Darryl from House Plant Journal shares the 4 Key components of plant care: Light, water, soil and aeration. Follow Darryl’s advice and you’ll never kill a house plant again.
I start off my weekly doses of houseplant wisdom with the basics that every new plant parent should know.
What to know before you bring a plant home:
Plants survive on three main components: converting light, water, and carbon dioxide into sugars. The amount and intensity of light a plant receives determines how quickly they’ll use up water (moisture in the soil) and carbon dioxide (in the air).
What does this mean for your houseplants?
Imagine this in your own home, if your plant is a few meters away from the window, it is at least 10 times dimmer than what the plant was used to at its nursery – it’s comparable to if you were to eat 10 times less food per day, than what you’re used to! And heads up, fertilizer, often-called “plant food”, cannot compensate for this change. It really should be called “plant nutritional supplement” – since it’s more of an optional additive if your plant is growing quickly. This is analogous to taking a protein supplement while you’re intensely exercising. Hence, adding plant fertilizer thinking that it will help the plant grow, is a BIG nomer.
The 4 Key Components of Plant Care
Ensure your plant is getting the right amount of light. Most tropical foliage plants do not want direct sun, but will be happiest if they can still see some part of the sky. Cacti, on the other hand, must sunbathe for several hours a day in order to grow.
Water your plant whenever it needs it. You’ll know when it needs water through its actions and even weight. Dry plants will droop dramatically, and others, may just have to be lifted to see how heavy the pot is (moist soil is heavier than dry soil). Keep your eye out for future posts on actual watering techniques.
As roots repeated absorb water from the soil, it becomes hard and compacted. In nature, there would be insects and earthworms doing their thing to keep the soil loosened so oxygen can get to the roots. Since there’s no other wildlife in your house plant pots, you have to supplement their function by manually aerating the soil, almost as often as watering. Different plants prefer different degrees of soil looseness – in general, tropical foliage benefits the most off manual aeration. Cacti and succulents naturally grow in more compacted, sandy soils so no need to aerate them as much.
Gently poke it a few times with a chopstick – especially just before watering so that the water can penetrate the soil more evenly.
In summary, if you want your plants to be as happy as possible, start with these basic principles:
- The rule of thumb for most tropical foliage plants is that they’d like to see the sky but be shielded from direct sun.
- On the other end of the spectrum, cacti need to be in direct sight of the sun to be happy.
- Only water the plant when it needs it; if you have the urge to just “do something” for the plant, aerate the soil.
My goal is to help everyone become better indoor plant parents because I get a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I’m helping a plant to thrive in my home.
Read more from House Plant Journal.