With all of the advice below, it’s worth considering that every plant is unique. What follows are general principles and hints and tips to help you in your houseplant journey. However, it’s important to get to know your plants and what makes them tick. If you’re ever looking for more detailed or specific advice, feel free to drop Hutch a message!
How do I know what plants will be suitable for my home/space?
It’s all too easy to think of a plant as an attractive piece of decor; something that needs to fit with the look of your space. However, it’s also important to think about how your space suits the plant. A really good starting point is to think about where the plant calls home. Leafy tropical plants, such as Calatheas and Monsteras, are native to the tropical rainforests of South America. This means that they don’t need to be in a sunny window, preferring ‘bright indirect light’, but they do enjoy humidity, so avoid placing them too close to radiators. Meanwhile desert dwellers, like cacti and succulents, are the perfect addition to a sunny windowsill and far less likely to get grumpy when placed next to a drafty window or heater.
What are some of the common reasons indoor plants die and how can I avoid these?
There are many reasons why houseplants do not survive; so it’s important to look at what signs your plant is giving you. Firstly, the plant may not like where you have placed it. It may be getting too much or not enough light (which can be identified through singed or yellowing leaves respectively). We always advise people to try moving their plant before doing anything else, as this is the most common reason for an unhappy houseplant.
The next thing to look at is your watering regime. It’s easy to fall into the trap of either over fussing or completely neglecting your plants. There is no one rule for all houseplants, and there is a big difference between the watering requirements of cacti and ferns. However, a general principle for most leafy houseplants is to at least let the compost dry to the touch before watering, to ensure that your plants are in a pot with drainage (and therefore not sitting in water causing the roots to rot) and if necessary, mist the leaves to generate humidity.
Can you tell when you need to water/feed your plants?
It’s really important to pay attention to your plants and what they are telling you. Make sure your plant looks happy and healthy. If it does, then keep doing what you are doing. If you under-water a lot of plants, they will show you by browning at the edges of the leaves (also a sign that they need misting) and through drooping leaves or collapsing altogether. Overwatering normally shows through yellowing or blackening leaves; in severe cases it causes rotten roots which can lead to the plant rotting and collapsing completely.
With feeding plants, we always caution not to overdo it. Only feed between March and September and even then, you do not need to feed on a weekly basis. If you are regularly repotting your plants, they will have plenty of nutrients in the potting mix and it is easy to poison them with too much feed.
Do I need to prune my houseplants?
The short answer is yes. Browning, yellowing and dying leaves are all part of nature’s life cycle. Whilst it can be a sign you’re doing something wrong if present on lots of foliage, if it’s only on the odd leaf, then it’s usually nothing to worry about. Pruning dead leaves will help your plant conserve energy and encourage new growth. If you have a fast growing vine, such as a Philodendron or Tradescantia, pruning them back a little from time to time helps to prevent them becoming ‘leggy’ and encourages a fuller, healthier plant.
Help! There are bugs on my indoor plants, what do I do?
Keep calm – it’ll all be ok! The first thing to do is to isolate your plant from any other plants that the pests may spread to. Next, you need to figure out what you’re dealing with. Get help identifying them, either online, from friends or your local plant shop. The treatment will depend on the pest you’re facing, however it’s generally a good idea to try and clean down your plants with a very mild natural soapy water solution. You can use highly diluted washing up liquid if you have nothing else. Doing this will help to physically remove the existing pests from the plant. Pests are a really common issue with houseplants and anyone who has any number of indoor plants will have to face them at some point. The important thing is not to despair!
How do I know when I need to repot a plant?
This will vary from plant to plant. Generally speaking, cacti and succulents prefer to be pot bound and so you want to wait until they are almost bursting out of their pots before considering repotting. For most houseplants, a good tip is to look at the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot they’re in; if you can see roots starting to appear, it might be a good time to consider repotting. Typically you only want to add a couple of centimetres onto the width and depth of your pot. Where possible, avoid repotting any houseplants in the autumn and winter months. You are for more likely to have healthy and happy plants if you repot in the spring or early summer.
Hutch Houseplants, 9 Paris Street, Exeter EX1 2JB