Let’s face it, plants, gardening, green stuff… it can all seem a bit intimidating to some! It often seems like you need some secret knowledge to get it right, a skilled hand, green fingers… But, that’s not so! By following a few basic plant care points you can avoid some of the usual mistakes!
I’ve put together 5 plant care tips which should help to demystify the care of plants, and help you get the best out of your plants, whether they are indoors or out. As you read through, I’m sure you’ll have a ‘few light bulb moments’ (let’s call them plant epiphanies), and I look forward to seeing your healthier, happier plants AND seeing your growing confidence…err…grow!
1. The position
As much as possible, you should try to emulate the natural habitat of your plants when you find places for them around your home. For example, ferns that grow in cool, moist forests will be most at home in a wet bathroom, whilst desert loving cactus will thrive on sunny windowsills. Of course, you could try them the other way around, but the plants won’t be as happy as they could be, and may eventually die!
Outdoors, the rule is the same. If the labels says ‘partial shade’, then make sure that’s where you plant it. Some plants are indeed adaptable, but you’d rather they were happy and flowered well for you, rather than struggles to adapt and survive surely?
2. The watering
Oh my gosh. I know what it’s like when you get your first plant. You want to give it all the very best care. It’s like having a new pet in the home. But, go easy on the watering…
The main problem with houseplants is that people overwater them. I know how it goes, you walk past your plant a few times a day, and think ‘oh I must give it some water’, without any regularity. Most people end up over-watering their plants. It’s far better to set yourself a smart phone reminder, so you can water your plants only when they need it.
As a (very rough) rule, flowering and foliage plants need a little more water, whilst cacti and succulents do not, as they store their own. However, with any plant, only water then the compost of the soil dries out. There are, of course, exceptions, but again it will always be shown on the label. Carnivorous plants like constant moisture, so will be happiest sitting in a saucer of water.
‘Humidity’ can also be important for some plants, and check on the label for this advice. Again, you’re trying to emulate the natural habitat of those plants.
I recently stayed with a friend and his Gardenia hadn’t re-flowered since he bought it. I could see it needed humidity (water mist), so advised him to spray it, and a week later, it was covered in flowers!
Outdoors, making the most of water is the key, and directing it to where it needs to be is the most important thing. If you’re growing plants in containers, remember that rainfall will seldom penetrate the canopy of foliage, so make sure you hand-water them too. Plants up against walls and fences can also miss out on rainfall.
Water outdoors either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, this will avoid waste and evaporation. I would also recommend using a nozzle hose rather than s spray, this means you can direct the water to the plant, and not distribute it willy-nilly and waste it!
3. The feeding
Go easy on the feed. If you’ve got a sickly looking plant, your first instinct can be to ‘give them a feed’. When feeling a bit poorly, this could be the last thing they need. It IS possible to overfeed plants, and many people do.
Indoors, you need to take care with feeding. When plants are growing in containers, it’s a very concentrated area, and their feeding needs will be less than if they were growing in the wild. Always follow the advice for your specific plant, and consider diluted feeds, and NEVER feed over the winter months, when your plant will likely be having a well-earned rest!
Outdoor plants are, of course, a bit tougher and more resilient and the feed dissipates into the soil a bit more widely. There’s no ‘one rule’ for all again, but always read the label and follow books and online guides. Some plants need different nutrients, for example potash gives more flowers and fruit, so that’s essential for bumper tomato crops and dazzling petunias…!
4. Your choice of container
If you have plans to grow your plant to a large size, don’t pot it in that large container straight away. You need to go through the pot sizes in order to get there. Planting a tiny plant into a huge container is never advisable!
Just imagine a tiny plant surrounded by a sea of compost, which could be cold or even freezing at times. This applies to indoor AND outdoor grown plants!
Drainage is also ESSENTIAL for any plants grown in containers. Without a route for water to escape your plants would sit in wet soil… How would you like it if your feet never dried?
Drainage should ideally be a hole in the base of the container, however if your container doesn’t have an option for holes, you can add a base layer of gravel to allow run-off. When growing houseplants, containers with drainage are often placed INSIDE decorative ‘outer pots’, that way you get a cool-looking pot and drainage – great huh!
5. Keeping your plants looking good
Through the season, your plants will (hopefully) grow and may even flower for you, whether indoors or outdoors. After flowering, you’ll often find tidying up the plants and removing the faded flowers will encourage newer blooms to appear. What better incentive could there be to being tidy!
From time to time, some leaves (especially near the base of the plant) can discolour. This is usually natural, and simply a result of the plant developing onwards and upwards. You’ll often find they’ll fall off by themselves, or you can gently remove them.
Anything more serious may require some action! There are many online guides or helping to identify pests and diseases, or of course you can just ask me! A quick and easy initial remedy can actually be weak soapy water, however. Mix up in a sprayer and attack any uglies as and when they appear!
But, what are the easiest plants to grow?
If you haven’t tried purchasing plants by mail before, now’s the time to start. Bloom & Wild have been busy engineering ways to deliver plants right through the letterbox, meaning they are as fresh as the day they left the nursery. Plus, you won’t have to run off to collect the packages at the sorting office!
Their range of letterbox plants has extended to indoor and outdoor plants, and they take great care to select easy-care plants, great for beginners, and plants that will boost your growing confidence!
There’s also a ‘big box’ range, with easy care plants such as Olive trees, Lemon trees, Lavender and Hydrangeas.