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What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Good Houseplants

What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Good Houseplants

What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Good Houseplants
We love plants - but raising them up, well that’s a mystery isn’t it?

In the 70’s plants were trendy and we were drawn to these lush leafy creatures for our homes. Fifty years later it’s 2020 and you can now shop plants online or via quirky brick and mortar stores with trendy branding 24/7. Exciting times! But once you’ve chosen your soon-to-be-greatly-adored plant, how the heck are you going to care for him long term and raise him up to be that happy plant boy?

There are textbooks for the first time mum such as “save my sleep” or instructional “the earth mamma” manuals, but where are the real hardcore books all about “saving the plant mums and dads sleep”?

Yass you want the quick facts, I hear you!

You’re impatient and want to achieve the benefits of bringing plants inside your pad right now, you simply can’t bear to spend this year working day after day in a dull lifeless office space, or maybe you just saw an insta post and now you’re envious of Jenny’s cottage.

I know this because I write messages to people on social media every day. I receive plant pic after plant pic (sometimes at 1am in the morning) so now I classify myself as a self taught houseplant help centre (with very minimal staffing) - and I’ve realised many new plant parents are simply left out to dry. 


So here’s how the whole plant birthing should really work

You start by choosing a healthy, strong plant. ‘You’re only as happy as your saddest child” so if your plant babe is sad right from birth I can guarantee you will be too. Then you look for a great root system because this gives your plant wings to fly. If there are no roots you’ll be waiting a long time and your babe will have less chance of survival. 

You should also make sure your plant has no leaf spots and look for signs of disease or overwatering such as yellowing leaves. If the nursery you’re buying from is selling you an under-loved plant then you can assume they’re not looking after their stock properly and that’s not worth your time and money. 

Chosen a gorgeous healthy one?
Now it’s time to bring the foliage home. You buy a safe car seat for your newborn do you not? So why would you buy a pot without a hole in it or some kind of drainage system?


Cocoon Your Plant With Pot Love

Choose a pot with a hole in it! 

This little hole makes the world of difference. If you’ve chosen a pot with no hole you will need to pot your plant up into the nursery pot (the pot your plant is grown in) so you can take your nursery pot out to water and drain properly. 

Why all the fuss around a hole? 

Well, your plant needs to drain after watering or else you run the risk of its roots rotting (they hate sitting with soggy wet feet) and you’ll be sending me pics about how yellow the leaves now look - at 1am. 

Think of it like avoiding mastitis - frequent breastfeeding with good technique is important. Water well and then only water again once your topsoil is dry approx 1-2 inches down. 

If you struggle then try a Sustee watering device which measures moisture at root level and, to be honest, it’s much more accurate than your finger will ever be. You’ll be surprised how much you were overwatering or underwatering your plants.


The Best Baby Nutrition 

Choosing the right soil mix is a bit like choosing a premium formula over giving your baby bottled milk straight out of the fridge. Baby formula has added vitamins, minerals and fats that babies need. A premium soil mix will be free draining and have slow-release fertiliser that’ll help your plant grow. 


A cheap soil mix will need all the vitamins added and if, goodness forbid, you’ve been a stinge and gathered soil from your garden you may as well welcome all dem pests on in. 


A Safe and Comfy Nursery

Choosing the wrong spot for your little one is like picking the toilet instead of a bassinet - a plant needs its natural environment replicated. For example, rainforest plants are protected from harsh sunlight by large-leafed trees so a rainforest plant will crash and burn on your hot windowsill. 


That said, your new plant will require some form of natural light to grow. If you were told ‘Awe yeah, he will grow anywhere inside” and yet the space you were thinking of putting him in was in the dark with no window insight then you’ll pretty much have no success whatsoever.

The majority of plants enjoy indirect light, but yes there are some varieties that will cope with lower light. This is where it’s super important to read each description of the plant so you know where he or she prefers to sit. A good store will have this easily accessible for its users or they should really tell you. Plus it’s super fun to learn.

One of the most important factors for success with plants is the air. Air movement around your plants is just as important as the right light. Stagnant air is no good for anyone. 

Humidity is also the key to keeping your plants alive. Arrange plants in clusters/groups this helps with humidity. Or shout yourself a new humidifier, they are by far the easiest way to add humidity to your plant's environment.


Long Term Care - Settling Down To Plant Parenthood

Or as I like to put it - how to walk out of the house like you’re killing it at plant parenthood and how to not have your plants look like you’re totally losing it.

Drink the right amount 
Water less but water well. Give your plant a good drink and then allow him to drain. Only water when the topsoil is dry approx 1-2 inches down. It’s like the four hourly feeds you’re trying to push out with a baby. Give a good feed rather than frequent top-up snacks.

Discard any discoloured leaves 
This is nature and yes it happens to the best of us. Taking them off means you’ll allow the plant to put his good energy back into the healthy leaves. Some plants go dormant in the wintertime like the alocasia and caladium species, so I choose to place these in nursery pots until Spring arises and enjoy them in Summer.

Encourage Good Posture
Turn the babe every now and then - this would be like turning your baby so his or her wee head doesn’t sit flat on one side. Your plant will tend to reach for the light so turning him will create better plant posture. 

Give Your Babe Vitamins
Give your babe a seasonal vitamin feed to boost its immunity. 
You can choose to add a seasonal liquid feed every couple of weeks when watering to encourage growth during the growing season. It’s a bit like fish oil for the brain. Skip the feed-in winter though as it will do very little. Plants slow down then and don’t grow much.

Planthood Illnesses
Watching out for signs of baby rash or spots is like looking out for mealybug and thrip on your plant babe. 

The little white mealy needs to be dealt with asap. See our video on “how to deal with mealybugs” for some top tips on mealies and fungal gnats too. They’re generally caused by overwatering and soggy soil.

You can watch more here, but my best tips for these bugs are as follows:

Mealybug: Remove mealybugs and wash the leaves with neem oil. Repeat until gone. You can remove mealybugs 🐛 by hand - I use a cloth to wipe down the leaves. Make sure you go searching in between the crevasse of the leaves (they love it in there). 

Fungal gnats: I allow my soil to stay on the drier side as wet soils only attract problems. 

Take the infected plant away from any other plants as bugs can spread. Once your soil is dry, mix together neem oil with water and a small amount of dishwashing liquid. Then rinse your plant and allow the soil to dry. Repeat until the fungal gnats are gone.

If you have an infestation then you will need to re-pot your plant and wash the roots with the above mix before replanting (it’s a lot easier).

Lastly, wipe your leaves free from dust and allow your plant to breathe. This would be like using a natural baby moisturiser after a bath.

Put Your Hands Up Lovely Plant Mamas and Papas
So all this is what they really don’t tell you before you make that green purchase. I figured it was time I told you all so we can be happier green thumbs together. 

It’s not as daunting as it seems so don’t be afraid or think you can’t do it. Try again or try for the first time. Plants are amazing leafy creations that thrive with the right love - and you’re just the person to give it.

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