After over a year spent mostly inside, indoor plants have perhaps never been more popular—especially in a smaller living space like a city apartment or college dorm. While filling our homes with plants may change the atmosphere effortlessly and inexpensively, it can still be stressful to figure out how to take care of them properly. These tips will make sure you never accidentally kill a plant again!
WHAT IS THE RIGHT PLANT FOR ME?
Each plant needs unique conditions to survive, and each person has a different routine that determines how much nurturing can go into their indoor garden. Jonathan Taylor, the managing director of the plant market Andromeda District, said you must consider your environment in order to choose the best plants to flourish in your home without a lot of aid. Considering your environment includes taking note of the humidity, air quality and temperature, as well as determining the natural light levels. Plants generally fall into three categories: direct sunlight, indirect sunlight and shadow. Taylor recommends that plants with the ability to grow and be displayed on a desk or bookshelf are best for beginners. “These types of plants will give a student the knowledge in terms of how the plant behaves,” he said. “When the plant gives birth to new stems, it provides a very good sampling of the entire process and life of the plant.”
WHY SHOULD I GET A PLANT?
Plants allow us to mentally relax both from their aesthetics and through the physical act of gardening. “It has been proven that plants really enhance our living experience,” Taylor said. “They help us with a number of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.” Research from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology suggests that “active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work.”
HOW DO I CARE FOR MY PLANT?
Moderation applies to all aspects of life, and it most certainly applies to plant care. “I believe that we have the knowledge innately within us to really connect to other living things,” Taylor said. “By having an interaction with the plant and seeing how it behaves, you are best able to care for it.” He even recommends naming your leafy friends by citing research that claims the survival rate increases from 40% to 80%.
A good rule of thumb is that under-watering is always better than overwatering. From there, add small amounts and take note of how the plant reacts. Taylor recommends to fertilize plants using ingredients already on hand, including some things that may usually be thrown away. “Instead of going to buy chemicals,” he said, “you can use leftover coffee grounds or juicing pulp. Massage them into the soil, and the roots of the plant will soak up the nutrients.”
When a plant lives inside, it doesn’t take long for a layer of dust to accumulate on leaves. This can block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. To avoid this, Taylor suggests taking a damp paper towel with a few drops of olive oil and wiping the leaves. If you are leaving for a short vacation, don’t fret. While you aren’t expected to install automatic irrigation systems inside of your living space, Taylor has some crafty ways to DIY. “Make three holes in an empty plastic bottle,” he said. “Then, you place a shoelace in the lid and fill the bottle with water completely. After, point out each of the shoelaces to a plant that needs to be watered. This is a very basic principle of drip irrigation that will help the plant receive water.”
Pick Your Plant
When it comes to picking a plant it’s important to choose a species that is resilient—especially if you frequently leave home or forget to water your green friends. Even if you aren’t a caretaker, plants can be beneficial to your mental health. Here are a list of plants that require minimal effort and still make a beautiful addition to your home.
Suggested use: Ideal as a potted plant indoors or outdoors.
Exposure: Devil’s Ivy enjoys a light spot, but preferably not in direct sunlight. The paler the leaves, the more light it needs.
Watering: Lightly water the plant twice a week once established or more often when extremely hot and dry.
Care: Feed your Devil’s Ivy with slow release all-purpose granular fertilizer every three months.
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Suggested use: Situate your fiddle leaf fig in a floor-standing container where the plant can grow to at least six feet.
Exposure: Leave it in a partly shady spot.
Watering: Fiddle-leaf figs like a moderate amount of moisture in their soil.
Care: Fertilize throughout the growing season with a high-nitrogen plant food, following label instructions.
Suggested use: Place air plants in a hanging glass globe or small container. They grow best near windows and humidity.
Exposure: Hang near a window, but not in direct sunlight.
Watering: Mist them with water every two to three days.
Care: Cut off dead leaves and mist with houseplant fertilizer.
Suggested use: Place your christmas cactus somewhere bright and airy like an east facing window.
Exposure: The leaves of this cactus plant are sensitive—too much direct sunlight can bleach its leaves.
Watering: Water this colorful plant every two to three weeks.
Care: In the fall and winter, the cactus needs to fed monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. From spring to early fall, the plant needs to be fed every two weeks.
words_alexis masciarella. photo_sydney burnett. design_olivia ginsberg.
This article was published in Distraction’s summer 2021 print issue.