine. This is best done by checking soil moisture before watering. Stick your finger into the upper inches of the soil. If it is bone dry, give it a rinse. If it is still moist, do not water yet.

After watering, always check the saucer or pot 15 minutes later and empty any excess water that has flowed out the bottom of the pot.

Why is overwatering such a big issue for plants? Learn more about why plants don’t want to be waterlogged and how to water correctly in my complete watering guide linked here.

Use Good-Quality Soil And Drainage

A healthy environment in a plant pot is created with good-quality soil and a proper drainage system. The soil retains as much moisture as needed while letting excess water flow down the pot. The drainage system makes sure that the excess water can flow out freely from the bottom of the pot.

Both together keep the rootball healthy and functioning and it prevents root rot and diseases from taking hold in the soil.

There are easy ways to improve standard store-bought soil by adding some extra drainage matter: Find out what common and sustainable materials you can use for well-draining indoor soil in my post through this link.

Want to know how to create a good drainage system? Find out how to create drainage in any type of pot right through this link.

Fertilize In Moderation: No More, No Less

Fertilizer is meant to substitute the nutrients that the soil in their natural habitat would provide the plants with. In a pot, the nutrients present in the soil are used up with time, and fertilizer acts as a refill for these nutrients.

Give your plants the food they need – but also not more than they need! Stick to the indicated dosage mentioned on the fertilizer you have, or even use less. I usually use only half the amount indicated for 1 liter of water.

Also, fertilize your plants only about every 2-3 weeks during the growth season in spring and summer, and do not fertilize them during winter.

Tip: There are plenty of natural ingredients you can add to plant water that act as fertilizers. Intrigued? I’ve summed up the most common natural fertilizers and their pros and cons in my post linked here!

Do A Regular Quick Health Check

Instead of thinking of a weekly watering routine, think of it as a weekly health check routine. Just give your plants a weekly short check of the leaves, stems, and soil, and see if there are any signs of diseases, pests, or illnesses showing. While doing this, you can then also check the soil moisture and see whether it needs water or not yet.

I have made an easy step-by-step health check for houseplants which you can follow for your weekly plant care routine. For healthy happy houseplants!

The Space They Need: Prevent Overgrowth

With continuous growth, plants will eventually outgrow the pot they are in. This is easily visible when checking the bottom of the inner pot. If roots have started to grow out the bottom of the pot, it is a sign that the plant has outgrown its pot.

In that case, you can either trim back the plant by cutting back some stems or branches as well as by cutting away a part of the rootball. This will rejuvenate the plant and promote new growth. By trimming it back, you don’t have to change the pot size and can keep it as it is. The cuttings taken away can also be used to propagate the plant.

If you want to change the pot size, then you can do a standard repot and give your houseplant a new, bigger home. Learn how to repot in my short guide linked here.

Keep It Humid: Provide Constant Humidity Levels Of 60 %

Not all but most common houseplants come from rather tropical environments and they love humidity, sometimes up to 90 % humidity. That much humidity is neither good for our buildings nor for our furniture and belongings.

A good compromise is a year-round humidity level of 60 % indoors. This will keep everyone happy. Especially in wintertime when the heating is on, a humidifier is necessary to keep up the humidity level indoors. It is not only beneficial for your plants but also your nose, skin, and lungs will thank you for the extra humidity in winter.

Tip: A humidifier is not the only way to raise humidity levels in your home. I have summed up the most efficient ways to bring more humidity into your home in my post right here. Enjoy reading!

Don’t Let Them Bite the Dust: Brush Or Shower the Leaves Off

Plants do photosynthesis through cells called chloroplasts on their leaf surface. These are the cells that contain chlorophyll and give the leaf its green color. A layer of dust hinders the light from getting to the chloroplasts and makes photosynthesis less effective for the plant.

By removing the dust regularly, you help the plant’s metabolism be more effective and grow better.

Generally, any tropical houseplant with smooth, shiny leaves can be showered. Among such plants are Philodendrons, Hoyas, Monsteras, Spider Plants, Orchids, Pothos, Weeping Figs, and many others. Place them in the shower or bathtub and give them a gentle rinse on the foliage. After showering, let all excess water flow out for about 2 hours before putting them back in the pot.

If you don’t want to shower them, you can also wipe the leaves with a microfibre cloth.

For plants with fine hair or any type of protection layer (such as waxy film on the leaf surface), showering is not an option. It will destroy the protection layer. For these plants, you can use a brush and gently brush the dust off the leaves.

Good to know: If you have succulents with a white powder on their leaves, make sure you only brush them very gently. Do not ever wipe the leaves as this will remove the white powder. Succulents use such powder as sun protection.

No Drastic Changes: Prevent Drafts and Frequent Temperature Changes

This is mainly a point for the more sensitive plants among the houseplant family. Still, it is good to know that this can be an issue that can make indoor plants unhappy.

Some plants, such as ferns, react sensitively to drafts and sudden temperature changes. It is best to not place these plants close to doors, windows, or close to radiators.

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