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Keeping House Plants Alive

House plants add so much life to a room. However, as I mentioned yesterday in my post about plants in design, for some reason when it comes to indoor plants, I have had a major learning curve. Outside plants – great. Inside plants – droopy, sad, desperate looking. Thankfully I have a mother who is the plant whisperer and has taught me a few tricks over the years.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my mom that have increased the survival rate of house plants in my abode, and can increase yours too!
#5 Buy low-maintenance varieties.  Here are some suggestions that I shared yestereday:
[1] philodendron {via}  
[2] golden pothos {via}
[3] peace lily {via} 
[4] umbrella plant {via}       
[5] rubber tree {via}  

In addition to these, the Madagascar dragon tree (aka Dracaena) is very hearty. {Here is one of mine TEN YEARS ago when it was just a baby, in the sunroom of our old house. If I can keep a plant alive for a whole decade then so can you!}
Another wonderful plant to explore is the succulent, which comes in many varieties.
I bought this one at Ikea about 6 months ago, and I can’t get over how little care it needs. I am entirely neglectful of this little guy who lives on Mark’s bedside table, watering only when I realize I haven’t payed attention to him in ages, and yet he continues to thrive.
#4 Consider the soil and pot.  When you first buy a plant, it likely has enough healthy soil for the time being. However, as your plant grows, make sure to give it plenty of space and a good potting soil to help it to thrive (which may mean repotting your plant into a larger container). Also, any container will do, from recycled plastic containers to beautiful ceramic pots, but make sure the pot your plant is living in has drainage holes on the bottom, otherwise your plant will get soggy and it’s roots will rot.
#3 Shed some light on your plants.  While your bookcase may be screaming for a little green, if it’s across the room from the windows your plant is going to get very wilty. Most house plants like bright but indirect light. That means near a window, but you also don’t want the strong midday sun burning up your little plant. If the edges of the leaves turn brown or have brown spots on them, your plant is getting too much sun. Try moving your plant to a window in another part of your house if it’s not thriving in one location.
#2 Give your plants a little food. About once a month, I add a few drops of Miracle Gro for house plants to the water. I do it round the first of the month, and actually put it on my calendar because otherwise – forgetaboutit. Over-fertilizing can burn and kill your plant, so use it sparingly.
And now – the most important rule to keeping your house plants alive………

#1 Don’t over-water!!!
Overwatering is the single biggest reason house plants die. Overwatering rots the roots of your plant and makes it unable to drink. I water most of my plants about once a week. Wait until a good inch of the top soil is dry; it’s usually okay even if your plant starts to wilt a bit – both my pothos and philodendron will perk back up again soon after a watering. If your plants are small enough to carry, bring them to the sink, give them a good soak and let them drain.
Don’t forget #4 – use a pot with drainage holes to let that excess water out.
Keep in mind that 
brown leaves = too little water*
yellow leaves = too much water.
*brown edges or spots = too much sun
In my floor plants I use these Aqua Globes. Ask any serious gardener (or read gardening forums) and they will tell you not to waste your money, but I like them. They’re pretty, plus they are handy when you are on vacation. You fill them up with water, make a hole into the soil of your plant (all the way down to the roots – I used a metal skewer that I moved around a bit to create a wide enough hole) and insert the Aqua Globe. They don’t take the place of regular care, but for those of us who may tend to neglect plants, they ensure your plant will stay hydrated.

They also come in a mini version for smaller plants.

For you black thumbers, I hope Mom’s tips help you to not only keep some houseplants alive, but actually get them to thrive! If I can do it, so can you!

Plants in Design
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Mary Ann at classic•casual•home

Monday 27th of May 2013

Great tips...especially the brown vs. yellow leaves...makes sense when you think about it.

Tiffany @ {Living Savvy}

Friday 24th of May 2013

Great tips! I have kept my alive for a while... but never thought about feeding it! Thanks!

Kimberly Lemmon

Thursday 23rd of May 2013

I agree, Lisa. Plants add light and softness to a space. Good care tips, too. I never knew that yellow leaves = overwatering!

pam {simple details}

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

Thanks for the fertilizer reminder, I'm not great at that, I just water all of them once a week! I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that's going to keep my fiddle leaf fig happy!

Anonymous

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

What is your favorite brand of potting soil? I am about to re-pot some plants and I am not sure what brand to buy. Thanks