New Plant Mom Tips: It's More Than Aesthetics
There's nothing more cozy than having a lush, green plant welcome you when you walk through the door. There's a sense of pride of being able to see how well they grow right before your eyes! So, I'll say this up front, plants are truly more than accent pieces, they're living things that should be looked after with the highest level of care. Their health is a reflection of how well you tend to them. And if you're like me, with no pets or children, plants are your babies!
I'm a fairly new plant mom, currently caring for six (they are all angels) and during this time I have picked up some valuable lessons along the way.
Here's what I believe can help set you up with the most success when caring for indoor plant life.
Examine your environment
Do you get tons of light in your home? Is there a space for a plant to thrive like a windowsill that gets a decent amount of sunshine? Or does it feel like a you're a in a cave? If darker, think of plants that don't need a lot of bright light such as a snake plant or a philodendron. Think about the size of the plant as well. Getting a fig tree in a 400 square foot apartment can be done, but you may run into some issues later on as it grows. Match your plant to your living space.
Figure out your schedule
This may not be the first thing on your mind, but it is one you should include. If you're hardly home, getting a plant that needs to be watered daily may not be the best choice. However, a plant that can tolerate more dry days and is ok with being neglected a bit, could work in your favor. Succulents such as a snake plant, aloe vera, or cactus are a few popular choices. Be realistic of how much time you want to dedicate to caring after your green beauty.
Plant with the right pot
This was something new I learned that blew my mind. The kind of pot material you put your plant in has an impact on how well your little green baby can breathe. Here's a quick rundown of the main materials you'll come across at most stores.
Clay pots such as terracotta are porous, which means more air circulation to the plant's roots and soil, much easier for breathing. However, be mindful, during the summer, your plant can dry out a bit faster so watering more often is key.
Plastic pots are more cost-efficient, they can also keep the soil moist longer, but in turn, can be prone to root rot, if there is no drainage hole. If you plan on buying a black or dark colored plastic pot, be aware, I read if it sits outside in bright sunny spot, the heat can get trapped inside and damage the roots.
Glazed or ceramic pots are aesthetic and can provide room to breathe but typically only comes with one drainage hole, a problem if your plant needs to flush more water out.
Less is better
It can be tempting to want to buy 10 plants when walking into the plant shop, but try to resist.
It's better to have one thriving plant than several plants barely scraping by. Personally, I think it's important to understand the needs of this one plant, get into the rhythm of a schedule, and then add a plant or two once you feel comfortable. Otherwise, there's a chance you buy several then learn their watering, light and soil needs are all different, it might become too much to handle and your new plants end up "getting sick" or possibly die. When this happened to me, I felt like it stole a bit of my confidence. So, small steps, in my opinion, is the best way to go.
Depending on the kind of plant you have, the soil needs to match it. I'm still trying to learn more about it but according to Gardeners.com, "A good indoor potting mix is usually composed of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. These soilless mixes absorb moisture very well and resist compaction, but they tend to dry out very quickly. Since they do not contain any nutrients, you must provide your plants with a consistent supply of fertilizer. One advantage to a soilless mix is that it is sterile, so there is no chance of introducing pest or disease problems." The site says succulents need more coarse, well-drained soil and one-third sand. If you're still unsure, consider asking a staff member at the shop to help provide more detailed information.
To water or not to water
I try to check the moisture of the soil every couple of days. That's more of me being a helicopter mom, I think every few days would be fine. You don't want to disturb your plant, too much. Outside of eyeballing the top layer, try checking a couple of inches deep, it give you a better idea of how much moisture the soil has. I also check the soil at the bottom of the drainage hole, if that bottom part is also dry, it's most likely time to water.
I also have a notebook that lists the days I watered each plant to help me stay organized. It's more of a barometer though, some days it may be sooner to re-water, others, it might be longer. It also depends on the temperature of my apartment.
Watering the most mind-boggling thing to me. When can I water without overdoing it? Honestly, there's no hard rule, there are loose rules, every plant has a different environment they're living in. My apartment in Texas is getting different a light source, temperature, and is sitting in a different kind of pot and soil than someone who lives in Portland, Oregon with the same plant.
Generally speaking, your plant will give you some sort of signal. My monstera begins to droop when she's thirsty, and once she gets a huge drink, she perks right up. Whereas, my zebra plant isn't so clear. That's why I check in on my plants every few days to see how their leaves look, is there yellowing or browning? Then I begin to tweak part of my routine to see if that makes a change in their health. Note: Discoloration happens naturally so don't get too worried if you see this.
I also purchased The New Plant Parent by Darryl Cheng. He breaks down all the important ways you can care for your plant not with your standard rules of "if you do A then you will get B," but more of teaching you you how plants thrive, along with real tips and tricks of caring for specific plants. It's incredibly informative and changed the way I view being a plant mom.
I think the most important takeaway is to give yourself grace. Taking care of a plant is hard work rooted in patience. You can't expect your plant to grow new leaves instantly nor can you expect you will become an expert overnight. It's a learning process, just absorb those little nuggets of information and apply it to the best of your ability. Again, it's more than "plant mom aesthetics." Aesthetics mean nothing if your plants aren't healthy.
Love on them and they will love you back!