Don't you worry, we've all been there.
I read a quote somewhere the other day that said “Plant lady is the new crazy cat lady,” and I am here for it sitting nice and strong at 200+ plants crowding my house. Don't worry, there are plenty just like me.
Ok, where were we?
You’ve just set out on the journey as a plant parent. Congrats! I hope you're aware that it's all downhill from here.
Congratulations on taking the first step towards what is an incredibly rewarding new role as a parent. There are few things that give me more joy than watching my plant babies thrive. And I’m here to help you become proud plant mamas/dads too by sharing some hard-earned insights and lessons from becoming the mother of a jungle.
Here’s a list of 5 mistakes to avoid as a beginner plant parent. You're welcome.
1. Choosing the wrong plants
This might sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people pick the wrong plants just because they are trendy at the moment. One of the biggest things people forget is research – it is so important when buying indoor plants. Do your research!
There's a big difference between having houseplants that are surviving and houseplants that are thriving (come to our workshops and we'll teach you how to make your plants look fiiiiine).
Luckily, here at NODE, we’ve done the hard work for you and only have plants that will thrive indoors, and we're well versed in pulling the details of your home out of you in terms of light, warmth, and humidity. The three key factors to getting your house plants to love you back. And don't forget about space. Plant babies don't stay babies for long - I'm looking at you, my sprawling 2-meter wide monstera crowding my living room.
Some of the trendiest plants at the moment are pretty fussy. Down here on the South Island, we're not exactly tropical. And most indoor plants are from the tropics of South America and Asia. That new caladium you rushed to buy this week? Anything less than 21 degrees and 50% humidity and it's going to throw a tantrum. And trust me, if you've got a house with that ideal condition here in Christchurch, I'm really jealous.
2. Forgetting about your plant baby
With house plants, it really is ALL up to you. Unlike our gardens in the backyard where nature takes care of the rain, drainage, light, etc., at home, the plant relies entirely on you to look after it. Going away for two weeks? Pop all your plants in the shower and get a friend to pop by and water them for you. And leave the curtains open so they get light.
I can't tell you how many times I've had to wait for my partner to leave the house first so I can go back and turn the heat pump up for my babies. Listen, they're alive.
Interact with your plants as you would with family members: with love, attention, and care…but not TOO much of it – and this brings me to the next point.
3. Too much love…
Too much of anything can kill your plants. Most people kill houseplants by overwatering them, causing their roots to rot away. Don't drown your plants! Back away slowly. Put down the watering can.
Your plants will tell you when they need watering. Wait for the top inch or two of soil to dry out before watering. Or better yet, grab yourself a handy Sustee Aquameter and wait for it to turn from blue to white to indicate it's watering time.
Too much water, too much light, attention, humidity. Each plant has its unique set of requirements for how much water, light, humidity, soil it needs – respect it and stick to it. Your plant will love you for it!
4. Treating indoor plants like outdoor plants
Indoor plants really are like humans in many ways. Some of us even talk to our plants, though we're only worried if the plants begin to talk back.
We need to look after them and support them for them to thrive. Because we have houseplants almost as living art around the house, the idea is that you want them to look good. They need a little more care and attention compared to their distant relations. Make sure you:
Wash your plants - keep the leaves clean
Give them fresh air (especially if you’re in offices with sealed windows – we all need to breathe fresh air regularly and plants are no different)
Don’t expose them to too much direct sunlight (like us, indoor plants will also burn) unless they're a cactus
Make sure they don't have any pests, so check them for bugs all the time. Pop them in plant quarantine if they do!
Replace their soil and fertilize regularly
Say nice things to them.
5. Forgetting the roots
Roots are a plant’s feeding mechanism – they supply all the essential nutrients and water that the plant needs.
While most people check for signs of distress on the plant’s leaves, a lot of people forget about the roots. Before re-potting your newly bought plant, it is a good idea to check the roots and make sure they are stable and strong. Check them for pests and eggs and sanitize and clean them if needed.
Re-pot only an appropriately bigger pot size when needed. Bigger is not always better when it comes to repotting. If you use a pot that’s too big, the plant will feel overwhelmed as the roots will lose their stability and not be able to keep the plant well-fed and also have a much higher chance of rotting. Many houseplants like to be "rootbound" in their pots, only needing repotting when the roots begin to emerge from the drainage hole.
The best practice is to re-pot the plant in a pot that is 2 inches bigger than the plant and go from there.