Essential Tips for Caring for Your Houseplants
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Essential Tips for Caring for Your Houseplants
with Haley Fox
Greetings, plant friends! Spring is just around the corner, bringing us longer days and warmer weather. This means we can resume our regular watering and plant care routines. Exciting news I know, but before we jumpstart these routines, let’s discuss exactly what watering our plants should look like.
One of the most common troubles we experience as plant parents is over or under watering. Properly watering your plant requires a full understanding and awareness of what your plant needs. Every plant is different, and your whole collection will not be on the same watering schedule. The state of your plant’s soil is always changing. The three states of the soil are either, Saturated / Partially dry / Completely dry.
I check my plants once weekly to determine what watering they may need. Plants, like Ferns, prefer to be consistently moist, not saturated. Other plants, such as snake plants, like to go bone-dry between watering. The rate at which your plant needs to be watered will be directly related to its environment. A plant sitting near a bright window with lots of air circulation will dry out much faster than a plant located in a dark and stagnant corner of your living room.
Keeping this in mind, research your plant’s needs and understand the different states of the soil. Helpful tip, understanding what conditions your plant receives in its natural growing environment, can help you to emulate these conditions in your home. When watering, it is best to thoroughly water. Many of us may give our plant half a cup of water on Tuesday, and come Saturday, the last sip of water from our glass. These tendencies are usually developed from the fear of over watering. A more efficient way to water is to completely soak your plant so that you see water escaping from the drainage hole. (Assuming it has drainage) … (Your pot should always have drainage)
Base your next watering on your new knowledge of your plant and monitor how quickly or slowly the soil is drying. A helpful tool for this is a moisture meter, these can be placed in the soil and give you a reading on how wet or dry the soil is. I found this tool helpful when I first started collecting houseplants. It’s like a set of training wheels before you feel that you have learned your plants needs and can be found at most any house plant nursery.
So, let’s get to the root of it…Why is overwatering a plant harmful?
Well, when the roots of your plants become water-logged, it prevents their ability to support your plant with nutrients and to further absorb water when it is time for a drink. Furthermore, they cannot absorb oxygen needed to sustain the plant. To resolve this, move your plant to an outdoor shaded area, if needed plant in dry potting soil, and leave the plant alone.
Under watering your plants can be just as harmful as overwatering. Lack of watering can cause leaf drop, slow growth, curled leaves, and yellowing. There is no set amount or frequency for watering your plants; it is for you to learn your plant, and its needs. After all, that is the beauty of growing houseplants.
Fertilizing Your Indoor Plants
It is important that you are fertilizing ONLY during the growing season. For us here in So-Cal, this is year round. Because we are in a subtropical zone, temperatures do not get cold enough to send our plants into dormancy, however, you may notice less growth during winter, we’ll touch on this shortly. To determine what your growing season is, you can do a quick google search to find out.
Do we want our plants to grow all year? Yes! But even in the subtropical region I found my indoor plants slowing down for a month in the winter. Why shouldn’t you fertilize your way through it? Because your plant won’t use those nutrients! They will end up burning the roots… worse off the foliage.
I find the most success fertilizing once or twice monthly with a mild and all organic fertilizer.
The three digit ratio on the front of the bottle indicates the weight of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and potassium in your container. Each of these serves a valuable role in the health and growth of your plants.
Nitrogen is used for leaf growth and health, phosphorous is used in the formation of new roots as well as the production of seeds, fruit, and flowers. Potassium helps make strong stems and growth.
Both synthetic and organic fertilizers are on the market, but how can you tell the difference? Which should you use?
Synthetic fertilizers have will have a high ratio on their bottle such as 16-16-16. This is indicative of a high concentration of NPK – Such high values can only be achieved in a lab.
Organic fertilizers have a smaller ratio, such as 4-3-1 – making them gentler, and the NPK values are obtained from natural sources rather than being synthesized in a lab. Natural sources can include those from animal waste, such as guano or worm castings. Another popular option is guano, (bat excrements).
Here’s the difference – Synthetic fertilizers will give you immediate results, but they are only feeding the plant with a mass amount of nutrients, rather than improving the overall health and longevity of the soil. What I mean by this, is that you may have green leafs right away, and that push of growth is thrilling, but it is not beneficial in the Long run. Organic fertilizers work slowly by sustaining the plant and doing work below the soil. This concept is best explained through biodynamic gardening- aimed to enhance the overall health of the soil, offering a sustainable environment for your plants, long term, rather than sporadic bursts of nutrients.
In conclusion, what fertilizer you use, Organic, synthetic, slow release, this hobby is all about you learning your plants, growing with them… and growing with us! Stop by our house plant nursery to pick up all of your amendments, fertilizers & more! Until next time.