There’s something equal parts calming and motivational about living in a home filled with plants. Vivid leafy greens and bright blossoming buds can reinvigorate any dull space into a dazzling indoor oasis, not to mention, they also filter out toxins in the air and replenish oxygen levels. Plants “breathe life into our daily routine,” says interior designer and author of Plant Society, Jason Chongue.
But not everyone would flaunt their thumb as green. To some folks, nurturing little green babies is more of a frustrating challenge than a way to relax, but don’t let a few casualties stop you from surrounding yourself in lush foliage, Chongue insists. Like with any hobby, indoor gardening takes practice. It’s all about experimenting to see which plants grow best in your home environment, which is different in terms of light and temperature levels than someone else’s home.
To help ease the trials and tribulations (and costs!) that come with this kind of experimentation, we gathered together the ten most common mistakes people make when caring for their houseplants.
1. Too many plants, too soon
The thought of waking up in an indoor paradise is definitely alluring but try to resist the temptation of diving in and buying ten plants at once. If you’re new to gardening, start with just one or two plants so you can establish the skills required for indoor gardening. “Once they are thriving and you’ve discovered what works, continue adding to your collection,” Chongue says. Ultimately, taking it slow and steady is going to be better than having to mourn the loss of 10 new plants.
2. Meshing plants and pets too quickly
We love greenery — but so does Fido. Some dogs and cats are incredibly fond of chewing or scratching plants, which can be upsetting and stressful for us. Introduce new plants to your pet with caution — and do it slowly, so their environment doesn’t drastically change overnight. Consider introducing some new toys to your pet’s collection so that they don’t mistake the plant as one. Most importantly, check to make sure all your plants are non-toxic, just in case your pet does end up nibbling.
3. Drowning your plants
Unlike us, plants don’t actually need daily water. In fact, having our plants sit in water for more than a day can be dangerous to their health. Plants only need to be watered when the top two or three centimeters are totally dry. Use a finger or skewer to test the moisture level in the soil and then water accordingly.
4. Not taking the season into account
Just because your plant lives indoors doesn’t mean it’s immune to the changing seasons. During the winter, plants don’t need to be watered as often, and nearby heaters can actually dry them out. Since so many tropical plants enter a dormant stage during this season, it’s important to save repotting for the spring and summer.
5. Not cleaning your plant
Did you know plants need be cleaned too? Plants collect dust, which can block their pores and suffocate them. (Unlike the outdoors, our homes don’t offer rain and wind to clean the plant’s leaves.) Don’t worry. You don’t have to hop in the bath with your plant each morning. To remedy this problem, just wipe the plant’s leaves with a damp cloth or put them in the shower to rinse them off.
6. Irregular pruning
Like with our hair, regular trims can help keep our plants happy and healthy. Don’t forget to prune your houseplants to promote new growth and prevent them from becoming too leggy. Secateur pruning is when you remove large branches for drastic changes. Pinch pruning is when you remove the tip of the plants to promote denser growth. If your plant flowers, then it’s important to remove old flower buds in a process called debudding. This encourages new flowers to blossom!
7. Letting your plants run wild
While there’s nothing wrong with the philosophy of our plants being born to run, sometimes they end up growing in a direction that isn’t beneficial to our living space. In that case, you should try controlling and training your plant’s growth. Depending on the type of plant that you have, consider using a pole or wire trellis to help guide their growth. If a plant is growing lopsided, stake the branches to the desired position and eventually, the plant will harden and follow that path.
8. Disregarding the great outdoors
Indoor plants still need some care that only mother nature can supply. Good, regular airflow can reduce the risk of pests and diseases, so leave your windows wide open on a beautiful day. (Your Vitamin D levels will benefit from that too.)
9. Neglecting the soil
After buying high-quality potting soil, we often think that our time spent with the dirt is over. Wrong. Healthy, cared for soil is like a strong foundation for your plant to build upon. Chongue recommends loosening the soil with a trowel or skewer every once in a while to aerate it and reinvigorate the plant’s roots. Also, every few months, we should flush the toxins out of the soil by drenching it until water runs freely through it.
10. Being impatient
Like with everything, practice makes a perfect indoor rainforest. “The life of a gardener is one of continuous patience and diligence,” Chongue says. “We constantly need to remind ourselves that plants take time to develop — they don’t grow overnight.” An indoor oasis will take some serious TLC but trust us, once those babies bloom, you’ll be glad you put in the work to help your indoor garden grow.
Photo Credit: iStock