When I moved into my apartment two years ago, I knew it was finally time to go all-in on house plants. Before then, I was living in a tiny student accommodation in London and I didn’t have space nor time to properly take care of anything other than a little succulent I got from Tesco. That succulent is still alive and thriving to this day, as I carried it in my backpack when I flew back to Copenhagen after I finished my degree.
I think that’s what’s so special about house plants. They carry memories, and there’s something so heart-warming about seeing them grow. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to finally have a big and bright space that allowed me to fill every corner with cool, interesting plants for the first time in my life.
My house plant obsession has only grown bigger over the years, and I’ve learned some important lessons along the way that I thought I’d share with you.
My rubber tree is the house plant I’ve enjoyed the most because it’s not a fussy plant and it grows extremely fast. In the span of two years, it was gone from a decent side table plant to an actual 1.4m tall statement plant, brightening up my living space.
1. Only water your plant when the soil is completely dry
A rule of thumb is that if you’re in doubt about when and how much to water your house plant, then it’s better to water less than watering too much. I water my plants once a week and it seems to work well for all of them.
I like keeping plants that are easy to care for and doesn’t require watering multiple times a week, so if that sounds like you, I suggest going for house plants like that when you’re out plant shopping.
Now, what I’ve learned is to always stick your finger in the soil to make sure it’s completely dry before watering. That way you make sure to avoid root rot, which occurs when plants sit in water for too long. You can also get a soil moisture meter – a cool device that I’ve considered getting to measure the soil moisture.
2. Check the drainage of your pots
I water my house plant until I see the water come out at the bottom of the pot, however, you can only see that if your plant has proper drainage. Make sure your pot has holes at the bottom (again to prevent root rot) and you can even add rocks at the bottom of the pot if you want to be on the safe side.
I’ve added clay pebbles to almost all my house plants when I repotted them and the pebbles are supposed to hydrate your plant when needed and keep your plant moist for longer.
Pelia, also known as a Chinese money plant, is another one of my house plants that’s very easy to care for. So is the curtain fig that does well in my low-light office. Fiddle leaf figs require a bit more effort and the plant is prone to root rot, but if you make sure it has proper drainage, it’s truly one of the most beautiful house plants you’ll ever have.
3. Dust off the leaves
It’s super important to dust off your house plant’s leaves in order for the plant to absorb sunlight properly.
Take a wet cloth every now and then and gently wipe over the leaves. Plants generally like humid environments, so I like to run my aroma diffuser at times to balance out the dryness from the ventilation system in my apartment.
3. Use the right fertiliser for your plant (there are tons!)
When it comes about getting the right fertiliser, it’s just about doing your research. I’ve been lucky to find a general house plant fertiliser that seems to work okay for all of my plants. But I know when it comes to plants that are slightly fussy, like fiddle leaf figs, they like a very specific NPK ratio. I haven’t been able to find that exact one where I live, but if you can order a good, premium fertiliser online that’s made specifically for your plant type, then I recommend buying that. I’ve read that it makes a huge difference in how fast your plant grows.
I like to fertilise weekly in the summer times and monthly in all other seasons.
I will say, that when it comes to fertilisers, it’s about trial and error. This summer, I tried a citrus fertiliser for my olive and fig tree, and even though the fertiliser was specifically made for those plants, the plants started withering. If that happens, switch to a different brand immediately.
4. Repot when the roots are cramped together on the sides of the pot
You might notice your plant stops growing at one point, or you might even see lots of root net all the way around the sides of the pot. If that’s the case, it’s most likely time to repot your house plant.
I’ve learned to always only go up one size in pots and that some plants (cue fiddle leaf figs) thrive best when they’re slightly cramped in their pot. However, every few months, right before you water your plant, you can pull up your plant slightly and check how the root net is and decide if it’s time to repot.
Plants can get sick because of all sorts of reasons – overwatering, not getting enough water, too much direct sunlight, not enough sunlight, all depending on the plant and its preferences.
5. Use tech to diagnose your plant if it gets sick
I use the free version of the app, Picture This, that allows you to take a photo of the sick-looking parts of your plant and it will diagnose it to help you figure out how to best care for your plant’s circumstances.
I’ve found that if a leaf is suddenly looking off, simply cut it off and throw it away. There can be plenty of reasons why your plant is getting sick – it might be getting too much direct sunlight to the point where the leaves get burned. It might be getting too little sunlight, so it slowly starts to wither. It might even get some sort of fungus disease, because of who knows why.
You can only do so much when it comes to caring for your plant. I’ve definitely lost some plants along the way, and especially if it’s a new plant, it might even be sick due to its conditions before you got it. The best plants I’ve had are from actual plant nurseries – and oftentimes, not so much from hardware stores or supermarkets. I also think the bigger the plant is, the most robust it is.
6. Sometimes it’s best to let the plants do their thing
I tend to care for my plants a little too obsessively at times – analysing every little bit of their leaves and getting worried if something is looking off. But I’ve come to realise that plants are independent beings that like to have their space and do their thing. Some plants don’t even like if you touch them too much.
So ultimately trust that your house plant will thrive on its own (with watering, of course) and you’ll be surprised how well it’s doing.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Let me know your best house plant tips in the comments 👇