How to Avoid Houseplant Heartbreak

By Morgan McClary

In the world of house­plants, a box of choco­lates and an I’m sor­ry” will not repair the dam­age that can be done to your oxy­gen-pro­duc­ing com­pan­ions by a lack of love and care. Plants seem com­pli­cat­ed, but they don’t have to be. Ask­ing ques­tions and doing a lit­tle research can go a long way to avoid house­plant heartbreak. 

Before head­ing to the green­house, take an inven­to­ry of your home. Deter­mine where you would like plants, then esti­mate the bright­ness and length of sun­light these areas receive each day. Next con­sid­er the lev­el of humid­i­ty and, final­ly, the amount of time you are will­ing to ded­i­cate to plant care. Once you’ve gath­ered this infor­ma­tion, it’s time for the best part: plant shopping!

Green­house staff are typ­i­cal­ly very knowl­edge­able and will­ing to guide you on your house­plant jour­ney. Faddegon’s Nurs­ery in Lath­am is one of my favorite places to explore. Their selec­tion is incred­i­ble. The grounds are breath­tak­ing. And their employ­ees will sure­ly point you in the right direc­tion — espe­cial­ly if you’ve come ready with the infor­ma­tion you’ve gleaned from your home envi­ron­ment and your own time com­mit­ment. Faddegon’s web­site also has care guides to which you can eas­i­ly refer. But in case you’d like a lit­tle arm­chair advice to get start­ed, here’s what I know that is impor­tant to your suc­cess:

1. Choos­ing the Right Plants: Think back to the con­di­tions of your home or the space you’d like to grow your plants. What did you deter­mine regard­ing light lev­els, humid­i­ty, and time commitment?

2. Light­ing, Light­ing, Light­ing: Prop­er light­ing is key to healthy plants. Most fall into three categories:

  • Low Light: Ide­al for plants requir­ing min­i­mal nat­ur­al light. Exam­ples include Pothos and ZZ plants. 
  • Medi­um Light: String of Tur­tles and Calath­eas thrive in bright, indi­rect light.
  • Bright Light: Suc­cu­lents, cac­ti and most var­ie­gat­ed house­plants shine in bright direct sun­light.

3. Water­ing: Over­wa­ter­ing is def­i­nite­ly a plant faux pas. The fre­quen­cy and amount of water depend on the type of plant, its size, and the envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. Here are two gen­er­al guidelines:

  • Check the Soil: Before water­ing, check the top inch of soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. You can’t water too much, as long as your pot has drainage, but you can water too fre­quent­ly. I water my plants until the soil is com­plete­ly sat­u­rat­ed and run­ning out the bot­tom of the pot.
  • Con­sis­ten­cy is Key: Estab­lish a con­sis­tent water­ing sched­ule, but be flex­i­ble. Adjust based on sea­son­al changes and the plan­t’s spe­cif­ic needs.

4. Humid­i­ty: Most house­plants pre­fer high­er humid­i­ty lev­els. As a rule of thumb, try to main­tain above 50 per­cent rel­a­tive humid­i­ty in the area your plants will be locat­ed. You can find an inex­pen­sive, qual­i­ty, hygrometer/​ther­mome­ter at Faddegon’s or online.

Tips to Increase Humidity: 

  • Group­ing Plants: Place plants togeth­er to cre­ate a microen­vi­ron­ment with increased humidity.
  • Mist­ing: Light­ly mist the leaves, espe­cial­ly dur­ing dri­er seasons.
  • Humid­i­fiers: Invest in a humid­i­fi­er, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you live in a dry climate.

No one likes a bro­ken heart. But, if you’re will­ing to fol­low these guide­lines, ask ques­tions, and adjust accord­ing­ly, you’re bound to keep yours intact. Keep in mind, all guide­lines are just that — guide­lines. Be will­ing to exper­i­ment and try again even if you do lose a few of your botan­i­cal buds along the way. You need to beleaf in yourself”.

Want to meet oth­er house­plant enthu­si­asts and get more advice? Come to the Lan­dis Arbore­tum House­plant Swap on April 27, 11 AM. – 1 PM. See our web­site (https://​lan​dis​ar​bore​tum​.org/ev…) for details.

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Spring 2024

Volume 42 , Number 1

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