There is some incredible green inspiration out there on Instagram and Pinterest, and if you’re anything like us, scrolling through your feed makes you want to jump up and go plant shopping. Unfortunately – like most things – the reality of cultivating an indoor garden is generally not as effortless or seamless as it appears in images.
If you are looking to buy your first houseplant, or simply expand your existing collection, we’ve outlined some tips to making your indoor garden a success:
1) Be realistic about your environment and what type of houseplants can thrive in your home. A few key aspects to keep in mind:
Light: Remember, just because your home seems well lit to you, doesn’t mean the light is strong enough for many types of plants. Most plants need to be relatively close to a light source, so keep that in mind when selecting a houseplant. If you don’t have a lot of natural light, it’s best to opt for a low-light plant or invest in good artificial lighting as a supplement. Most plants are labeled with light requirements, so be sure to check this while you are browsing.
Not sure how much light your home gets? Consider your windows:
North facing windows tend to have the lowest light intensity. During the summer, low-light tolerant plants can grow near North facing windows, but you will likely need to supplement with artificial light during the winter.
South facing windows tend to have strong light levels given that the sun follows a slightly southern east-to-west arc. Be cognizant if other buildings or tree obstruct window view, as this will affect the light intensity in your home.
East facing windows receive the most light in the morning, when the sun is not quite as strong. As a result, plants with moderate light requirements do well near east facing windows.
West facing windows receive the full afternoon sun and therefore are good for plants with higher light requirements. The light levels are not quite as high as those from south facing windows, but generally the light is adequate for most houseplants.
(We will do another article about sunlight and deciphering what amount your houseplants need, but the above is a good starting out point for beginners.)
Space: In addition, if space is tight, it’s better to start small with 1-2 slower growing plants. Plants like the monster deliciosa grow quickly and tend to spread, so this might not be the best choice if square footage is limited.
2) Be realistic about your schedule and commitment to a care routine.
Plants are living creatures and as such have certain care requirements to grow and thrive. Most of us are busy and don’t necessarily have time (or the memory) to spend caring for plants every single day. And that’s totally fine! It doesn’t make you a bad plant parent, but it is something to take into consideration when selecting your plants.
Personally, I find that I do best with a weekly watering schedule. Every few days, however, I check on my plants to see if anyone looks thirsty so I can react if necessary. Any more than that, though, and I just don’t have time.
Think about what you are willing to commit to in terms of watering, feeding, pruning, etc. If your schedule allows you time to work with your plants daily, then you could try plants that require more frequent watering or care. If you are rarely home, it might be better to start with some lower maintenance plants.
3). Consider the needs of your family.
If you have children or pets, it is naturally better to start with non-toxic plants, unless you have spots where you are confident that the houseplants are out of reach. I have a cat that is decidedly disinterested in my plants (with the exception of frond plants like my spider plant and ponytail palm) so I don’t worry so much anymore unless a plant is actually lethal. Those I don’t bother bringing into my home, since it’s not really worth the risk.
We’ll be doing another post of pet-safe plants and toxicity levels of common houseplants soon. One thing to remember is that many plants labeled toxic often don’t make your pets very sick unless eaten in very great quantities, so you don’t automatically have to banish those houseplants from your home if you use common sense.
4) Start small.
It’s tempting to run out and buy a lot of different types of houseplants when you see some amazing inspiration on Instagram. However, it is also the quickest way to overwhelm yourself and you’ll get discouraged if your plants begin dying. If you’re a newbie, I personally think it’s best to start with one to two low-maintenance plants to test out your green thumb. If you find yourself excelling with these, then you know it’s time to start working your way up by expanding your collection and testing new varieties.
5) Group houseplants by growing condition needs.
Most likely they will naturally be grouped together given their similar light requirements, but I like to position my plants with similar watering schedules together because it helps me avoid missing any plants. It’s much more difficult to remember plants that are scattered throughout the apartment, so I’ve found this to be really helpful in keeping my plants healthy.
6) Don’t get discouraged if your plant dies on you!
Trust me, every one of us has been there - even with all the research in the world, it’s inevitable that there are going to be some plants that don’t make it. I try to use my plant “passings” as an opportunity to learn more about the care of that plant. Sometimes I learn that something is a bit too finicky for my abilities, and I move onto a different type. Other times I’ll pick up a new plant and try again, hopefully this time with better results. In no way does it mean you are incapable of keeping a plant alive – you just have to try to determine WHY it died and if it’s something that you can improve upon the next go around.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to have fun with your houseplants! It isn’t a competition – houseplants can be fun, meditative, spiritual, and so much more. My most important piece of advice is to not take yourself too seriously and simply enjoy the process.
Have you had success with your houseplants? Share your tips for a thriving indoor garden below!
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