12 Tips for Happy Houseplants
Welcome to the mind of a bonafide “plant mom.” I love and adore my houseplants as if they were they were my children! It’s so rewarding to nurture them and watch them grow. I care for my plant babies as best I can, and in return, they offer their beauty, purify the air in my home, and bring life to my space. In my post “The Only Houseplant You’ll Ever Need,” I share a suggestion for one of my favorite, most versatile houseplants. Since then, my plant family has grown quite a bit, and so have my plant care strategies. As always, when something works well for me, I’m eager to share with all of you. Keep reading to find out my 12 tips for happy houseplants!
1. Be Realistic
This advice is very important especially to new plant-parents; be realistic. If you only have a small amount of space, don’t start with giant Fiddle Leaf Fig. If your room doesn’t get much light, choose a shade-loving plant, rather than one that requires a lot of sunshine. If you’re new to the plant game, look for easy to care for plants, such as Pothos to get you started. In short, be honest with yourself about the amount of space you have for your plants, the light levels of your home, and which plants you are comfortable caring for.
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2. Do Your research
The first thing I do when I bring home a new plant is look up its specific needs. Each plant has it’s own requirements in terms of light levels and how often it should be watered, so it’s worth it to take note of exactly what you need to do keep your plants happy. A quick search on Google or Pinterest is all it takes. (If you have pets, you may also need to check on whether or not the plant is toxic to animals and keep these plants in areas where your pets will not have access.)
Alternatively, you can get a plant-care book (or two) to reference anytime you bring a new plant home.
My favorite plant care book is Urban Jungle. It not only has detailed profiles for various houseplants but offers a wealth of inspiring images and creative ideas for how to display your plant-babies.
3. Know Your Pots
All pots are not created equal. While it’s easy to overlook the way the pots you choose will affect how you care for your plants, this is something to consider. Take for instance, the difference between clay pots and plastic or glazed pots.
Terracotta pots are a favorite among the plant-care community because they are made of porous clay and absorb moisture. These pots can help your plants stay healthy by pulling moisture away from the plant which can prevent root rot.
Note: “Root rot” occurs when plants have been overwatered to the point where their roots become water-logged and rot. This prevents the roots from being able to absorb any more water, ultimately killing the plant.
I especially enjoy the way terracotta pots develop unique characteristics as they age. Terracotta is a great choice for any plant owner. However, if you decide to plant in these clay pots keep in mind that your plants will dry out more quickly and may need watering more often.
Glazed ceramic, plastic, and some decorative pots are not absorptive. So if you choose to plant in these kinds of pots you can water a little less often, making sure not to overwater. If you’re new to plant-care, always choose pots with drainage holes, which allow excess water to flow out of the pot. If you choose a decretive pot without drainage holes, compensate by placing a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot to create a space for excess water to flow without touching the plant’s roots.
4. Invest in a Moisture Meter
While we’re on the topic of water…knowing when to water your plants is essential to keeping them happy. Some plant parents stick to a weekly watering schedule for all of their plants, choosing one day per week to water. Creating a schedule is okay, but I suggest that you always check the moisture level before watering, always. No matter what day it is! You can stick your finger about an inch into the soil to check for moisture, but if you want to step your plant-care game up, invest in a moister meter.
This device is very inexpensive and is super accurate. It has stopped me from overwatering many of my houseplants. The long stem of the meter also makes a deep hole in the soil which can help water penetrate more easily.
To see more about how I use the moisture meter, check out my “Plant” highlights on my Instagram page.
5. Get a Humidifier
While we’re on the topic of moisture, let’s talk about adding a little humidity to the mix. Most plants, especially tropical varieties, prefer a humid environment. You’re replicating their natural habitat by adding moisture into the air (which makes your plants very happy). This is especially helpful during the dry, winter months. The best way to do this is to invest in a humidifier which will release a steady stream of moisture into the air for hours at a time (also great for allergies, respiratory health, hair, and skin!). Another option is to mist your plants with a spray bottle or place tropical plants in the bathroom since it is a naturally humid environment.
6. Be Creative With Your Display
Put your personality into the way you pot and display your plants! The more creative you get with your planters and your styling, the more you will fall in love with having houseplants. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Plant a cactus in a teacup. Put an air plant in a teeny tiny pot. Look for fun vintage trinkets you can use as planters. Go wild. Be YOURSELF. There are no rules. Of course, I always like to mix crystals into my plant displays, they look great together!
7. Add air plants to your collection
Okay so this isn’t really a tip for happy plants, but you can boost your plant-care-confidence by adding air plants to your collection. And plant-care-confidence will make you better at plant care, which will make your plants happier (see what I did there?). Air Plants require very little attention and have a LOT of personality.
The best part, they don’t require soil to live! They do need to soak in room temperature water for about 30 mins, once a week. After you soak them, shake off any excess moisture and put them upside down on a paper towel in a sunny spot so that they can dry completely. Air plants also offer an opportunity to get super creative with your styling. Since they don’t require any soil, the possibilities are endless! Pictured below are a few of my air plants in a vintage sugar canister.
8. Try Out Water Propagation
Another way to boost your plant-care-confidence is to grow an entirely new plant from a clipping of an existing one. This process is called propagation and while there are a few ways to do this, water propagation is my absolute favorite.
Watching cuttings take root in water is a magical experience and some plants can thrive in water alone! Once the roots of your cuttings are established, you can move them into a small pot with some soil, and grow an entirely new plant. It’s a beautifully easy process that every plant-parent should try at least once.
You can learn more about having fun with water propagation my post “How to Style Pothos Plant Clippings.”
9. Leaf Care is Plant Care
You can give your plants all the water they need, and even fertilize them during the growing season, but if you don’t care for the leaves of your plants they will not be happy. Indoor plants need clean leaves in order to properly absorb the sunlight they need for photosynthesis. Always remember that sunlight is a huge source of your plant’s happiness! Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe away the layers of dust that settle upon the leaves. This ensures maximum absorption of that delicious sunshine. You can do this about once a week, or whenever you notice dust settling, causing your plant’s leaves to look less shiny.
10. Embrace Plant Care Culture
One of my favorite things about being a plant-mom is the community that comes with it. There are so many amazing plant themed Instagrams and blogs out there that can help you connect with fellow plant-lovers. I follow several stunning plant feeds that offer endless inspiration and helpful plant-care tips.
In general, “plant people” are amazingly open and friendly, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need some support or just want some plant-loving friends! Here are a few my favorite plant feeds:
You can also start a plant Pinterest board, and follow mine here. The more often you see beautiful images of houseplants, the more excited you’ll be about your own indoor jungle. Who knows, maybe you’ll even snap a pic or two (tag me if you do so I can see).
11. Leave Room For Failure
Some plants simply cannot handle the shock of transitioning from a highly humidified nursery with expert care, to being in your home environment. Other times you will try everything you can only to watch a plant whither away. If a plant dies on you, it’s okay. Learn from the experience. Perhaps go back to tip no. 1 and assess whether or not the plant was realistic for your home to begin with.
If you suspect one of your plants is dying, snip off a clipping and place it into some water to give it a shot at new life via propagation. Then, move on. Know that you tried your best, and look on the bright side: it’s a perfect excuse to bring home a new plant-baby.
12. Build Your Own Plant-Lovers’ Tribe
My houseplants are happy when I’m happy. Connecting with friends over a mutual love of plants is such a joy in my life (no pun intended), and it can be for you too! Almost all of my friends are into plants and I love chatting with them about how their plant-babes are doing. As with any venture, it helps to feel a sense of community, so why not create one of your own? There are tons of ways to create your own tribe of plant-lovers. Here are a few ideas:
- Grab a bestie and go visit a nursery together. Bonus points if you grab coffee after.
- Get a plant-twin with a friend (meaning you both get the same plant on the same day) and share pics of their progress with each other.
- Experiment with exchanging clippings with friends or creating plant-care packages (more about this in an upcoming post that I’m working on with one of my best plant-friends).
- If nothing else, tag me on Instagram with a photo of your plants so that I can be your plant-pal!
- For a list of easy to care for houseplants, check out this post from The Houseplant Mama, while you’re at it, check out her post about water propagation.
- For more information about my favorite (and easiest to care for) houseplant, check out this post.
- Check out this post to learn how I style Pothos clippings in water.
- For a wealth of resources for both indoor and outdoor gardening, check out BlackGirlsWithGardens.com.
- To learn more about my journey into plant-motherhood, read my BGWG interview here.
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That’s it, babes! I hope you enjoyed my 12 Tips for Happy Houseplants. If there is a specific question you have, be sure to leave it in the comments so that I can answer it, or jot it down for a future post. If you liked this post, please share it with a friend!
Thank you so much for reading! Until next time…
*The majority of the photography in this post is by Morgan Pirkle. You can see more of her work at Keptrecord.com.