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Some people are born with “green thumbs.” They create and tend bountiful gardens. Their homes are filled with healthy, robust houseplants. Some could probably keep a magnolia tree alive in the middle of a desert. But… others … well, no matter how hard we try, our thumbs seem to remain the same color as the skin covering the rest of our bodies. For some folks, the ability to keep a plant alive… let alone thriving… often seems questionable at best.
But the thing is… a green thumb is a mythical appendage… like unicorns are mythical creatures… green thumbs don’t actually exist. The truth is that almost anyone can enjoy a home filled with houseplants… and keep every one of them alive. In reality, having a “green thumb” is really much more about knowledge and experience than it is about natural born talent.
If you have a "not so great" record for caring for plant life, don’t give up hope. Taking the time to read any literature that comes with a plant is wise as is doing some online research.You may find attending a class or workshop at your local garden center extremely helpful and eye-opening. If you do okay with your plants but perhaps not as well as you would like to, the following tips may be enough to help you up your game a bit. The tips are shared by people with “green thumbs” who know how to keep houseplants healthy, vibrant, and around for a long, long time.
No Green Thumb Required…
Caring for Houseplants
The amount of humidity in the air matters to your houseplants. They need some moisture in the air. If the air in a plant’s environment is too dry, it will not thrive and may not even survive. Here are a couple tips about humidity and houseplants.
- If the air in a room tends to be dry, using a standard humidifier will increase the moisture in the air and help keep plants healthy and happy.
- Air is usually much more humid in some areas of a home such as the kitchen and bathroom. The bathroom actually provides an optimal environment for some plants because of all the humidity created by hot water routinely used in the room's shower and sink. You might want consider moving some plants to the bathroom at least for a visit now and then.
How often a plant needs to be watered depends upon the type of plant it is and the conditions within the home environment where it lives. Here are a few general tips to think about when watering houseplants.
- Plants usually do best when they are watered with water that's lukewarm or room temperature. You don’t want to use water that's too cold or too warm.
- The vast majority of houseplants should be watered when their soil is still slightly moist from the previous watering. In most cases, therefore, soil should not be allowed to dry out completely. However, for plants like cacti that require little water, it is best to wait until soil is absolutely dry. Some require only a misting of water every now and then. On the other hand, plants like ferns that require a lot of water will do best with soil that is always kept moist.
- Too much water is not a good thing for plants. Overwatering is very common though. The desire to keep watering a plant can be very similar to the desire to keep offering food to a guest in your home. Do not over water.
- Plants should be in pots that allow for proper drainage. Usually, that means there are drainage holes in the pot itself. Water gets trapped in pots that do not drain and the trapped water can cause plant roots to rot. To avoid water damage to furniture or windowsills, keep plant pots in shallow waterproof trays. Many such trays are available that will coordinate nicely with your plant pots as well as the décor of your home. Some come with pebbles that sit in the tray to allow any water that accumulates to evaporate.
All plants require some amount of light to survive. They need light to manufacture food. The issue for most people is knowing how much light a plant really needs. Here are a few tips about plants and lighting.
- The majority of typical houseplants do well in indirect light that is moderate to bright in intensity. Usually a plant with flowers or colored leafs needs more light than a typical green plant.
- Most plants come with some information that indicates the amount of light they require. The staff at your local garden center should also be able to provide the information.
- You can’t rest on your laurels, however, once you find a spot with the ideal amount of light for a plant. You have to rotate the side of plant pots that face the sun every week or so to make sure the plant receives the same about of lighting on all sides. In addition, the amount of light coming through a particular window changes as the seasons change, which means you may have to find a new spot for your plants each season.
- Don’t let plants get sunburned. Direct sunlight through a window can be very strong. Too much sunlight that is too strong can quickly damage plants.
When it comes to hot and cold temperatures, house plants are a lot like us. To be healthy, happy, and content, we both need about the same conditions temperature-wise. Here are a few tips about temperature and houseplants.
- Keep plants away from the cold. Many homes have drafty windows that let in some cold air on wintry days. During summer months, make sure to keep plants away from cold air blowing out of an air-conditioner.
- An ice-cold window can freeze a plant if the plant is too close or its leaves are touching the glass. Some people who keep their plants near a cold window put something, like a magazine or piece of cardboard, between the plant and the pane of cold window glass. That way, the plant touches the object instead of the cold window. You may want to move plants away from a very cold window during nighttime hours.
- Plants do not do well if they are too close to a heating duct. Hot air blowing over a plant is not well tolerated and can cause significant damage
- Although displaying plants near an external door may add a nice touch as a greeting to guests, the location is not ideal for plants. Your plants may get a blast of cold or hot air each time the door is opened and closed.
WE ARE NOT OLD, WE ARE SEASONED!