Tips for first-time plant parents and reminders for the experienced ones

Plants are becoming more and more popular in the pandemic, among both long-term and new plant parents. Growing up, my grandparents travelled a lot and as one of the few people in my family with a green thumb, I was always put in charge of looking after my grandmother’s plants. Now, I have half a dozen plants of my own and the beginnings of an indoor herb garden. 

While many plants are relatively low maintenance, here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years that are worth keeping in mind as you adopt a new plant.

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1. Do your research

First, while there are lots of lists on the internet detailing the best and most resilient plants for first-time plant owners, it’s important to do your own research first. Each plant has its own optimal growing conditions and it’s good to ensure that your home can meet them.

For example, temperature is an often overlooked but important condition to be aware of. Most plants do best anywhere between 16°C and 26°C. Do your best to avoid dramatic temperature changes in your home and keep plants away from drafty windows, especially in the winter.

Availability of light seems intuitive, but not all spaces in your home will get light equally and it’s good to consider where the best, most well-lit corners of your home are before you bring your plant home.

It’s also worth taking into account the other conditions in your home, such as the availability of space in your house, the thoughts of your housemates and your ability to take care of a plant. Also be aware that some plants are not safe to have around pets, so if you do have pets be sure to check that the plant you have in mind won’t be a danger to them. 

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2. Don’t overwater!

Once you have adopted your plant, brought it home and set it up in a nice and sunny spot, you’ll be responsible for watering it. While creating a schedule or setting reminders on your phone can be helpful, it can increase the risk of overwatering your plant, which can be harder to come back from than underwatering. 

Good lighting can help the plant dry out and mitigate the dangers of overwatering, but the best way to avoid it altogether is by checking the soil regularly and letting your plant tell you when it needs more water. If the soil is very damp, your plant doesn’t need any more water, but if the soil is drier, be sure to give your plant a drink. 

Additionally, the amount of water a plant needs is proportional to its size, so your smaller plants will need less water than your larger ones and as your plants grow, they may need more water than they did before

Most planters have a drainage hole at the bottom, which mitigates the possibility of overwatering. If your planter does not, it would be good to find a planter that does have a drainage hole. It can also come in handy if your plant is underwatered because you can fill a sink with a few inches of water and set the plant in it to soak up some water quickly.

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3. Start simple

There are a plethora of plant accessories out there but when you’re starting out, it’s often best to start simple: plant, pot, watering can (or even just a designated cup will do) and maybe a spray bottle for misting the leaves. 

Misting the leaves can help keep your plant free of dust. It also gives you a moment to check the leaves for any signs of illness or bugs as well as to remove any dead leaves. Many tropical plants will shed some of their leaves during the winter months and removing them makes space for new growth. 

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4. Ask around!

Lastly, but maybe most important, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most nurseries or greenhouses are happy to chat about plant care if you call them. Plants are also a great conversation starter for Zoom calls with family and friends, who are likely happy to share their own plant advice and experiences.

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