Looking after a houseplant is easy peasy! Well, it can be if you have a few simple indoor plant care tips up your sleeve. To help you out, because we’re nice like that, here are the hacks you need to know to care for your houseplants like a pro. Happy growing!
Houseplant Lighting Hacks
Remember way back in school when your teachers tried to teach you about a clever nature trick called photosynthesis? They threw around words like chloroplasts and metabolic reactions and explained that light is food for plants… Well, turns out that some things we learnt in school come in handy IRL for our indoor plant care (not fractions though, they will never be handy).
You don’t need to know the sciency stuff behind it all, you just need to understand that all houseplants need some form of light in order to grow and thrive. And if they don’t get it, there will be no indoor jungle for you!
You may have purchased a houseplant and the shop assistant said “he needs bright light this one”. And then you went home and put the plant in the spot next to your bed that is 100 metres away from the peephole you call a window and said, “grow my pretty!”. And then he died a slow tragic death.
So, all our houseplants have an easy ‘light intensity’ label to let you know just how much of the bright stuff your plant is going to need. And it goes a little something like this:
Direct Sunlight means no barrier between the plant and the light source—we’re talking a nice sunny window. Most succulents and cacti are in this category and need a few hours of direct sun per day in order to thrive.
Filtered Light means the light is being diffused, by a sheer curtain or an awning for example, before reaching the plant. A room that overlooks an undercover outdoor area would provide perfect filtered light, the room is bright, but the plant is never in direct sun. Plants like the fiddle leaf fig, Monstera, bird of paradise or Calathea love this kind of light. In fact, most of Green Assembly’s houseplants thrive in filtered light.
Low Light means your houseplant can survive a fair distance away from any light source (think hallways with a doorway to other rooms but no actual windows letting light in). Some plants like the Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas) or Mother-In-Laws Tongue (Sansevieria) will survive in spaces with low light, but no plants will really thrive in low light.
Image credit: Frontgate.com
Plant Care Water Hacks
You’ve got your plant care watering down. You just water your houseplants every other day and they will be all good, right? WRONG!
The easiest way to kill a plant is to over water it. Or not water it at all. So here is what you are going to do forevermore for all your plants!
The Perfect Drink
Use a soil moisture metre or your finger and feel if the soil is wet at least 2 inches below the surface. If so, you can add water—a normal water glass full will do, unless it’s a very large or very teeny pot. If your soil is wet at the surface, you can hold off. We will call this method the ‘2-inch trick’.
Repeat after me. “I will not water my houseplant unless the top 2 inches of soil are dry”. Like all rules, there are exceptions (because life is complicated) and this one does not apply to the likes of desert-dwelling cacti and succulents. They like to completely dry out between watering (we’re talking weeks sometimes) whereas ferns are the opposite and like a lot more moisture more regularly.
Too Much Water
Except for maybe a fern, no indoor plant needs watering more than once or twice per week (and some need much less than that). A plant will develop root rot from being watered too often or being left to sit in a pool of water for too long (imagine if your feet were in a bucket of water 24/7!). Use the ‘2 inches trick’ and be sure to empty any excess water if your plastic pot is sitting in a decorative pot that does not have a drainage hole.
Bone Dry Baby
So, you went away for a month and forgot to tell your housemate to water your green baby. Bad plant parent! He’s bone dry, wilting and looks like he’s halfway into the grave. Be cool, be cool. We can bring him back (in most cases). Resist the urge to stick the tap on and let it run on the plant for an hour. Instead, grab a container and fill it to a couple of inches with water, then place your houseplant in that so that it can take up water from its roots. Let it soak here for about an hour.
After an hour or so you can run the tap (tepid water) or water it using your watering can. If you see bubbles forming on the surface there are air pockets (air pockets = bad, FYI). Continue pouring water and allowing it to soak in until there are no more bubbles appearing. Now you can go back to your normal watering (the ‘2-inch trick’).
Plant Care Habitat Hacks
If you are nailing plant care in terms of light and water but your indoor plant is still struggling, have a think about the other elements of the room that it’s in. Air conditioners and heaters push out a constant stream of dry air that plants hate, and older style houses often trap our dry Perth heat in during the day, making indoor temperatures too hot and dry for plants day after day. And don’t even get us started on Perth winters— when your bathroom is so cold you have to put ugg boots and a coat on just to pee, yet you want your tropic loving fiddle leaf fig to grow to jungle proportions…
We have THE perfect mantle for trailing houseplants above a working fireplace in our house (ok so it’s gas, not a log fire, but hey). We say it’s perfect cos it looks sensational when they are all lined up dangling their green tendrils and looking all lush like. Until winter comes around and the heat and dry air pushed out make them want to curl up and die. So, in winter I move them somewhere cooler but equally as light so they can continue doing their thang.
Sometimes we have a spot in our house that would look just so perfect with a touch of green, but in reality, it’s the worst spot for a houseplant to thrive. If you really want your living green baby to survive, you have to give it the things it needs to do so, and sometimes that means placing it next to all your other plants in front of a window cos that’s where they all love to be.
Image credit: Detail
Plant Care Fertiliser Hacks
Your houseplants get the minerals they need from water, air, and their potting mix, while sunlight gives them all the energy they need. But if you are trying to turn your house into a Jumanji house, you will want to give them a little something stronger every 4 to 6 months, especially in the warmer growing months.
Liquid or slow release fertiliser is generally the best for indoor plants (we recommend an organic option where possible). Dilute your liquid fertiliser slightly more than what the instructions say to avoid burning the leaves and follow the quantity and application instructions on the slow release fertiliser pack.
Want a handy, houseplant sized fertiliser pack including liquid and slow release? We’ve created a handy non-industrial sized pack for you here.