A beginners guide to houseplants



So you're a new plant collector, where do you start? Well I promise this guide will help give you all the basic starting knowledge you need.


When people get new plants they tend to care for them too much and even forget about their other plants - I know I'm guilty of this too!


First: The Basics

Let's start with watering; I'd recommend once a week initially.

Keeping your plant in a nursery pot as well as a ceramic, this ensures that you can take your plant out of your planter to allow excess water to drain away. Too much water can cause root rot and that is a whole other can of worms! Watering needs can vary plant to plant. The best thing to do is simply stick your finger in the soil. If your finger looks like the left picture do not water it! If it looks like the right picture, it's ready for some water. It's as easy as that!




Next is lighting. Again, this can vary depending on the plant. Most plants do well in all types of rooms, window sills are a great place. There are signs to tell when a plant needs more light; if the leaves start to change colour and/or size, if your plant leans too much, or if it becomes 'leggy'. Plants leaning more towards light is quite natural you can turn them to straighten them up again. However, if they are leaning a lot more than they should, they can become 'leggy', they need to be moved closer to the sun. 'Leggy' means that its stems have stretched to extremes, getting thin and tall, like a lanky teenager you could say!


If you need help identifying your plant and its needs, I would definitely recommend getting an app like 'Planta' or 'PictureThis'. There are lots of good instagram accounts with tips and tricks too. One of my favourites is @potted.forest check them out!


Thirsty Plants

Now plants can be quite dramatic, don't panic when you see all the leaves drooping, just a little bit of water can be all it needs. Peace lilies being the most dramatic by far.

Your plants leaves tend to curl or wrinkle when your plant needs water.

Your pot may also start to feel lighter, meaning the soil has become dry.

A more obvious and urgent sign would be the tips of your leaves starting to go brown.

Just be careful not to over water!



These two pictures were taken 24 hours apart after just watering it! So dramatic!


The best way for me, is using the finger method mentioned above. Take your plant over a sink and water it until water starts coming out the bottom and stop as soon as it does. This is called deep watering, it will encourage the roots to grow deeper down into the soil without the soil being oversaturated. Make sure the pot has stopped dripping before popping it back into your planter, you don't want it sitting in excess water.


Pests

Now let me tell you about those pesky pests. That's right even house plants can get those little annoying bugs living on them. Don't worry, if you know how to spot them you'll be able to keep your plant pest free and happy.


First, the most common types of pests;

  • Aphids - tiny white, green, yellow or black soft bodied insects. These will produce honeydew and cause yellowing and distorted leaves. They can reproduce very quickly so make sure to check for them on new growth

  • Spider Mites - very tiny creatures, they cluster along the undersides of the leaves and where the leaves and stems meet. They tend to thrive in dry and hot conditions. These will cause your plant to look faded.

  • Mealybug - small cotton-like bug rather easier to spot. Like Spider Mites, these like to hide on the undersides of leaves and stems. They can distort the growth of your plant. They also produce honeydew.

  • Scale - stationary sucking insects with shell-like coverings. They typically gather on the leaf undersides and stems but you will sometimes find them on leaf surfaces. These produce honeydew and distort growth.

  • Whitefly - tiny white moth-like creatures. You will spot them flying around the infected plant if it has been disturbed or moved. They feed on the leaf undersides, producing honeydew and stunt the growth of the plant, the leaves will start to turn yellow and die if not treated.

Mealybugs Spider Mites

Whitefly Aphids

Scale


As you can tell the main symptoms of pests are;

  • Changes in leaf colour or texture.

  • Leaves becoming spotted, speckled or yellow when insects are present.

  • Leaves becoming distorted or misshapen, often looking cupped or pinched.

  • Finally, you may spot webs draped along leaf undersides or where it attaches to the stems.

But wait... Whats honeydew?

This is a substance that the insects secrete. It makes the leaves unusually shiny and sticky. Honeydew also encourages soot-like mould to grow on leaves, creating black smudges. It will drip onto nearby surfaces, coating with a sticky layer.


How to avoid an insect problem

Now I know that all sounds a bit scary. How can there be so many different bugs that can kill your beloved plants?! Well, to minimise insect infestations you just need to follow a few simple steps.

  • Make sure you visually inspect your plants each time you water them

  • Clean your plants leaves regularly. Dust can shelter insects and/or eggs. Make sure to wipe the leaves with a damp cloth or sponge and spray them with water.

  • Keep your plant healthy by providing the ideal conditions. Just like us humans, if your plant is healthy its a lot less likely to get infected. Nothing keeps insects away like a healthy plant.

It's as easy as that!


Root Rot

Root rot is my own worst and most common enemy. I have to admit I can panic and over water my plants sometimes. We are all only human. Root rot is quite literally when the plants roots start to rot in soil. This happens when the soil is constantly too moist caused by overwatering.


If your plant has root rot the newer leaves will start to go white and fall off very easily. The older leaves, especially towards the bottom of the plant, will start to get brown and almost soggy. You may also spot the base of the stem rotting. If you suspect you have root rot or can't figure out why your leaves are turning yellow/white, take it out of the pot and remove as much soil from around the roots as possible. The roots will look black and mushy if your suspicions are correct.


You can see the black and mushy root rot starting to infect the healthy roots and plant stems.


Now with root rot you have to act fast!

First, wash the roots with water. Then take a sharp pair of scissors and trim away all the affected roots. In cases where you are left with majority of the roots gone, you can trim back the leaves too so your plant isn't supporting more than what the left over roots can handle, giving it more of a chance to grow back its roots. Be sure to wash out the pot your plant was originally in, if you want to be really thorough use bleach when cleaning. Make sure when you repot the plant that the pot as a good amount of drainage and you use a new and dry potting soil (Houseplant or Cacti Mix). Finally, make sure to only water your plant when the top inch of soil is dry and keep your fingers crossed that you've saved your plant!


TOP TIP: Ground cinnamon can be sprinkled on the top layer of soil around the base of your plant to keep the root rot at at bay. If you see a sort of white mould forming here then scoop it away and sprinkle the cinnamon onto the soil. This will hopefully stop the mould/rot going any further into the soil.


So that is all you need to know to start your happy and healthy plant collection. Don't forget the time you spend watering and taking care of your plants is also your own self care time. So don't rush it and don't beat yourself up too much if your plants die. You'll get better at looking after them the longer you do it and the more you have!


Next month's blog, I will be talking about propagating different plants and succulents with all my top tips included! So if you don't want to miss it, make your you sign up to newsletter on our homepage!


Don't forget to check out out social media accounts for more tips and care advice!

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