How To Be A Good Houseplant Mum

Suffice to say, the houseplant trend is going nowhere fast and we’re mighty glad about that because, well, life is better with plants.

Suffice to say, the houseplant trend is going nowhere fast and we’re mighty glad about that because, well, life is better with plants.
They make our homes brighter and greener and our air cleaner just by existing, and all we have to do is just, you know, keep them alive. Easier said than done!

With so many glorious types to choose from, you’re bound to come across some species that are slightly trickier to care for than your average low maintenance succulent. Boston ferns, what did we ever do to you?

If, like us, you’re a serial plant slayer, here’s your chance to turn a new leaf and be the good plant mum you were always destined to be. Here’s our essential guide to caring for your precious leaf babies.

Overwatering is just as bad as under-watering

The biggest plant crime = Overwatering. Killing them with kindness until they die a slow root rot death. Sound familiar?

Every plant has different water requirements – succulents like to get bone dry between each watering while ferns prefer permanently moist soil conditions, so get to know your plant’s individual needs and tailor your care for each of them.

You can check if your plant needs watering by placing your fingertip into the top 2 inches of soil. If it’s dry and crumbly, it’s definitely time for a good shower. You can also invest in a probe tool to measure the soil condition accurately or simply pick up the plant and weigh it by hand. If it feels light, it needs a drink! Purchase your probe tool here.

Find its happy place

Try shuffling your plants around the house to find the best light to suit their needs. You might picture your plant trailing a bookshelf somewhere, or hanging in a windowless bathroom, but you’ll have to get used to letting your plant dictate where it wants to put down roots. Like an unruly toddler, they know their own mind. Make your peace with that.

Make sure there’s enough light

Some plants love strong direct sun, while others will be happiest with bright morning light and some shade. But what does all that actually mean?

Direct sun means ideally within 2ft of a south-facing window, while bright indirect light is 4-5ft away from an east or west-facing window. If your plant becomes ‘leggy’, stops growing, or the leaves turn yellow, it’s likely not getting enough light. And if your plant’s leaves are browning, curling or appear dry and brittle, then they’re getting too much of a good thing.

Pay attention to any changes

If your plant isn’t a happy bunny, it will soon let you know. Keep an eye on the leaves, feel the soil, check how much sun it’s getting – it’s a full time job but if you care for them properly, you’ll be able to enjoy them in your home for longer.

Beware of heaters and draughts

Keep your plants away from radiators, doors and draughty windows. House plants don’t like to be too cold or too hot, they’re like Goldilocks. They want their conditions to be ‘just right’.

Give them a snack

To top up their soil nutrients, pamper your plants with a healthy dose of fertiliser throughout growing season (March – September). You can buy houseplant food from most supermarkets and garden centres.

Adapt with the seasons

Scale back your feeding and watering in the Winter months. Much like humans, plants slow down in the colder months when they’re no longer actively growing.

Keep the dust away

Dust can block light and harbour insects. Keep leafy plants clean and dust-free by using a damp cloth and gently removing the dust or place the whole plant in the shower and rinse. This is a good way to remove pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. If your plant has an ongoing problem with pests, quarantine the plant, buy a spray treatment and continue to use regularly until the bugs are gone. Purchase your spray treatment here.

Repot when necessary

Most houseplants will come already potted with drainage holes and as a general rule of thumb, this will keep them happy for a year or two. Some variations such as Ficus, Peace Lily and Ferns prefer to be slightly pot-bound but even they will need re-potting eventually.

There’s a few tell-tale signs of a root bound plant to look out for. One of the most obvious signs is roots growing through the drainage holes at the bottom. Turn the pot over and inspect the bottom, you may need to gently remove the pot to get a closer look. If you see a mass of pale roots in the shape of the pot wrapped around the plant, it’s time for action. Give the plant a good watering the day before repotting to reduce stress and make the root workable.

Mist with caution

Aha, misting – the most controversial topic among plant parents! Certain houseplants enjoy a gentle misting but take heed, it’s not suitable for all types. Some are susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections when their foliage is exposed to too much water but tropical houseplants such as Palms and Ferns love high humidity and will thrive with a light morning mist.

The air in our homes is generally dry, so misting is a simple and effective way to boost humidity. You can also group several plants together in close proximity to increase air moisture.

Avoid a soggy bottom

Plants hate having wet feet, which is why most pots have drainage holes to prevent root rot. If in doubt, water your plants in the shower like one big drunken forest orgy. After you’ve given them a good drink, leave them to drain for at least an hour before popping them back in their pots.

Keep your plants hydrated while you’re away

If you’re going on holiday and haven’t nominated a family member to keep an eye on your beloved plant babies, these self-watering globes ensure your plant takes water gradually and only when needed for up to two weeks. Genius!

Plants for beginners

These easy-going plants are a good entry point for any first-time plant mums.

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
Snake plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum)

What’s your favourite house plant? Let us know in the comments below!