Over the weekend I attended a houseplant workshop at Garden*Hood Atlanta. The workshop was hosted in the hour before they opened on Saturday morning and provided all sorts of helpful information on how to grow houseplants, or, more specifically – how to not kill them. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite tips from the session, general houseplant info and the plants I picked up along the way.
Read on to learn how to grow houseplants!
Houseplant lighting needs are one of the areas I was most interested in during the session. It’s honestly the biggest reason I went! While my home is full of plants, I’ve also killed my fair share of houseplants and suspected it was because of the lighting my plants were getting (or more fairly, not getting).
Image Source: Class handout, sourced via Internet search
What we learned: Get to know your plant.
Think about where your plant would grow in it’s natural environment. Does it grow on the jungle floor? Does it prefer to latch on to the side of a tree in South America or thrive in the arid deserts of the American Southwest? Ask your favorite gardener; ask someone at the nursery; find a library book or Google your favorite plant. Find out where it calls home, then do your best to recreate it.
“Every plant has it’s own personality and every plant will have it’s own needs.”–Halley Beagle, Garden*Hood Atlanta
What we learned: Cook on all sides.
If you’ve ever had a houseplant reach towards the window, you know that they will move towards the light. While the lighting needs will vary by plant, all indoor plants will benefit from lighting on all sides so turning the pot is a great idea. Pro Tip: Think gradual rotation. A quarter turn of the pot every few weeks should keep the plant happy and not over stressed from too much light change.
What we learned: You’re burning it
I have certainly had the leaves of houseplants begin to brown but never realized it was from too much light. During the class I learned that brown spots on the leaves typically mean it’s getting too much sun. Brown starting at the tips of the leaves means it’s not getting enough water, or is being watered too infrequently. #themoreyouknow
Speaking of watering, show of hands how many people have ever killed a cactus from too much water? Just me? It’s the fastest, saddest, slime-est death ever for those of you wondering. It only took once (or twice) for this to happen and I learned to go easy with the water. You can’t neglect the watering needs of most houseplants though. Let’s discuss.
What we learned: Cacti and succulents don’t like wet feet, but tropical houseplants do
Cacti and succulents have small root systems that usually don’t branch out very far from the plant’s base. They store water within their leaves or stalks and are designed to hold in enough H2O to survive long periods of dryness. Too little water and they shrivel, too much water and they bust. The key is to water right around their base, but don’t drown them. Once every few weeks for succulents and once a month for cactus during winter should do the trick. They can handle more frequent watering in the warmer months, but if they are kept indoors year-round, continue to let them dry out well between watering.
Many of the plants that thrive in homes are found naturally in humid, tropical regions and prefer to have soil that stays damp from said humidity. Learn how to create humidity for your houseplants below.
What we learned: How to create humidity for houseplants
To create a humid environment for your plant you’ll need pebbles, water and a mister or water bottle. Place small pebbles on a tray and fill with water, without completely submerging the pebbles. Place plant on top of pebble tray. This creates a mini ecosystem that will water the plant from the base and create humidity around it. To make the houseplant extra happy, regularly water and mist. Pro tip: Orchids love both of these treatments.
It’s better to water your plants when they need it than to have a specific day of the week for watering everything.” —Halley Beagle, Garden*Hood Atlanta
If you are bringing home a new plant, it’s perfectly fine to wait to re-pot it. It’s even a good idea to keep it separate from your other houseplants for a few days to make sure no uninvited pests came with it. In general, I only repot a plant when it’s warm outside and the plant is showing signs it needs a bigger home. If you see roots springing from the bottom of the pot or around the crown of the plant at it’s base, it’s definitely time to re-pot. Pro Tip: Spring is an ideal time to re-pot your houseplants or freshen up their soil.
What we learned: Pots, Pebbles, Soil
Pots – The ideal pot size for re-potting should be 20-30% larger than the pot the plant is currently in with plenty of holes for drainage. Pro Tip: If the planter or basket you love doesn’t have any holes, staging is a great option. Simply use a potted plant in a smaller, plastic pot and place inside your desired planter.
Pebbles + Horticultural Charcoal – Using stones or small pebbles in the bottom of the pot is a great way to ensure proper drainage. It’s also essential if you are planting in something without any holes. (like the Bird’s Nest Fern below).
I took this opportunity to pick up horticulture charcoal pebbles. They provide all of the functional benefits of rocks and absorb harmful impurities. Have you ever used it? Leave me a comment below and let me know how it works!
Soil – If there is one thing gardeners can agree on, its that organic matter matters when it comes to plant soil. Organic potting soil or cactus potting soil (or a mix of both) are a great to have on hand for just about any potting need. These days, you can find a great organic option at your local nursery or major home improvement retailer.
What we learned: Mealy bugs are the devil.
I knew this and if you’ve every had an infestation of them…you know it too! . I recently sacrificed a palm to the plant gods because of mealy bugs so was relieved when Haley advised plant disposal as a proper treatment in some cases (sacrifice one to save the others and all).
Spot the Pest: Mealy bugs are white and can look like small specs of soft cotton. Once you see them, act fast if you want to save your plant. Pro Tip: In a shower or with a garden hose rinse the bugs completely off of the plant, taking care to spray the under sides of any leaves as well. Once dry, spray plant down with Neem Oil (more details below).
Image Credit: Google
What we learned: Spider Mites have webs
Image Credit: Google
Spot the Pest: Spider mites are tiny, little mites that latch on to your plants and suck the life out of it. That is honestly bad enough without them being able to make webs but, alas, they do. If you spot small webs or red specs on your houseplants, its time for a water down and Neem Oil treatment.
What we learned: Neem oil is a gardeners best friend.
I first learned about the wonders of Neem oil when my antique rose bush got a fungus. Fungus on a rose bush sucks but so did the thought of spraying chemicals anywhere near my home and family. Neem oil to the rescue. It’s all purpose insecticide, miticide, fungicide for organic gardening.
Purchase Need Oil here: Neem Oil Spray, 32 Oz.
Neem oil is made from Neem tree seeds. It creates a filmy coating on the plant surface which makes it uninhabitable for pests and fungi. The best part, it won’t kill your children or pets. #highfive
Lastly, I couldn’t leave a local garden without supporting them, so here are the newest additions to my plant gang from Garden*Hood Atlanta. Check them out if you are ever in the area, you’ll be glad you did!
New Prayer Plant
New Tiny Succulent
Want more ideas and tips for how to grow houseplants and use them in your home? You may enjoy these posts: