Our 9 Top Tips to Becoming the Best Plant Parent You Can Be

How diffcult could owning a houseplant really be? Harder than you'd think. If, like me, you've had a love/hate relationship with your leafy companions, you'll understand that they can deteriorate in the blink of an eye and the next minute you're left with a leafless, lifeless pot that's beyond rescue. I am getting better, though. I'm happy to report that all of my (five) current houseplants are healthy and happy. But it wasn't always this way. To give yourself the best chance at thriving as a plant parent, take note of the following tips to save you any plant-related heartache. 

1. Get to know your plant

Through the ups and downs of plant ownership, I've discovered that some varieties of plants just aren't compatible. Anything too needy or fragile is out, as I have a habit of putting pots outside for a sunbake and completely forgetting about them. My self-sufficient cacti collection is strong and I've recently acquired a bird of paradise and monstera that enjoy my light-but-not-sunny bedroom. When looking for a new houseplant, always read the care instructions clearly to distinguish whether you can truly take care of it the way it deserves (and demands).

2. Don't overwater

Guilty. There have been a few occasions where my sunburnt babies have been given a bit too much sunlight and in an attempt to fix all, I've drowned them almost to death. That seems to be my (and most people's) reaction to browning leaves or any signs of change. I've learned to be patient and to stick my finger in the soil to determine the dryness of the plant before giving it another drink. This has been the most significant change in my plant parenting style and very successful, I must say. For plants like my peace lily, I mist the leaves to keep them happy but not wet. If in doubt, refer to the instructions on the pot or label.

3. Find the right spot

Water and light are the things that will catch you out nine times out of ten. You might think you've placed your newest obsession in the perfect spot in your apartment only to witness browning leaves after a few days. The great thing is that when you do find a happy spot for your plant, it'll grow like crazy! Like I mentioned earlier, I've found the best results from a well-lit room that doesn't necessarily receive direct sunlight. 

4. Read up

The number of times I have googled the phrase "how often should I water (insert plant name here)" or "why is my __ turning brown?" is endless at this point. Sometimes the plant's label won't give you as much detailed information you need to solve a plant emergency so Google is definitely your best bet. Usually you'll find the answer to the question pretty quickly so you can formulate a plan of attack. There are also so many beautiful plant care books that are definitely worth reading to familiarise yourself with the basics and what to expect.

5. Take time to prepare

To begin with, do you have any pets that might find some species toxic or children who might find themselves on the receiving end of a prickly cactus? You might have your eye on a particular plant, but researching its practicality and viability in your home is important. As well as that, figure out what you plan to contain your new houseguest in; a terracotta pot or a hanging basket, perhaps? Pick up a bag of soil specific to that plant and you're set.

6. Re-pot

Your plant isn't meant to stay in its plastic pot from the nursery for its entire life. Actually, once it has acclimated to its new environment or its roots have become overgrown it's time to move it into something more substantial to promote its continued growth. Pour a layer of new potting mix into the pot, set your plant and its root inside and then surround it with more potting mix. Make sure to avoid filling the pot right to the top.

7. Match its natural environment

If you're introducing a tropical variety into your home, you'll need to make it feel more at home. Plants weren't meant to live inside apartments, so recreating their natural environment is important to successful growth and a healthy life for the plant. For example, succulents and cactus species are found in dry regions, so they should be watered less frequently and placed in areas with sunlight. Make your plant believe that it's really home and it won't know the difference.

8. Don't be afraid to snip

Unlike your coffee table, this type of home decor is living and breathing. The goal is for them to look great enough to show off, but that will require some effort on your part. Look out for dead or dried leaves and remove them with a sharp pair of scissors. You don't want any pests to fester on your leaves especially when it's inside your home. Pruning is a necessary step in the houseplant process, so keep an eye on your potted friends.

9. Be patient

This is as much of a tip for myself as it is for you. I purposely chose to buy a small plant just a couple of weeks ago to give myself a test for the new year. Usually, I wade through the selections at the nursery (or IKEA) until I find the biggest, most established version they have. To give my plant parenting skills a test, I'm carefully watching this small addition to my collection to see if what I'm doing is actually working. So far so good. All of us would love to have one of those gigantic fiddle leafs in our living rooms but the reality is that you can either pay a pretty penny or patiently wait until your own has developed a growing pattern of its own. It's tough for the impatient (myself included), but totally worth the pay off when you can sit back and admire your newfound horticulture skills.

Keep reading? Become a sustainable renter with these landlord-approved tips.

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