If you’re a millennial binch like me, then chances are you’ve got an apartment full of houseplants with zero knowledge of how to take care of them. Whether it’s for the aesthetic, or just the company, house plants are expensive, and no one liked dumping their deceased plant pals into a compost receptacle every six months, the pot-shaped heap of soil still intact—been there, done that. You want to be a good plant mom, and I want to be a good plant mom, which is why I’ve condensed all of my simplest plant care knowledge so you can keep your apartment looking like the lush green oasis it’s always meant to be!
At first, I was considering giving specific care instructions for each different variety of plant. But, well, that just seems unrealistic. I hardly have time to do my own laundry, why would I anyone memorize the specific needs of each of their plants? So, for the sake of simplicity and to be honest, just plain laziness, I’ve decided to outline the general needs of most plants (with a few specificities tossed in here and there) so that you’ll be able to keep practically any plant alive. I’m not claiming to have a green thumb by any means, however, I have managed to keep all of my plants alive thus far (minus a very tragic cactus floor incident which is still very raw).
Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to know when to water your plants; you forget the last time you watered them, you don’t know how much is too much: it’s a whole confusing mishmash of a thing. A good rule of thumb that I follow is that I always water my desert plants (cacti, succulents, and anything with thick, bulky leaves) less frequently than the rest. Those plants hold water in their foliage, which means they probably need a bit of water in the winter once the soil seems to have dried a bit (about every two weeks), and more frequently in the spring and summer when your home warms up. As for everything else, choose one day a week that can act as your watering day. For me, that’s Sunday, which means all the kids go into my kitchen sink where I give them a good drink. I usually pour to the count of three for the small ones, and to the count of five for the larger ones. As silly as it is to say, you have to pay attention to your plants! If you notice that leaves are drooping, it’s probably time to water them. If you aren’t sure, dip your finger into the soil to see how damp it is.
Making sure your plants have adequate drainage is a good step to preventing unnecessary death. Succulents and cacti especially require a pot with fair few holes at the bottom so that excess water can run off into a dish or plate. Still water can cause your plant to mould and is the culprit for many a plant death. I always make sure that my larger plants have a dish under them to collect excess water as well. If you have a few small plants that are in pots without drainage, you shouldn’t really have to worry about this until they get big enough to re-pot, in which case I would opt to use a pot with drainage!
Repeat after me: different plants need different soil. I know it’s a pain in the ass, I know it seems completely unnecessary, but they really really do! Too many times I’ve bought a plant and tried to re-pot it with dirt out of my backyard and boy was that a mistake. While succulents and cacti are the easiest to take care of in the watering department, they do need quite a peat-heavy soil to keep them alive which you can buy! Indoor foliage plants like monstera, spider plants, rubber plants, and other trailing plants may also have specific soil needs, so if you are re-potting, it’s a good idea to give it an old google. If you have a load of smaller plants, it’s likely those will have been potted in the proper soil to begin with, so until they grow too big for their pot, you are in the clear, my friend! Just please don’t make the same mistake that I did and I assume all dirt is the same.
Now more often than not, when you buy a plant it should tell you what kind of light it needs. But if you’re like me, and you buy what’s prettiest and then throw the little tag away before actually reading it, you’re going to have to try a few things out. I usually keep new plants away from direct light and assess how they’re doing. A word to the wise though, plants get used to their spot and don’t like being moved around too much (regardless of sunlight) so once you find a spot for that sucker leave it be.
That’s it! My plant wisdom all summed up into one blog post. Let me reiterate, I am not Martha Stewart, nor am I a horticulturalist. I am just an average gal trying to keep her plants alive. If I can help even one person keep their cacti out of the compost, then writing an entire blog post about plants will be worth it. If not, they make some real ace fake plants these days. Good luck!