I have a dark history with houseplants. I adore them, but I kill them. My list of offenses against my poor houseplants is long, and tragic. I have been known to forget to water them, and also to drown them. I have mistakenly put those that need lots of light back in dark corners, and the shade lovers in southern windows with all-day sun.
But now, I’m turning over a new leaf. I no longer want to treat houseplants like fresh cut flowers, with an estimated life expectancy of about a week. I not only want them to stay alive, I want them to be healthy and grow.
My renewed determination to keep my plants alive occurred last fall. I had sunk way too much money into our outdoor planters to let the plants die when the weather turned cold. So Dan and I drug the huge pots of mother-in-law tongues, which normally live on our porch, over to my mom’s cottage next door. I just wanted them to stay alive until we could drag them back outside in the spring.
Then, something absolutely crazy happened. I didn’t kill them! In fact, they thrived. One day when Dan was working at Mom’s cottage, he told me, “Those plants make the room. You should keep them there.” I don’t know what shocked me more: Dan’s commenting on decorating, or the realization that I had helped a plant flourish. It was decided: The plants will stay put, and we will be back at the nursery, getting new outdoor plants this spring.
In the world of interior decorating, houseplants are trending. Fig trees are particularly hot right nows. Which, I am proud to tell you, I have also not killed. This big guy is living at Mom’s cottage, too, happy as a clam. This simple living room is washed in neutrals, so the bright green leaves give a great kick of color.
When I’m at the grocery story, I like to pick up plants that catch my fancy, like miniature rose bushes. The old me placed them in a pretty cachepot and hoped for the best. The new me will find out the amount of light and water the plant needs, and actually take care of it.
Among my favorites to have in my home are ferns, ivy, palms and orchids. The photo above is of my friend Nancy’s cottage. This sweet orchid is a perfect addition to her coffee table display. I have learned that orchids need lots of humidity, so they should be happy at the lake, where we have more than enough of that!
It feels incredibly hypocritical for me to share tips on how to care for houseplants, given my checkered past. But after I did a quick search online for easy-to-follow tips on helping houseplants thrive, I wanted to pass on my findings, in case you have dubious plant skills, too.
The experts say:
- Find the right level of light. Check the plant’s tag, or do some quick research, for the kind of light your plant needs. Then, place them accordingly.
- Dust them. This one surprised me. But, plants get dusty, too, just like everything else in your house. The accumulated dust on their leaves not only looks bad, it blocks their sunlight.
- Water correctly. Not all plants need the same amount of water and humidity.
- Watch out for drafts. Keep your plants from cold drafty doors and windows, and from heat vents.
- Add fertilizer. Plants need to eat, too.
- Watch for insects or disease. Check for early signs, so the critters don’t spread to other plants in your house.
- Repot when necessary. If your plants grow, they are going to need bigger houses.
Next Week … I just showed you several photos of the inside of our cottage renovation. Next week, I’ll show you outside. Spoiler alert: We have a LOT of work to do.
Karen saysApril 2, 2018 at 4:29 pm
I love your face pot!!!! Where can I get one? Thanks.
sandy mccune saysApril 2, 2018 at 4:32 pm
I’m so glad to know you have a black thumb. I can kill a beautiful plant in a week.I will try to follow your tips for plants. Do you have any hints for outdoor plantings? I had to cut down old trees in my front yard and my yard looks sparse. I have a cemetery gate I want to use. Any ideas?
Mary Carol Garrity saysApril 3, 2018 at 9:56 am
Sandy, I am even worse with outdoor gardens than with houseplants. I invested in a landscape professional to tell me what to plant and where to plant it. I’m so glad I did, because now my garden looks lovely.
Barbara Wegener saysApril 2, 2018 at 5:22 pm
So Happy that house plants are coming back into Vogue! Where did you find the pot with the faces around the outside? Can I find it at Nell Hill’s?
Pamela Krugman saysApril 3, 2018 at 2:06 am
What a lovely post. I, as well had a checkered past with plants and recently have changed my ways! I also like to mix in one or two really great looking faux plants amount the real! Please do not think I’m crazy but I also talk to my plants when I water them. I have no animals to care for any more so my plants are it!
I would LOVE for you to spend some time talking about how you place your decorative items, whether it be on a coffee table, desk, book shelf or side tables. I’m just not good at that and you seem to have such a talent for it!
Again, thank you for your postings. They are a treasure to me!
Beverly Cook saysApril 3, 2018 at 7:12 am
Loved your post as I’m in Plants 101 under the tutelage of a gardening friend!
Is that rattan table in your Mom’s cottage antique, or can one be found at Nel’ Hill’s?
Beulah saysApril 3, 2018 at 11:36 am
Some hints on plants I learned while working in a nursery. Take your plants to the sink or outside faucet and water and wash the leaves, I do this once every week to 10 days depending on
the plant, make sure you have drainage holes in the bottom of the pot so they can drain, after they drain put them on a saucer and back on display. I Also mist my ferns and orchids, they need the humidity.
The plant of mother in law tongue thrived because it was left it alone and did not get over watered, .also does not need bright light. The insects to watch for are red spider which you cannot see unless you shake the leaves on to a white cloth or paper and a magnifying glass red spider sucks the color out of the leaves. When changing to bigger pots just go to next size up, plants thrive when the roots are crowded. Loved your bird nest fern Mary Carol.
Mary Carol Garrity saysApril 3, 2018 at 12:08 pm
Thanks for the great pointers!
franki saysApril 3, 2018 at 11:50 am
Oh, dear…I’m the “crazy plant lady”…had my philodendron over 40 years…to large to move…it was like saying “good bye” to family…*sob* When my grocery store orchids stop blooming I just add them all to a huge planter…there are three re-blooming now. I put most of them outdoors for the summer…see…crazy plant lady…franki
Marcie rettenmaer saysApril 9, 2018 at 10:21 am
Where do you purchase your plants. Plants make a room.
Thanks for helping me out.