Some people just seem to be naturally gifted with a green thumb and can keep any plant alive, but those of us without that magical green thumb…well, the best we can come to with plant care are artificial ones. However! That doesn’t mean that there is no hope because we’ve put together this ultimate plant guide to help you learn how to take care of a plant and keep it alive for longer than a week!
Rules Of Sunlight
Different types of plants will typically need different amounts and intensity of sunlight. If you buy a plant from a store, there will usually be a tag stuck into the soil that explains what sort of sunlight the plant needs. These are broken down into:
Full Sun — 6 hours of direct sun
Part Sun — Between 3 to 6 hours of direct sun
Part Shade — Require 3 to 6 hours of sun, but not the intense mid-day sun
Full Shade — Less than 3 hours of direct sun
Depending on what plants you are interested in owning, you’ll want to keep the lighting in your home in mind. If you want a specific plant, but it requires full sun and your home loses the sunlight quickly, then you might want to reconsider the plant. Three of the most popular types of indoor plants each require a different amount of light as well:
Succulents and Cacti: Daily and continuous sunlight
Foliage: Around 8 hours of light each day.
Other popular indoor plants, but ones that prefer low lighting and thrive in it, include philodendron, devil’s ivy, and the peace lily.
Too Much Or Too Little Sunlight
Just like people can be harmed by being in the sun for too long or can have negative reactions in the winter months from lack of sunlight, plants are also sensitive to the amount of light they receive or don’t. Plants like succulents and cacti will always want to be kept in the sun because they will thrive. Other plants, however, aren’t quite so keen on the full-time sun, but there are signs from your plants to let you know what they want or don’t like.
Too Much Sunlight:
1. Flower petals dry out.
2. The edges of leaves may look dried out or even burnt.
3. Flowers lose their colour.
4. The plant itself may tend to droop (which may be a lack of water as well).
Too Little Sunlight
1. The plant isn’t growing as much, or growth is thinly distributed.
2. There are fewer flower buds and flowers.
3. The entire plant may lean towards sources of light (clear desperate sign).
4. The distance between the leaf and where it attached to the stem is noticeably far apart.
Keep an eye on your house plants after you buy them and test out sunspots because the first little bit may just take some trial and error when figuring out what place is best.
Rules Of Watering
Watering is another important part of plant care but is also a part where some plants may be picky about the amount of water, just as they are with the amount of sunlight. Some plants, like cacti, let you get away with sparse watering, while other plants require regular water but are picky regarding when they want water. There are ways you can check when a plant needs to be watered or not:
Moisture meter: provides a scale that tells you how dry the soil is.
Lifting the plant up: If the plant is heavy, it has plenty of water. If the plant is light, it is dry and likely needs some water.
Wilting: This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, and your plant is dead, but it does mean the plant doesn’t have enough water. Lift it to check and water as necessary.
Yellow leaves: This may be a dual sign of either the plant having too much or too little water. The best way to check is to test the soil and lift the plant. If it has too much, make sure there are holes in the pot to let the water drain out and hold off on watering it for a bit.
Many plants can be watered directly onto the soil, but there are some plants that dislike having their leaves or stems wet, and so should be watered from the base of the pot. Others still, prefer a light mist spray, and remember, if you overwater, there is the risk of rotting the roots of the plant.
Watering from above: Plants such as most tropical plants, ferns, and foliage, are fine to receive their water directly onto the soil from the surface and won’t be upset by getting their leaves or stems wet.
Water from below: Plants such as cacti, succulents, or African violets will react negatively if their leaves or stems get wet. To water these, make sure your pot has drainage holes, then place a saucer of water underneath the pot for about 20 minutes before draining. This way, the plants can absorb the water from their roots.
Misting leaves and aerial roots: Orchids and areca palms like to absorb water from their leaves and aerial roots, so providing a regular mist spray will keep them happy. Water the compost as well to keep them healthy, but this is required less regularly required than misting.
Most plants should be watered every 2-4 days until the soil is moist, while desert cacti and succulents are less frequent and only require it when the top of the soil feels dry. Winter will require less watering for any plants, as they tend to grow slower during those months. As well, if your plant is soft, furry, is a succulent or cacti, it is a safe rule of thumb not to water them from the top! Provide a saucer underneath, and make sure to dump the excess water after about 20 minutes to avoid rotting the roots.
Cause Of Death
Providing too much or too little light, plain neglect, and over or under-watering, are the most common reasons why plants die. Some plants may also just die because they have reached the natural end of their lifespans. So, if it looks like your plant is coming to its end, make sure it’s not from lack of sunlight or water before you make the decision to buy a replacement. A healthy and well cared for plant can live for years while others may naturally live for only a few months.
The Perfect Plants For The No Green Thumb Club
These plants are all the perfect choices when it comes to those without a green thumb, but who still want the joy of a house plant. You’ve got the knowledge of proper sunlight and water care down, now it’s just time to pick one of these stubborn and robust plants to apply some TLC to!
1. Spider Plant
Water: Loves water, but make sure there are drains in the pot to allow any excess water out and remember to remove the excess. You can also water these plants from the top down.
Sunlight: Thrives in bright, but indirect light.
Water: You can water this plant from the top without issue, but allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before you water it again. A good way to test is to stick your finger in the soil and see how dry the soil is.
Sunlight: Keep in bright but indirect sunlight, so no light actually touches the leaves. If you notice the leaves going yellow it may be getting too much light, but if the leaves are spaced far from the stem it is not getting enough!
3. Boston Fern
Water: These plants love water, so water them till the soil is thoroughly wet, then make sure it can drain out the bottom. Use your finger to check if the top of the soil is dry and needs watering.
Sunlight: These plants are robust but do have slight specifications for light requirements. In the winter and fall, they like indirect and bright sunlight. But in the spring, when the sun is intense, it should be kept in a partly shady area.
4. Jade Plant
Water: Keep these plants moist, but don’t drench the soil. In the winter time, let the soil dry out between watering. If the leaves start dropping, it needs more water. If they turn soggy, lessen up on the water.
Sunlight: Jade plants need, at minimum, 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, so you can safely keep them in a bright, sunny spot in your home.
5. Sweetheart Hoya
Water: This plant is similar to cacti and succulents in the sense that the soil can be kept fairly dry. When you do water it, make sure the water drains right through and leaves the soil fairly wet. Just be sure that you don’t overwater and risk root rot.
Sunlight: This low maintenance plant can be kept in low-shade areas, but if you want it to bloom and really thrive, then keep it in bright or indirect sunlight.
Water: These are one of the plants that like to be misted to stay hydrated. Keep the soil damp as well, but never soaking, and make sure there is a drainage for the soil to remove excess water.
Sunlight: Never place this plant in direct sunlight, as the sun can scorch the leaves. Keep it in semi-shade or light that comes through a screen so that it is indirect.
(Bonus: this plant purifies the air naturally!)
Water: Keep the soil in a fine balance with the water level of the soil–it should never be bone dry, but also never soaking. Don’t let the leaves get wet, so take care with watering, and make sure it drains thoroughly, then let the soil dry totally before you water it.
Sunlight: As one of the sunlight loving succulents, these plants love full and direct sunlight. Do be careful though, if you live in a particularly hot climate, that you don’t scorch the plant with sun.
8. English Ivy
Water: Water it thoroughly so the soil is wet, but keep a saucer underneath so the soil can drain thoroughly, and make sure to toss the excess water.
Sunlight: This plant is low-maintenance with its sunlight requirements, so just keep it in bright and indirect sunlight for it to flourish happily.
9. Peace Lily
Water: Keep the soil moist, but not bone dry or soaking wet. Too little water will cause the plant to wilt, while too much will cause root rot. Water this once a week, once the soil is dry.
Sunlight: Because of their background in tropical and warmer climates, these plants can be kept in indirect sunlight and warmer temperatures. Just don’t keep them in direct sun for the full day, otherwise, they won’t be happy.
(Warning: these plants are toxic to pets)
10. Parlor Palm
Water: With this plant, keep the watering spare. Allow the soil to dry completely before watering again and lessen the watering even more so in the winter months.
Sunlight: These palms are slow growers, but even so, they prefer low light and can suffer in full light. Keep an eye on the leaves for signs of drooping or yellowing in case it needs more or less sun.
(Bonus: this plant is also an excellent natural air purifier!)