Taking care of indoor plants, having your home filled with healthy, vibrant, living greenery may well bring you the greatest joy for the smallest investment of time and money of anything you could find. Learn the basics of houseplant care in this Beginners Guide to taking care of indoor plants.
Anywhere from 15 seconds to 1 minute of time per week (depending mostly on the size of the plant) is all it takes to keep any plant looking gorgeous.
For the most part, anyway. When you need to deal with bugs, or repotting, or a major pruning, you’ll need to spend more time.
How to take care of indoor plants?
The “how” of doing this is fairly easy.
It’s best to have a special time designated for taking care of your indoor plants – most people do it weekly.
Take a watering can with the sprinkler end removed, gather your tools – scissors for trimming yellow leaves and dead bits, a rag for wiping spills, a duster for dusting off the leaves – and approach each plant in turn.
Look at the plant as you approach it, test the soil moisture (don’t water yet, though,) check for bugs, turn the plant (1/4 turn clockwise, done every week, will keep the plant from growing toward the light,) check again for bugs, dust (if no bugs,) trim off any yellow or brown bits, and water.
Look back when you’re done to admire your handiwork.
You don’t have to worry too much about fertilizing, at least for the first 3 – 6 months after you get a plant, and you don’t have to worry about repotting for the first year.
Unless you have an orchid potted in sphagnum moss, which you will want to repot into orchid mix as soon as it has finished flowering.
How to take care of your indoor plants?
Of course, like anything else, if you’re a beginner, you need to start by spending a little time learning what you need to know about houseplants and how to take care of them. Fortunately, an afternoon spent looking up and reading references on the internet will get you off to a good start.
The place to start would be deciding what kind of plants you want. This is determined by two things:
- What do you want your plants to do?
- How much light do you have or can you provide?
What do you want your plants to do?
Do you want them to be basically decorative, contributing to your decor, your emotional and mental well being, and removing harmful gases from the air?
Or do you want them to be flowering plants, grown for their beautiful scent, forms, and colors?
Do you want them to be edibles, contributing vegetables for your table, herbs for flavor, or medicinal for your health?
You can do any or all of these things with plants indoors.
After you decide what you want to do with plants, do some research to learn more about those types of plants and growing requirements.
How much light do you have or can you provide?
The next big thing to consider is light. Light determines what kinds of plants you can grow.
With indoor plants, we talk about light in terms of high light, medium light, and low light.
I’ve already gone into this subject at length, so here’s a link to that answer. How much light do houseplants need?
Choosing new indoor plants
After you’ve decided what you want your plants to do, and figured out what level of light you have, or can provide, the next step is to decide on the kinds of plants you want to start with.
I think it’s always best to start with a small number of the easiest kinds, which means those that are most forgiving of your mistakes.
For interior foliage plants, I would recommend starting with pothos, spider plants, snake plants, corn plant, or parlor palm.
For flowering plants, try orchids (the kind that are readily available in every plant store,) African violets, peace lilies, hibiscus, flowering maple, or clivia.
For edibles, you might start with cherry tomatoes, salad greens, dwarf beans and peas, strawberries, or radishes. With herbs, basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary and chives could do well. Please take note that most flowering plants, and all edibles require very high light levels.
Care for your indoor plant once they are home
After you’ve acquired a few plants, the care of them centers around two things:
How to water your houseplant?
Learning to water correctly, so that plants have both plenty of moisture and plenty of air in the soil, is probably the single most important thing to know about caring for plants.
The biggest tip I can give you is to learn to test the soil moisture, all the way to the bottom of the pot, before each watering.
Other people have other tips, and other ways of deciding when and how much to water, but if their plants are beautiful, for sure they’ve figured out how to water correctly.
Here’s an answer I gave with my method for watering plants – How often should I water my houseplants?
How to watch your indoor plant?
Being watchful, taking a moment to examine your plants, usually at the same time you water, is important in guarding against bugs.
These can appear at any time, because the eggs and the hatchlings are extremely small, and can float around on the air as part of the dust. The things to watch for are
- little fuzzy white patches on the stems or leaves – mealy bugs
- pinprick mottling on the leaves and tiny web strands on and between the leaves – spider mites
- little bumpy things attached to the stems or leaves, sometimes with a sticky feel on leaves or pot – scale and aphids
- little fruit fly-like bugs that fly up from the soil when you disturb the plant – fungus gnats
- tiny bugs on the leaves that look and act a bit like fleas – thrips
- little white flies that fly up from the foliage if you disturb the plant – white flies.
All of these can be controlled by spraying with a solution of 1/2 tsp soap (castile or horticultural soap) in 2 cups of water; sprayed very thoroughly, especially on the undersides of the leaves; and sprayed weekly for 4 weeks.
For pictures of these pests, and more information, try How to Identify and Control House Plant Pests
These things should give you a good place to start.
If you lose a plant, or a few, just try to figure out what went wrong, and try again.
Remember, no one has a green thumb without also having a big, well-used garbage can.
If you have any specific questions, contact be through the comments, and I’ll give them a go.