“Pets are the new kids, and plants and are the new pets.”
During this time of uncertainty, one skill (or personality trait) I have acquired is a love for house plants. I initially got into plants purely for the aesthetics. But when I purchased my first plant during quarantine, I quickly fell into the rabbit hole of plant care.
There are about 40 plants in my apartment at Santa Cruz, half of which are mine. This is probably overkill, maybe I’m projecting my feelings of almost graduating into this hobby. Nevertheless, I highly recommend getting at least one plant. In fact, many scientists believe that plants boost productivity, reduce stress, help clean indoor air, and increase serotonin. So, without further ado, here are some tips from one plant parent to another.
Tip 1: Get to know your space
One mistake I’ve had is getting a plant that requires specific conditions that my house did not offer. Temperature, light, direction of windows, and humidity are all factors that you should be aware of before bringing a plant into your home. South facing windows tend to get the most lighting throughout the day, so plants that prefer light will love these sunny spots.
Carissa from Leaf and Vine says, “If you can comfortably read a book, then that is indirect light.”
In regards to humidity, I highly recommend getting a humidifier to help maintain the moisture of your plants. Many plants come from tropical climates and humidifiers help mimic the conditions of rainforests. Every once in a while, my housemate and I will gather our plants and surround my humidifier with them. Also be wary of placing plants near air vents, as heaters can dry out and eventually kill your plant.
Tip 2: Get to know your plant
Just like how each person is unique, every plant is different. I personally like to know both the common name and scientific name of a plant in addition to the care instructions. Whenever I bring a plant home, the first thing I do is look up if it’s OK to repot the plant, and check to see if the plant is root bound. Many of the plants I buy are root bound, meaning the roots are tangled and overgrown, so I like to get dirty and repot them. I find repotting plants super therapeutic.
I then look up its preferred weather and light conditions and go from there.
Tip 3: Don’t over water your plants
This honestly might be the biggest mistake of a first time plant parent. When looking up how to take care of a specific plant, I always pay close attention to the watering instructions. One good rule of thumb is when the top one to two inches of the soil is dry (use your finger or a skewer), it is safe to water. Overwatering can lead to root rot or attract gnats.
It is important to get a pot with drainage holes and to stick to an appropriate watering schedule. My favorite method of watering is bottom watering. Bottom watering means placing your plants in a basin or container filled with water for about 10 minutes. It’s easy and allows you to watch your plant “drink” the water.
Tip 4: Be patient (and breathe!)
Just like the saying “a watched pot never boils,” a watched plant never grows. Plant care is supposed to be fun and relaxing. I’m going through my first winter season as a plant parent and, boy, is it rough. I witnessed one plant get frostbite, one get knocked down from the wind, and one die of pests— but promptly bought two more to fill the void. Leaves are bound to turn yellow or fall. It may be scary at first, but it’s all a part of the process!
- Save your shower water! I keep a bucket in my bathroom and use it to collect shower water while I wait for it to warm up before I get in. I use this water to water my plants both indoors and outdoors.
- Save your eggshells for fertilizer! If you have egg shells and a jar to spare, there are a couple ways you can utilize them. One way is to soak the egg shells in water and use this as liquid fertilizer. Another method is to blend the eggshells up until they’re a fine dust that you can sprinkle on your soil.