House Plants: Tips for beginners

Hi everyone!

If you didn’t know this about me already let me tell you, I’m quite a houseplant enthusiast! I think house plants are an essential component of interior design, whether it’s your home or workplace. Not only do they liven things up but they are also proven to have health benefits and mood-boosting qualities. I often find myself in conversations with my friends and relatives revolving around plant care. Most of the times they either ask me for tips regarding the plants they currently have or just simple recommendations of which plants to grow as a beginner.

With the current growing trend of incorporating indoor plants in decorating a house, I thought I’d share some useful and very easy to follow tips for growing them. Contrary to popular belief, indoor plants are quite affordable and relatively easy to take care of. My main goal for writing this blog is to clear some misconceptions about house plants and may be inspire you all to grow some yourselves haha! And believe me when I say this, you do not need a green thumb to grow these house plants. These plants aren’t picky, they even put up with being forgotten, need very little grooming/pruning and can grow relatively nicely in low-light areas as well. In my opinion, they are the best house guests you could ask for! 😀

Before you start your ever-growing plant family (I mean it! once you start, there is no coming back lol), there are some basic considerations to take note of.

1. Light

It’s a no brainer that light is one of the most important elements here. I’d suggest before choosing a plant that you want in your house, consider the light conditions of the room. This will help you narrow down on your options and assure a beneficial environment for your plants. There are various light conditions to be aware of:

Direct Light – the most intense light for your indoors, mostly coming through west- or south-facing windows. (works best for: cactus and succulents)

Bright Light – This is a middle point between direct light and medium light. What I mean by that is, in most cases it’s the spot right next to a window that receives direct light for no more than an hour a day before being obstructed. The wonderful thing about this light setting is that it works for all indoor plants.

Medium Light – This kind of light is available in a room in a patch that is equidistant from a window and the back wall. In such case, there is no direct light but it’s still plenty bright. (works for: palms, dracaenas, philodendrons)

Low Light These are the areas that are away from the windows or receive no natural light. Now, there are certain plants that adapt to such conditions and can live, however, I should mention that their growth might slow down. (works for: snake plants, some varieties of pothos)

Artist: @kail_bales

2. Water

Water is another vital element in basic plant care. The most common problem I’ve heard about from others and sometimes encountered myself is keeping the right balance between over-watering and under-watering a plant. While it may look tricky at first, with most indoor plants, their needs are quite straight-forward. There are a few things you can do to avoid over-watering your plants. For instance, you can use tools like a soil probe or a moisture meter to measure how dry the soil is. If you don’t want to buy those instruments you can do what I do. Push your finger into the soil for about 1 to 2 inches (depending upon the size of the pot) and see if the soil is moist or dry. If it’s completely dry then that means the plant needs water. Additionally you can tell by the heaviness of your pot whether or not it needs more water. Sometimes the plant itself tells you whether it needs water. For instance, if you see the leaves becoming crisp from the edges or browning, the plant most likely needs more water.

On the contrary, if you are forgetful when it comes to watering your plant, my first piece of advice would be to grow a plant that can withstand low water intake. It may also be helpful to set up a reminder or build a watering schedule for your plants.

3. Soil

To be honest, when I started taking interest in house plants, I didn’t give the soil much thought. And the truth is, most house-plants will do just fine in whatever decent quality potting soil you use. However, it might not be the best for the plant in the long run. Soil plays an important role in protecting the root system, keeping a plant upright and in providing a nutritious medium for your plant. Each indoor plants have their specific requirements for the above mentioned things so I’d suggest doing a bit of research about your plants’ requirements before buying the soil.

4. Potting

Choosing the right kind of pot for your plant is important but not something that needs to be done right from the start. Most house-plant will grow just fine in their default black pot. Once the plant has outgrown the default pot, you can re-pot it into another, clean pot. One important tip though, and I cannot stress this enough: Opt for a pot with a hole or holes at the bottom for the drainage of excess water. In my experience, terracotta planters make for a great choice. There are many reason as to why: First and foremost, terracotta pots are breathable both for air and water compared to plastic pots. Additionally, they are great at regulating temperatures. Finally, terracotta planters are quite budget friendly 😉

If you do not want to use terracotta pots, there are multitudes of choices for planters (They might be more costly though). I for one use a lot of re-purposed items as a planter to avoid wastage (and save money lol), which includes empty water bottles, shampoo/detergent bottles, milk containers etc.

5. Food/Fertilizer

Even though soil provides some vital nutrients for a plant it’s not enough. Especially since most of our plants are bound to closed environment (like a pot), they are missing out on quite a bit of outdoor resources. This means we need to feed the missing elements through fertilizing a plant. However, a word of caution, the biggest mistake I’ve seen others make is to give a plant too much fertilizer, or in some cases not enough. The common misunderstanding is that more fertilizer= more growth. But, in some cases, over-fertilizing can cause more damage than good. Therefore it’s important to know that plants don’t need to be fertilized very often, especially not in their non-growing season and when you do fertilize a plant, it should be done as a very dilute medium.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you guys with my recommended house-plants for beginners.

Philodendron: very common house-plant, rarely attracts pests, easily adapts to low light conditions and sporadic watering habits.

Pothos or Devil’s Ivy: This one is among my favourites. Comes in numerous, colourful varieties. This plant can survive in various environments but thrive nicely in low light or bright indirect light condition. You might have to spend some time on occasional pruning.

Dracaena: This is another popular indoor plant with long, slender leaves that gives your room a very sophisticated look . It thrives in medium light conditions and does not require frequent watering.

Peace Lily: This elegant plant with beautiful flowers thrives best when the soil is moist to touch. However, be careful not to over-water it. You should mist the leaves regularly and clean them gently with a damp cloth to prevent dust build-up. One extra tip: If you want flowers to appear on this plant, it’s best to keep it in a darker room.

Succulent: If I’m being completely honest, personally I find succulent plants very difficult to care for. They usually thrive in a bright, direct light condition but it’s advised to keep rotating their place every now and then. They usually require more water in spring and summer compared to winter. And lastly, to prevent dust build-up, wipe the leaves and stem gently with a damp cloth.

Spider plant: This plant is by far the easiest indoor plant to grow and care for! I highly recommend this plant to all the beginners. It needs indirect bright to medium light to thrive and slightly moist soil. In summer and spring, it’s sufficient to water them once a week but in winters I’d suggest wait for the soil to dry out completely. A small bonus is that this plant is quite easy to propagate through water as well.

Snake Plant: This is another one of the most low-maintenance house plant of the bunch. They thrive in a low light condition. One of the frequent mistake people make is over watering this plant. It does not require a lot of water, especially during winters. Like with other succulent plants, I’d suggest keep the leaves dust free. Similar to pothos and spider plant, this plant is also very easily propagated in water.

Happy planting!

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