Wondering how to care for an indoor plant? How to give it the right conditions? While there are many factors that will affect your house plant, the two most important factors are watering and lighting requirements. Learn more about them in this post!
From where to start?
When you enter in your local grocery store, plant nursery or any other place where you choose to buy a plant, you need to consider what conditions you have in your home and what type of care you can provide to your plant.
There are plants that are extra low maintenance, semi-low maintenance and there are high maintenance plants.
The funny thing is – some plants that are high maintenance to somebody can be low maintenance to somebody else. Why? Because we all have different conditions in out homes. Some plants need bright light conditions in order to thrive, while others want high humidity levels, and so on.
You’ll inevitably kill some plants, but this is completely normal. Beginners kill plants as well as somebody that has 20 years of experience with plant care. The important is to avoid avoidable mistakes that can be fatal for your plant.
When it comes to plant care, there are 2 basic things you need to know about – watering and lighting requirement. There are other important things – like humidity, temperature and soil type but I will talk more in depth about this in another article.
But just briefly…
Your home temperature will work for your plant. Anywhere from 18°C – 32°C is OK for the majority of house plants.
You won’t need to worry about soil and repotting because you won’t need to repot your plant right after purchasing it.
Humidity is a sensitive topic for some types of plants, but other than misting and having small humidifiers, I don’t do much else for this plants anyway, and they are all fine.
In this article I will focus on watering and lighting as two most important things that are more complex and important to understand when it comes to plant care.
The number one reason why most people kill their plants | Watering
The number one reason why most people kill their plants is OVER watering. Watering your plants too often will literally drown your plant. After a couple of weeks or months, its leaves will start to yellow and eventually fall down – this is a sign roots are probably starting to rot.
The plant gets its nutrients and oxygen through the roots – from the soil. You need to assure that the soil dries out (partially or completely, depending on the type of plant) in order to have better air circulation in the soil as well.
Now imagine those roots constantly sitting in soggy soil, it doesn’t feel right, does it?
Of course there are exceptions – there are plants that don’t like dry soil. But those types of plants are EXCEPTIONS because of that. Here we’ll cover what house plants GENERALLY like and need.
Over watering is worse than under watering.
When to water your houseplant
For the majority of house plants you can use a simple rule – “THE check the soil with your finger RULE”. Basically, you stick your finger in the soil, on random spots, and try to feel if the soil is dry or not. If the first few cm (or inches) are dry, you can water your plant. But if the soil is still moist, back away with that can of water. 😉
See – Plant watering: don’t kill your plants with over watering – here’s how you do it where I explain what affects the WATERING frequency more in depth.
This will work for the majority of house plants. Now, there are plants that like their soil to dry out completely before watering it again and there are plants that won’t like being in dry soil.
Some plants that like moist soil are prayer plants (Calathea, Maranta, Stromanthe and Ctenanthe), Fittonia and certain type of ferns.
On the other hand, Dracena, Sansevieria, Cacti, ZZ plants and other succulents will prefer if you let the soil to dry out completely between watering.
How to water you house plant
There are many watering methods you could use:
- top watering
- bottom watering
- watering thoroughly
- watering more frequently with less water
Personally, I like to water my plants thoroughly and wait for the excess water to drain, and then I throw that excess water away. This may take longer than watering it with less water, but in this way the water reaches through the whole soil.
So what thoroughly actually means? I take my plant to the sink and I gently pour water on top of the soil, all around the plant (not just in one spot). When I see the soil “swallowed” the water I pour a little bit more and then wait for the excess water to drain out.
Now… I don’t always have the time to bring every plant to the sink or bath tub. Some plants are also heavy and big. In those cases I will pour less water, you can’t always do everything perfectly. But even then – if excess water comes out, I’ll throw it away. You don’t want to let your plants sit in water.
Type of pot
There are pots in which you plant your plant directly – those are usually plastic or terracotta pot, and there are cover pots – those nice ones that cover the ugly plastic pots.
What you need to pay attention to is that the pots in which you directly plant your house plant HAVE DRAINAGE HOLES. This is extra important. Trust me, it’s a fuss when pots don’t have drainage holes – when you water the plant you need to lean it to get the excess water out and each time you lose a bit of soil while doing that. Additionally, there’s a 99% chance your plant will sit in over watered soil if the pot doesn’t have drainage holes.
See – Plastic pot vs. terracotta pot | Which one is better for your houseplant? where I compare the two.
What low light plant actually means | Lighting
You may have heard phrases like this “this plant needs bright indirect light”, “this is a low light plant” or “direct sunlight will damage the leaves”.
The most important thing to know here is that 99% of indoor plants want bright indirect light, but what does that mean?
Bright indirect light
- the south facing window with a sheer white curtain or east, north and west facing windows with or without the sheer white curtain
In this way the light is extra bright but it’s not direct.
Direct sunlight will damage and eventually burn the leaves.
When the sun rays hit directly through the window glass > the floor and object which is directly hit by the sun are going to be hot
During summer the sun is even more stronger than during winter.
I had guests in my apartment last summer and they moved my Kalanchoe from the coffee table on a south facing window. In just 2 days almost all leaves were burned to the core. Fortunately, I saw the Kalanchoe from the outside and said to them to move it from there. This Kalanchoe is still alive today, although it looks kind of funky with its random new growth.
If you don’t have a curtain that will turn direct sunlight into indirect sunlight, don’t place your plant directly on the window.
Not all direct sun rays are going to be that strong. It, of course, depends on the season and time of day. After 4-5 p.m., during summer, the sun is not longer that strong. Plants that I have on the west facing window never got burned, even when I moved away the curtains.
Medium light can be interpreted differently – everybody can have a different explanation as to what is medium light.
What I mean by medium light is a spot a couple of feet away from the window (2-4 meters) that gets dispersed light for more than 4 hours a day.
It may sound complicated, but this would be practically any room that has windows (north, east, south or west) that gets light at some point in the day (whether it is in the morning, afternoon or evening) – but instead of placing your plant in front of a window, you place it slightly further away.
Don’t forget that low light still means light, not dark. The easiest way to describe what I mean by low light would be that you would still be able to read, write or study something with this amount of light, but ideally you would want to move closer to a window or turn on a light. At least, this is the way I interpret it.
When somebody says “this is a low light plant” – this does not mean you can stick in a dark corner. This only means that it will survive even without brighter light.
But.. even when plants are low light tolerant, they still like bright indirect light, and if you have space to place it in a brightly lit spot, it will be happier there!
- Under watering is better than over watering.
- Have your plants in pots with drainage holes.
- Let the excess water drain from the drainage holes.
- Don’t place your plants on direct sunlight because it will damage the leaves. Most types of plants won’t stand that, only cacti probably will.
- The majority of plants want bright indirect light.