Houseplants Q&A | Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about houseplant care routines and finding the secrets to keep each species happy is a never-ending journey for anyone adopting an indoor plant. No matter how many days, months, or years of experience you have as a plant parent, or the number of plants you have collected so far, we all (should) do our research when we bring home a new plant!
But there are definitely some tips and tricks you start to familiarize yourself with as you observe your plant collection. At some point, you can already guess why a specific plant is looking sad or another is quickly declining after you have moved it.
Being a successful plant parent is not about knowing it all or becoming a professional botanist. Most of us are amateurs with great interest and love for indoor greenery but keen to learn more and more as we go!
This houseplants Q&A is gathering some of the most common plant care questions and answers and will be updated regularly.
Indoor Plants – 12 Frequently Asked Questions
When do I water my plants?
This depends on the type of plant you have as well as the conditions in your home. Most likely, your plants will talk to you. In general, you’ll know that you need to water when the soil is dry, the pot gets lighter or the leaves start to droop.
How do you keep up with each plant’s watering schedule?
We don’t keep up with watering schedules. We don’t have a watering schedule at all! (Although initially, we did feel that was necessary!)
Our best tip would be to check on your plants as you walk by them or dedicate some time during the week to go around your urban jungle. Every single plant will have different requirements and you’d probably go mad if you had a list of plants to water each day of the week.
Also, in time you will know which plants are ok with neglect and which ones aren’t, so you can keep that in mind and check specific plants more often.
Why do houseplants need to be transplanted?
Houseplants will outgrow their containers in time and become root-bound. This may cause stunted growth and eventually death.
The soil will get old, and repotting a plant will not only give it the space it needs to grow but also provide it with nutrients to keep it healthy.
The best is to repot a plant every year or every couple of years (depending on how old the plant is), when you notice it is root bound or begin to see roots coming out of the drainage holes.
Why should I not repot a plant into a much larger pot to make it grow faster?
Doing this can be tempting. You are probably thinking that if you just put a houseplant in a large pot, it will eventually fill it in and become a large plant faster.
The problem is that some houseplants have a small root system that won’t be able to grow that large or that fast in such a sizable container. Also, when you have a small root system in a large pot, the extra soil around it will retain water that your plant won’t be able to absorb and therefore it can eventually suffer from overwatering.
We are not saying all plants are going to die when you do that, but we would still recommend repotting most plants one size up each time.
It is also important to look at the roots and check how thick they are. If you have a plant with exceptionally large and chunky roots (such as an Anthurium Clarinervium or a ZZ), it can be safe to repot it into a much larger pot. Those roots will find their way to quickly fill it in.
How do I know it’s time to prune my houseplants?
If you notice a leaf is getting old and dying, you can wait for it to fall off on its own or cut it from the bottom of the stem. That can be done simply for aesthetic reasons but it also helps to prevent potential pests and diseases from spreading.
On another hand, if you see your hanging plants are getting leggy, you can also cut them back to make them bushier and to promote growth.
When should I start fertilizing houseplants?
While you may get pieces of advice on specific timings, fertilizing plants depends on where you live and on the weather conditions you get each year.
Of course you should fertilize your plants during the growing season, which is going to be Spring and Summer if you are in the northern hemisphere. But as on when to start, this will vary and only your plants will be able to give you an answer.
As soon as you see that a plant is pushing out new growth, this is a clear sign that it has woken up from its dormancy period and is ready to get some food!
For instance, if your Pilea is showing you growth but your Philodendron isn’t, then start fertilizing the Pilea and wait a bit longer before doing so with the Philo.
Why are my plants’ leaves turning brown?
Leaves turn yellow, and eventually brown, when there is moisture stress. This can happen both when you underwater or when you overwater your houseplants.
Brown spots can be a sign of burn from overfertilizing as well.
Or a humidity issue. Humidity loving plants will crisp when prevented from the humidity levels they require.
How do I use worm castings?
Worm castings are a natural compost that will provide your plants with slow-release fertilization. You can either mix them with your soil when repotting (we would normally go for a 5-10% ratio) or, if not repotting your houseplants just yet, you can top the soil with them. In this case, when you top water your plants, the worm castings will slowly come down to the rest of the pot.
If you plan to keep fertilizing your houseplants even after adding worm castings, just make sure to extra dilute your liquid fertilizer in water or use an organic option.
Why are the leaves of my plants drooping?
Your plants might be desperate for water or they could be overwatered.
Droopy leaves could also be an indication of inadequate lighting or a pest problem.
You must observe your plants and experiment with them.
Should I repot my plant as soon as I get them from the nursery?
Our advice? Absolutely not! It might be tempting to repot your plants into a beautiful new pot as soon as you get home. But think about it… your plant will be so stressed at that very moment! Besides traveling to your home, it is now adjusting to a completely different environment and needs some time to settle down.
Although we are guilty of doing just that, we would advise you to give your plant at least a couple of weeks before putting it through the stress of repotting.
Still, if your plant is doing well as it came from the nursery, and you are not tempted to transplant it, just let it be. You can wait until the next growing season to transplant it.
If the plant looks healthy, there’s no rush and it may be better not to stress it at all.
How to keep houseplants alive over winter?
Winter in the northern hemisphere can be tough for houseplant hobbyists. In most countries, natural daylight will only be available for short periods and most likely be poor. In addition, the cold weather outside, the cold drafts as you open and close windows and doors, as well as the heating you keep on throughout the day, will be your plants’ nightmare.
Keeping your plants thriving over winter is a tricky task, but making use of grow lights and a humidifier can help. During winter in The Netherlands, there isn’t a day I wouldn’t turn on my artificial lighting over my houseplants, especially the baby plants! You can also bring them closer to the window if your windows are well isolated.
Besides, having the central heating constantly on, makes the air in your home get really dry. You want to make sure there is some air circulation and keep a humidifier running. This will benefit both the plants and you!
Can plants live in a room without a window?
The short answer is no! Plants need light to photosynthesize. And although some plants are considered low light tolerant, they will always appreciate having a little bit more than you’d think.
Now, there are several articles and videos out there telling you that certain plants will survive in your darkest corner. While this might be true, that is not the whole story. If you do place one of those survivor plants in a windowless room, even under a grow light, make sure to rotate it into a brighter lite room every so often for it to get the natural sunlight it needs.
We have decided not to go into detail today as we wanted to gather as many questions as possible while keeping this readable, but do keep an eye on this journal because most of these topics will be considered again!
If you have any questions that have not been covered, please drop them on the comments below. We’d love to refresh this post as we go!
Here’s a list of some of our favorite gadgets, products, and books that all houseplant parents should know about!