I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t always been good with plants, despite having a degree in horticulture! However, over the years, I have found some plants I am great with (usually those who forgive been missed off the weekly watering – Hello Pothos!) and some that I don’t get on with (Cactus, I am looking at you!).
So don’t ever write yourself off as a bad Plant Parent; maybe you haven’t found your perfect plant yet! But in the meantime, here are some of my top tips for getting it right.
Get to know your plants. Know which ones prefer lots of light, which ones like humidity and which ones need more watering than others. If a plant isn’t thriving in one part of your home, you might find it just needs to be moved to a different windowsill or room.
Make a routine. I usually (usually!) water my plants on a Saturday. And by this, I don’t mean I water all of them, as some are the kind who like their soil to dry out a little, so if they feel damp still, then they get skipped that week. Making watering part of your weekly routine, like the laundry, or cleaning the bathroom, means you regularly keep an eye on the plants. You will spot any pests or diseases fairly promptly before they get a chance to take over your entire collection.
Don’t overwater your plants! This can often be the most common mistake people make. Most plants (not all – see points 1 and 2!) prefer their soil to dry out a little on the surface before they are watered again. Soggy roots will lead to root rot and other issues, so make sure your plants aren’t sat in stagnant water all week.
Dust your plants. Just like you would do for your furniture to keep it clean and shiny, your plants will appreciate their leaves being wiped or dusted regularly to ensure their pores (stomata) don’t get clogged and give them the best conditions for photosynthesis. If your plant has glossy leaves, then a damp cloth is fine to wipe them with, but if the leaves have any hairs or spikes on them, then a feather duster is best to remove dirt.
Check their roots. If a plant grows too big for its pot and becomes root bound, it will become unhappy. On the other hand, some plants (Monstera & Phalaenopsis or other epiphytic plants, for example) grow quite well with restricted roots, so they should be repotted less often. Also, some pests will start in the soil before appearing on the leaves, which is a good early warning sign.
Ask for help! Find the plant equivalent to Mumsnet (or other less crazy parenting sites!) for your area and post your questions to the wider community. This is also a great place to trade plants and cuttings and ask for tips! On the Isle of Man, my go-to site on Facebook is Isle of Man house plant swap/sell/share.