Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Low maintenance and high maintenance plants need several levels of care, no matter how easy or difficult they are. There are details every beginner (or even expert plant lovers), don't know. This blog should cover a good chunk of those details we all question from time to time! *** And don't forget you can hear even MORE info in the podcast episode***
Q: How do I know how much to water my houseplants?
A: If you are using a draining pot, allow the water to drain out of the bottom of the pot. Applying water slowly is best, instead of dumping half a watering can on the top of the soil. If you dump the water on top, the water will try to escape as fast as it can. It will usually migrate around the edges of the pot, still leaving the middle of your pot (where your plant is), completely dry.
If you are using a non-draining pot, it gets more difficult to gauge what the correct amount it. It is best to use a bit less water so you know you won't be drowning your houseplant. If you have the houseplant in the original nursery pot and place it in a cache pot, don't allow the nursery pot to sit in water for more than 30 minutes.
Q: Can you explain houseplant lighting?
A: This is how I would describe it...
Bright, direct light: south or southwest window
Bright, indirect light: east window, west window, or moved away from a south window
Medium light: north window, or moved away from an east or west window
Low light: not near a window, or moved away far away from any window
This also depends on any obstructions you may have in your yard, whether you a tree outside, a building next door or curtains hanging in your window.
Q: What soil do I use?
A: There isn't one answer for this! People have success with their houseplants in many different mediums. Some use the Indoor Potting Mixes you can find at any garden center while others like to mix their own soils. There are some specialty potting mixes for some houseplants. Cactus soil allows for easier drainage; African Violet mixes typically allow for aeration, while still retaining the moisture it needs; and Orchid mixes have larger chunks of bark for drainage and aeration.
Here are some ingredients some people like to use when mixing their own soil...
Also, some potting mixes come with fertilizers already, so beware of that!
I typically use a regular potting mix and I add perlite to help with extra drainage. I like to use Fox Farm Happy Frog Potting Mix and Espoma's Perlite but I have used Black Gold and Miracle Gro before.
Q: How long after water propagating should you wait to transfer to soil?
A: You should be waiting until a few main roots are formed at least. If you can wait until there are secondary roots growing off the main roots, that is best!
Q: When do I trim my houseplants?
A: This usually depends on the plant, the time of year, and the reason for trimming.
If you are doing a stem cutting and trying to propagate, it is best to do this in spring and summer for optimal growth.
If you have yellowing or browning leaves, you can trim these at any point. Some have suggested waiting until you can pull the leaf off, if possible, to minimize exposure to disease.
If you are shaping your plant, you can do this at any time. Doing this in spring can encourage fuller growth during the growing season.
I trim all year long, but plants won't grow back as fast if you trim in the off season (usually Oct to Feb). In early spring/late winter, I like to trim up some plants to help shape them, encourage fuller growth, and propagate stems.
Q: How much fertilizer do I use on my houseplants?
A: Check your fertilizer instructions on the packaging. If you are using a houseplant specific fertilizer, you may be able to use what is recommended or slightly less. If you are using an all purpose fertilizer, you may need to use it at half strength.
I currently use Espoma Indoor! Liquid Plant Food and I fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under fertilize than over fertilize my plants.
Fertilizing is completely up to you! There are MANY products out there you can try but always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.
Q: Can you tell me what's wrong with my houseplant???
A: There are SEVERAL components to this question if you are having issues with your plant. You CAN diagnose this yourself if you are asking yourself the right questions. When I get this question over social media, it is hard to tell for sure because I am not the one taking care of it and interacting with it every day like you are. If I get asked this question, I will inquire about many details to understand how you have been taking care of it and hopefully find a solution.
Listed below are ways to understand what is "wrong" with your plant. There are specific things to pay attention to and tasks you may want to consider changing in your plant routine.
Changes to pay attention to...
Leaf texture change (bumpy, crunchy, wrinkled, flimsy)
Leaf color change (brown, yellow, white)
Stem structure change
Tasks to try changing in your plant routine...
Treat for pests (see Ep 33)
Usually watering, sunlight, repotting and treating for pests are the most common things to change within your routine. Watering and treating for pests are my two most common issues.
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for Fiddle Leaf Fig...
"Different types of soil! Loamy soil especially. I don't understand what 'makes' a soil loamy"
Silt, sand and clay are the different particles within soil. The texture soil forms is based on the composition of those particles. Loamy soil specifically contains the optimal balance of all of those particles. Loamy soils are mostly used for outdoor plants. Houseplants need soil that typically drains a bit quicker than the "ideal" loamy soil.
"Can you trim roots of a plant so you don't have to get a bigger pot? If so, how?"
Yes you can but I would definitely do this lightly! Only trim the smaller roots, don't cut any of the larger "tap" roots. Also, I wouldn't cut any more than about 1/3 to 1/4 of the smaller roots off your plant.
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