How To Make Houseplants Thrive – Ways To Boost Your Houseplants
By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog
Are you looking for ways to improve houseplant health? Here are top ways to boost your houseplants and help them thrive in your home.
How to Make Houseplants Thrive
- Water your plants wisely. Always thoroughly soak your plants and let water escape the drainage hole. Never let your plant sit in water for extended periods of time. Wait until the top one to two inches (2.5-5 cm.) of the soil is dry before watering again. You want to have a happy medium between underwatering and overwatering.
- Know when to fertilize. Be sure to regularly fertilize during the active growing season. When wintertime comes, with much less light and cooler temperatures, most of your plants will slow down or stop growing altogether. Unless your plants are growing under grow lights, you can stop fertilizing in the winter months in most cases.
- Be sure to keep your plants away from any heating sources where your leaves and plants can burn. These areas can include heating ducts and fireplaces.
- Keep pests at bay. Regularly monitor your houseplants for pests and act early when it is easier to deal with pests. Look out for spider mites, mealybugs, scale, and other pests. Early detection and treatment are critical. If you notice any pests, wash your plants with warm water and use insecticidal soap, neem oil, or any other remedies recommended for specific pests.
- Increase humidity if your air is dry, especially during wintertime if you run forced air heat. Dry air is not only bad for your plants, but also for your skin. Set your plants on top of a tray with pebbles and water, making sure that the bottom of the pot doesn’t touch the water level. You can also run a humidifier.
- Keep your leaves clean. Plant leaves can get very dusty and this can inhibit photosynthesis as well as attract pests. Regularly clean your plants off to keep the leaves clean. Wipe off any larger leaves with a damp rag or you can spray your plants down outside, in a sink, or in a bathtub.
- Periodically prune your houseplants, especially if they have gotten leggy. This will help encourage new growth and it will result in bushier, fuller plants.
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Read more about General Houseplant Care
Are you a "brown thumb" plant parent?
OK, plants don't exactly shrivel up and die when you pass by, but you could use some help in keeping your plants from turning into weeds.
There’s a term for you: “Brown thumb.”
“There are four growth factors for a plant caretaker to use as a guide,” said Roy Dria, a horticulture teacher at Jackson High School. “These growth factors include water, nutrients, light and temperature. Water, while it seems the most simple, done incorrectly, it can easily and quickly lead to a plant’s demise.”
The key is to find the “Goldilocks” amount of water for each plant, not too much and not too little, Dria said.
“How much water is the right amount, that answer is more complicated,” he said. “Variables, like humidity, temperature, light, air movements, the type of plant, the size of plant, etc., will all play a role in the amount of water the plant may need.”
“A good general rule to follow is to keep the potting soil moist to the touch. However, don’t let your houseplant’s roots sit in water for very long. Roots breathe air just as people do, and that can suffocate the root hairs.”
Dria said nutrients are like a grocery store for the plant.
“Generally, follow fertilizer mix labels for application rate like you would follow a recipe in a cookbook,” he said. “Most plants are fed dilute nutrients as they are watered to optimize plant health. Specialty plants may require specialty fertilizers.”
The amount of light a plant needs, Dria said,
depends on the type of plant.
“Plant light needs range from high or bright light, to medium, to low,” he said. “Windows are great sources of natural light, but may provide too much or too little light depending on how a house is situated. Supplemental plant lights can also be used for plants with higher light needs. There are some nice apps on smartphones that can measure and provide a rough guide to how much light you need.”
The temperature best for most houseplants, Dria said, is about the same as it is for most people.
“Most should be kept above 50°F and below 85°F, consistent temperatures are key because plants need time to adapt, they can’t just put on a sweater,” he said. “That being said, most plants do not like the draft from being too close to a heat vent, fireplace and maybe even too close to a window.”
“The last piece of advice is to save the label when you buy a plant. You can often learn exactly what specific growth factors your plant prefers. Also, don’t give up if it doesn’t work out the first time for you and your plant. Talk the situation through with a knowledgeable person at your local garden center, and with a few adjustments, your next plant is bound to be a success.”
Here are 10 houseplants perfect for "brown thumbs" that experts say require minimal care:
1. Spider Plant: A bathroom favorite because it loves humidity. It cleans the air of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
2. Pothos: Also nicknamed Devil's Ivy, the widely popular pothos is a spreading plant. With sturdy and shiny green and white leaves, it does well in low light.
3. Palms: A classic that never goes out of style, slow-growing palms come in a variety of sizes.
4. Dragon Plant: Featuring spiky red-and-green-striped leaves, dragon plants love humidity. They prefer low lighting.
5. Dieffenbachia: It loves warm air. Its feature is green-and-white striped leaves.
6. Monstera: With dark leaves resembling an elephant's ear, Monsteras love light. A slow grower that comes in different sizes.
7. Aloe: Its plump, spiky leaves contain a healing balm popular for soothing insect stings and sunburn.
8. Peace lily: Noted for its striking looks, a graceful white bloom and dark green leaves, peace lillies are good air filters. They like bright light.
9. Dracaena trifasciata, or snake plant: Also known as Mother-in-Law's Tongue, their stiped, sword-like leaves do well in all types of light.
10. ZZ Plant: A popular selection for offices, it is drought-tolerant and does well in low light, which makes it ideal for corners.
1. Aloe Vera
Botanical Name: Aloe barbadensis
Aloe vera helps in keeping the indoor air clean and also treats burn and minor rashes, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Read more proven aloe vera benefits here.
Here’s all you need to know about growing aloe vera
Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum
Basil is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and a range of antioxidants. It helps in reducing oxidative stress and prevents carcinogen-induced tumors. Some of the best basil varieties for you to grow are here.
Check out our article on growing basil here
3. Spider Plant
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum
Spider plants are listed in NASA Clean Air Study. And according to one study, this indoor plant removed 95 percent of toxic compounds from a sealed Plexiglas chamber in 24 hours.
Some more scientifically proven spider plant benefits are here.
Here’s all you need to know about growing spider plants
Botanical Name: Lavandula
Lavender plants are prized for a calming, gentle, and pleasant aroma. This herb is admired for stress-relieving mental benefits. You can grow it indoors if you’ve got a south-facing window.
Check out our article on growing lavender here
5. English Ivy
Botanical Name: Hedera helix
Growing English ivy as a houseplant will benefit you in several ways. According to a study by the Department of Zoology, St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, it has been found that hedera helix has antioxidant, antispasmodic, antiallergic effects. One research proved that it could reduce the mold problem in homes.
Here’s all the information you need on growing English Ivy
6. Areca Palm
Botanical Name: Dypsis lutescens
Areca palm has the highest transpiration rate among several houseplants, making air humid that prevents asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, and dry, wrinkled skin. To read more about Areca palm benefits, click here!
Fun Fact: A healthy 5-6 feet tall plant can release up to 1 quart (946.35 ml) of water vapor in the air every 24 hours.
Check out our article on growing Areca Plam here
7. Snake Plant
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
This great oxygen-producing houseplant can absorb harmful toxins from indoor air and also decrease the odds of airborne allergies. Read more snake plant benefits here.
Want to grow Snake Plant Indoors? Click here for all the details
Botanical Name: Salvia rosmarinus
This herb has been used for centuries in folk medicine to improve memory and concentration. To know more about its benefits, click here!
Here’s everything you need to know about growing Rosemary
9. Peace Lily
Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum wallisii
Besides purifying air, this elegant plant also absorbs the Acetone vapors that are commonly found in house paints, eliminating the chances of low blood pressure and headache.
Read more about some awesome peace lily benefits here.
Check out our article on growing Peace Lily here
10. Boston Fern
Botanical Name: Nephrolepis exaltata
It is one of the best air-purifying plants you can grow. Boston fern is also termed as a natural humidifier and helps in eliminating dry skin problems.
Keep the soil moist and place the plant in bright indirect sunlight.
11. Common Purslane
Botanical Name: Portulaca oleracea
Often treated as a weed, you can grow this edible plant indoors because it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, an excellent natural antioxidant, and a rich source of vitamins A and C. Check out more edible weeds here.
Here’s all you need to know about growing Purslane
Botanical Name: Epipremnum aureum
According to a study by the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, pothos helps in strengthening memory and improving concentration.
This air-purifying plant also has several other benefits, which you should see here.
Check out our article on growing pothos here
Botanical Name: Matricaria recutita
Growing chamomile at home will give you an endless supply of its leaves and flowers to make tea which has calming effects and also helps in reducing anxiety and induces better sleep.
Here’s all you need to know about growing Chamomile
14. Gerbera Daisy
Botanical Name: Gerbera jamesonii
What could be better than having a flowering plant indoors that also helps in increasing oxygen in rooms for better sleep, while cleaning out formaldehyde from the indoor air?
Check out our article on growing Gerbera Daisy here
Botanical Name: Sedum
All the sedum species are edible, but the yellow flowering ones should not be eaten raw. These plants have anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive properties and is also rich in alkaloids, tannins, and cyanogenic compounds. Using its leaf juice can help eliminate gastric and inflammatory disorders. Also, check out more edible succulents here.
Here’s all you need to know about growing Sedum
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Food and Water for Indoor Plants
When watering houseplants, use tepid water. If your tap water is high in chlorine, let it stand a day, uncovered, before watering plants. You can also purchase a jug of distilled water to use. One of the trickiest parts of watering plants is knowing the right amount. To test the soil for moisture, stick your finger at least 1/2 inch into the soil. Small pots may need water every day or two. Large ones may go a week between waterings. Check often experience soon will tell you when to water. Add water until it drains through the hole in the bottom of the pot and shows in the saucer. This ensures that the entire root area receives a thorough soaking. Empty the saucer about 20 minutes after watering. If you're away from home, you can keep plants healthy for up to three weeks by watering them, then covering with makeshift plastic tents. Use bamboo or plastic stakes or bent clothes hangers to support the plastic above the plant leaves. (Of course, you can always ask a neighbor or friend to water them!)
Buy a good balanced houseplant fertilizer for most plants, a specialized one if you have African violets, bromeliads, or orchids. The three numbers on the fertilizer label (such as 10-20-10) refer to the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen gives the plant lush foliage. Phosphorus keeps roots and stems strong and healthy. Potassium encourages blooms. Plants need little feeding in the winter when they are almost dormant. Fertilize more in the spring and summer when they are growing more actively. Take good care of your plants and they'll improve your home's air, acting as natural purifiers.