Indoor Plant Care Q+A
Lately on Instagram I've been sharing more about my collection of indoor plants, my love for them and how the routine of caring for them grounds and calms me. As a result, you guys have been sending me all kinds of questions about indoor plant care. I know I have even been able to help one or two of you rescue a dying plant from the brink, grow your own avocado tree from a pit, and inspire you to make your own journey from serial plant murderer to a capable plant mama. It makes me so happy to be sent images of your plants growing, being tagged in your stories when you visit garden centres and start bringng home some new plants of your own. So thank you all!
I've held off a little on sharing any tips on plant care more publicly, because I'm not an expert. I just really love plants, I love growing my own collection and learning every day how to care for them better. I'm an enthusiast, and I didn't think that qualified me to share what I know. But sometimes, I think an enthusiast can do more for inspiring and informing others than an expert. It's less intimidating, and as long as you're not pretending to be an expert, then there is always a place for you to share your knowledge and experiences about anything.
So, I put a call out on Instagram for you to send me all your questions about indoor plants. I had a lot of "help me, I'm a plant murderer" as well as some general plant care questions and some more specific questions related to a particular plant or plant type that you're struggling with. I've done my best to give helpful answers to your questions, so here goes!
1. How often should I water my indoor plants? (@fieldandnest)
There's not a catch all, easy answer for this question because all indoor plants have different needs. This is the most important thing to undertsand about caring for them. You can't water your plants on a schedule, because they need differing amounts depending on the kind of plant and the time of year. As a general rule of thumb, you should let the soil dry out completely before watering it again because you don't want your plants to get waterlogged roots. Most succulents like relatively little water (perhaps a few times per month or less) and most other plants are happy with once or twice a week. I like to check my plants on a schedule, usually a Sunday and a Wednesday where I make sure to give all my plants the once over, water the ones that need it and give them a little love and care. The exception to this is my avocado tree, because young trees don't take on much water. On hot summer days it needs a good soak every two days or it will die.
2. How do I not kill my indoor plants? (@birchandfern)
I get this question so much when ever I talk about plants! My best advice is to read my post "how I learnt not to kill my indoor plants", where I talk about my experience of going from a plant killer to a plant nurturer by beginning to really understand the specific needs of each plant. To buy plants that are suited to each different environment in my home - low light, direct light, humid, dry etc. Also to start with some plants that are relatively easy to take care of. I'll write a post about this soon, but for starters I'd recommend things like a Pothos, Monstera Deliciosa, Philodendron, Schefflera (or Umbrella plant) a Snake Plant (or Mother in Law's Tongue) and a Spider Plant.
3. How often is it best to water Cacti and does it very according to the seasons? (@evekammonen)
I've mentioned before that I am not brilliant with Cacti, because I'm a nurturer and I like to interfere with my plants a little. I find it so baffling to have a plant that I mostly have to leave alone! That said, I do have a few that are doing pretty well under my care. They need watering when the top 1/2 inch of the soil is dry to touch. Give the soil a thorough soak, and let it drain while you're watering it. You musn't leave the cacti sitting in a dish of water, as this encourages the roots to rot. Cacti go dormant in the Winter, and require very little water and no food. Let the soil completely dry out between waterings. Water Cacti perhaps once a week during the summer, and more like once a month during the winter.
4. Any advice for the best indoor plants for low light situations? (@mymoonpie)
There are plenty of plants that thrive in lower-light situations, and these are some of my favourites...
Heart leaf Philodendron - such pretty plants, fast growing and so easy to care for. Just water when the soil is dry to touch.
Spider plant - Oh so '70s. I love these guys, and have a few in my home. The ones in the darker rooms do a lot better than the ones I try to force to thrive in sunnier spots. Water from the bottom, and mist the leaves in Winter.
Boston Fern - they much prefer a shady spot, and if they get too much sunshine will start to look quite unhealthy. Mist the leaves regulary, and preferably keep them somewhere humid. Perfect for a shady bathroom.
Prayer Plant - these guys don't like direct sunlight, so they make the perfect plants for the darker areas of your home. Their leaves close up at night, which is how they get their name.
5. Any general tips for keeping indoor plants healthy? (@louise_thomason)
See question no.2 for some essential tips on not killing your plants! Learning how to water each plant properly is the most important thing to keep them healthy, and remembering to water them regularly. Some are more forgiving of neglect than others. A nutrient feed during the summer for some plants if necessary, and checking to see if your plants need re-potting with new soil, a larger pot or perhaps need a replacement of new topsoil.
6. Any recomendations for plants that don't need sunny spots? (@sheflourished_)
This one is similar to question 4, but I've separated them because there are plenty of plants that actually require 'indirect' light as opposed to the 'direct' light offered by the sunnier spots in your home. Here are a few of my favourites...
Monstera Deliciosa (Cheeseplant) - one of my favourite plants, really easy to look after and will do well in a spot that receives indirect light. They're picky about temperature though, and need 18 degrees and above to thrive.
Mother in Law's Tongue / Snake Plant - mine survives and thrives no matter what I do to it. They need relatively little water, indirect sunlight and they're pretty much indestructible. I love them.
Peace Lily - they like a little shade, don't mind a little neglect and have really pretty white flowers.
Maidenhair Fern - They're so delicate and pretty, and specifically require indirect sunshine. I just picked one up a few days ago, and it's living amongst my other ferns in the downstairs bathroom.
Calathea - one on my want list, these have the most beautiful leaves and do well in indirect sunlight.
7. I have a poorly Cheeseplant that's about to give up on me...I need help! (@small_acorns)
Cheeseplants, or Monstera Deliciosa, are relatively low maintenance plants to keep in your home. However, they do require the right conditions to survive and grow. They like indirect light, as direct sunlight will burn their leaves. If conditions are too dark, the leaves won't split and the plant will start to spread out and not look very healthy at all. Water regularly, but only when the soil has completely dried out. If your plant isn't growing any more, it could be down to the temperature...Monstera actively grow at temperatures of 18 degrees and upwards, and they like a little humidity. Another factor could be that it has become potbound, when the roots have grown too large for it's current container. You'll need to re-pot the plant in a slightly larger pot, with fresh compost.
8. What are some good structrual plants for dark bathrooms and gloomy-ish living rooms? (@simpleandseason)
The Yucca Cane is probably the best 'structural' plant I know of that will do OK in gloomy-ish situations, but it depends on what you define as structural. I have a relatively gloomy downstairs bathroom in our home, and I can get quite a few plants to survive in there, but they mostly just don't grow too fast or at all. Cast Iron and Corn plants will do well in dark-ish rooms, along with the Yucca. Mother-in-Law's Tongue are known to do well in dark rooms, but I've never tried it with mine. I actually keep mine in our very bright attic bathroom and it seems perfectly happy there too.
9. Can I grow plants in a room without a window? (@pipunedited)
Erm, yes, but they'll have to be fake. Plants need at least a little sunlight to be able to grow and photosynthesise.
10. How do you look after a Rubber Plant? More specifically how do you keep the leaves clean? (@khylovegood)
The Rubber Plant, also known as a Ficus Elastica, is one of my favourite plants. Mine is called Justine. They're pretty easy to care for, good in indirect light and like to get comfy in one place. They don't like to be moved around a lot, have too much water or changeable conditions. Water when the soil has dried out completely. To clean the leaves, use a soft cloth and tepid water and wipe them gently, putting one hand under a leaf to support it as you do so.
Well I hope that was helpful for you all, and that I've been able to encourage you too keep going with your indoor plants, or pick up some new ones if you've previously been a little afraid to. If you have any questions that you don't see here, just leave me a comment and I'll get back to you. I'd love to know what you thought of this post, and if you'd like to see some more posts on plants and plant care. It's been really fun to write about, and has inspired me to learn even more about each of my plants and how to care for them the best I can. I'm currently on a count of sixty, as I took some more cuttings and had another trip to the garden centre. It's starting to get jungle-y in here.