My husband has stated frequently and loudly that he thinks I might have a plant problem. He might be right.
I bought my first houseplant a little less than a year ago. Today I have more than 20 and new ones still join the family every now and then. Oops!
Over the last year I’ve learned a few things about keeping my plant babies alive and happy, but it has certainly taken some trial and error. Not all of my little guys survived my beginning learning stages – sorry little plants!
Here are a few tips for happy, healthy houseplants and some recommendations for your first plant babies.
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Where to buy your houseplants
Home Improvement Store
I buy almost all of my houseplants from the clearance rack at Lowe’s. I’m cheap frugal and completely incapable of passing by a clearance rack without checking out the deals. I loved shopping the clearance rack in the beginning, because I hated spending money on plants that I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep alive. Often clearance rack plants just need the dead leaves removed, some water and plant food. Give them a couple weeks and they’re back to being healthy, happy little guys.
If I’m feeling fancy and confident I’ll shop the regular houseplant rack, too.
My grocery store has amazing, healthy houseplants! They’re big, beautiful and an even better price than the big home improvement stores. They have a small selection that changes about once a month. I have purchased an aloe plant and a pothos plant that have both grown really well for me. Not all grocery store plants are winners, but don’t be afraid to check yours out!
Local Nursery or Farmers Market
I feel like this is the obvious answer for where to shop, but I rarely go to local nurseries because they are a bit out of the way for me and can be more expensive. The great benefit of purchasing from local growers is the amount of knowledge they have about their plants! They are often happy to answer questions and offer advice or just chat. If you have access to local plant growers, they can be a great resource to you!
What to look for
When shopping for houseplants you’ll want to check the care tag to determine if the plant is a good fit for your home. Things to consider are:
Amount of sunlight
How often to fertilize
I often find that the recommendations on these tags aren’t completely correct. I recommend using the tag as a basis for determining if the plant is a good fit for you and then doing some research when you get home.
*I mention toxicity because many houseplants can be toxic to animals and people if they are ingested. If you have curious pets or an adventurous, hungry kiddo you’ll want to be aware of the potential dangers of any plants you bring home.
Easy starter plants
These plants are all low maintenance and great for dipping your toes into the houseplant world. I’ve purchased several plants over the last year and these four have survived (and thrived!) through my “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing” stage. If they can survive me, they can survive you.
Aloe Vera is a tremendous succulent that requires very little attention. Give it a sunny spot and it’s happy. I water my little one about once every 2 weeks and it just keeps growing!
These plants are pretty resilient. I left town for a week or so and gave my dear husband specific instructions for taking care of the plants. He got confused (or didn’t read them) and watered my aloe plant several times, totally drowning it. This little guy had a couple of the bottom leaves rot off, but bounced right back to life after spending some time drying out.
I give my aloe one squirt of this fertilizer once or twice a month. After I give it fertilizer I nearly always see new growth within the next couple of days!
Quick Summary: lots of sunshine, little water, don’t leave the husband in charge
I really wanted a snake plant for a while. I had read all about their low maintenance care and love their cool tall leaves. But these guys are pretty trendy right now and even though I stalk the clearance shelf, they never went on sale. So, I paid full price for my snake plant and I have no regrets.
If you want some green in your home with basically no work from you, get a snake plant. They require very little light and very little water. I have literally forgotten to water my snake plant for an entire month and he didn’t even care.
I try to water my snake plant once every 2 weeks or so with about a half cup of water. You can check if it needs a drink by putting your finger about an inch down in the soil. If it’s wet, leave it alone. If it’s dry, give it a little drink.
Quick Summary: pay full price – they’re worth it, just leave it alone
I have two spider plants from my clearance rack addiction and they’re happy little guys that add some great color and texture to my home.
When a spider plant is feeling really good, it grows a long stem that little baby plants grow off of. It’s pretty cool! After about month of TLC my first spider plant started having babies. So I’m basically a plant grandma.
When I purchased my spider plants, they both had a lot of dead leaves and were super dry. I removed all of the dead stuff, gave them a drink and some fertilizer and then let them do their thing. They started growing pretty quickly after that and haven’t required any special treatment.
These guys like to have bright sunlight and regular water. I water mine about once a week. They will start to look a little sad and droopy when they need a drink. I fertilize them about once every two weeks or just when they look like they need a boost.
They look great hanging because of the long leaves and stems with babies, but I don’t have any hanging plants… yet.
Quick Summary: sunlight, regular water, rewards you with plant babies
I know you shouldn’t pick favorites, but my big pothos is my favorite. I got this beauty at the grocery store, and it will not stop growing! It was one of the first houseplants that I purchased and it has thrived even when I had no idea what I was doing.
Pothos are a vining plant so they look great hanging or you can train them to grow on a trellis. I’ve even seen them grow vines up a flat wall.
They come in many varieties. Mine is a golden pothos. I love the big, colorful leaves.
Pothos are a great “trainer” plant because you can easily tell when they need water by paying attention to their leaves. The leaves will noticeably droop when it needs water. Then, a few hours after watering, they will perk right back up.
I water mine about once a week or less and give it fertilizer about once a month. I have it in a sunny room and it seems to enjoy the bright light. I have a smaller one in a room that receives less sunlight and it’s also growing great.
Quick Summary: at least a little sunlight, water sometimes, watch the leaves
Houseplant General Care Tips
I try to leave my plants in their original pots for as long as possible. It takes a little while for plants to get adjusted to the lighting and temperature of their new environment so I find it’s best not to add additional stress by immediately replanting them.
Instead of planting my houseplants directly into decorative pots, I try to find plastic containers that fit inside the decorative pots. This is helpful for watering, because I can take the plastic container out easily and move it over to the sink. It’s also easier to switch plants around if I realize that they’re not liking the spot they’re in. And, when one of my clearance rescues inevitably doesn’t make it, it’s easy to switch it out for the next little guy.
Don’t overdo it with the water.
Most houseplants only need watered once per week or less. With most plants you can tell that they need a little drink when the leaves start to droop.
For my smaller plants, I take them to my kitchen sink to water them with the sprayer on the faucet. I turn the faucet to a gentle spray and soak the soil until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Then I sit them on a dish drying mat until all of the water has come out and they’re ready to go back to their homes. I do this about every 2 weeks or just when they’re looking a little sad.
I started feeding my plants with indoor plant food a few months ago and have seen a huge improvement in their health and growth! I use this for most of my houseplants and this for succulents (Aloe Vera and cactus-like plants).
If you have a toddler, try not to love your plants too much. Your toddler will definitely try to destroy them. Especially if the leaves are moving around – it’s just so tempting!
I don’t have any magical tips for harmony between plants and curious kiddos other than the obvious. Try to put plants out of reach of your little one and do your best to teach your child that plants grow best when they’re not being poked and pulled.
I try to embrace my son’s curiosity and involve him in caring for our plants so that hopefully he will learn to love gardening as much as I do. He enjoys watering the plants and still occasionally pulls on the leaves, but it’s getting better. He’s curious about everything right now and I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff.
Also, if he destroys a plant I buy myself a couple new ones so there are really no losers here!
Except the plant. RIP
I want to hear from you!
Do you have indoor plants? How many? What are your favorites?