No Green Thumb? No Problem!

by Kent Higgins

The definition of “house plant” is pretty loose now days. Everything from exotic flowers to stark cacti to lush trees can be a house plant. If you can it through the door and it grows, it’s a house plant. Coming in all shapes and sizes, these plants all have special needs to keep them healthy and looking good in your home. Even if you’re not a green thumb, you can keep them looking great with just a few simple tips.

First, choose a plant that’s right for you. The infinite variety of house plants is great, but you’ll want to make sure the one you pick is suited to both your home and your abilities. If you plan to locate the plant at a northern window of your home, then low-light needs plants will be best (orchids, ivies, small trees). If your choice is a south or west-facing window that gets lots of light, then you’ll want to place a plant that needs that such as cacti and ferns.

When looking at plants to purchase for your home, make sure they look healthy. A plant that shows proper color and buds or new growth is a healthy plant and will be much easier to transplant and care for than one that isn’t so healthy. Bushier plants are generally stronger than “leggy” (long-stemmed, heavy root growth) plants. This is because you’ll be transplanting it and if there is too much on the bottom and not enough on top to support it, it will not do well. Remember, plants eat sunlight, so the more plant on top, the better.

Walk past plants that have browning or yellowing on the leaves as this is a sign of under and over watering (respectively). Once you choose a plant and move it to a new container and place it in your home, expect it to some leaves and get a little sickly-looking for a day or two. It’s acclimating to its new home, so it will take a little time.

The plant should the room, not just based on sunlight exposure, but also on the room’s climate. Your bathroom and are likely to be more humid than your living room or bedroom, so plants with heavy water requirements (like ferns) are better off in kitchens and baths while plants with dry needs (like cacti) be better in other spots.

Remember that to care for plants means that you need to provide them with adequate light and water. Light is what they eat and water is what they drink, so supply both to keep your plant healthy. Plants will “bend” and grow in the direction of light, so make sure to turn your plants regularly to give each “side” time in the sun. Usually a 180-degree rotation with each watering does the trick. Other plants like the Spathiphyllum Peace Lilly need moderate or filtered light most of the day.

Most plants do their growing at night, so make sure yours have some darkness daily. This means that natural lighting or light bulbs that mimic the sun should be turned off at least a couple of hours a day to let the plant have darkness. Likewise, if you live in the northern parts of the world and have seasons with little sunlight, supplement your plants for a couple of hours a day with lights that mimic natural sunlight. These are available at most garden stores and aren’t very expensive.

Finally, keep pets off the plants to avoid them injured by rambunctious animals. Remember to water regularly, according to the plant’s needs, and enjoy your new-found green thumb!

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