A couple of years ago just as my kids were exiting the toddler stage, I walked into a store and immediately got sucked into the plant department. I decided then and there it was time for me to try to be a plant mami again. I’d tried in the past but like most people I’d either spent most of my adulthood away from home for 10-12 hours a day or had been deep in the throes of new motherhood. Now that I work from home and my kids’ needs are no longer so urgent, it felt like the right time. I bought three or four plants that day, and decided that this time, they were going to thrive.
I’m happy to report that those same plants are still going strong today, and that my collection has now grown to nearly 30 house plants. My kitchen window now looks like my bisabuela’s, and I’ve even successfully propagated plants that belonged to her daughter, my nana, who has a green thumb as well. Though I think my own mother was just too busy with life to consider houseplants, she did always grow a flower garden. Now, it feels like my own plants not only connect me to them, but also to the Earth itself. If I’d known sooner, that it wasn’t necessary to overthink the plants and that with just a few minutes of care per week they would flourish, I wouldn’t have ever given up so easily.
On a practical level, house plants help filter indoor air which will improve the air quality in your home, but beyond that they have numerous mental health benefits. My plants bring me joy and a sense of peace every time I look at them. They are a part of the daily routine that helps me feel grounded and secure. Each morning, I wake up, put on my coffee and check on my plants while everyone else is still sleeping, and it’s the perfect way to start my day.
Studies have also shown that indoor plants may reduce stress, improve attention span and increase productivity. We say that’s worth giving it a shot, so we’re sharing some tips for caring for houseplants to help you get started on your journey as a plant mami.
If you’ve never owned a house plant, we recommend starting with just one, small easy-to-care for species to hep you get your footing and build up your plant mom confidence. A great plant to start with is a basic pothos. As a matter of fact, I bought one for each of my kids to take care of in their own bedrooms to start teaching them how to be responsible for another living thing. They are pretty and vibrant plants that don’t need a lot of light and can also go without water for quite some time. Even when they start to look droopy and unhappy, a thorough soaking usually brings them right back to life.
Pick a Plant Spot
Before you head out plant shopping though, pick a spot in your home that you know gets a decent amount of sunlight each day. Every type of plant will have different sunlight needs, but there is a plant to suit whatever your space offers, so even if you get very little light in your place, don’t be discouraged. Tropical plants need brighter, direct sunlight, but the majority of green house plants do wonderfully with a few hours of indirect sunlight per day. Air plants on the other hand, can do well with little to no sunlight.
Think About Drainage
There are tons of gorgeous plant pots out there and it can be tempting to just grab the prettiest one, but it’s super-important to choose planters that have a drainage hole. Without proper drainage, your plant can easily and quickly suffer from root rot, and end up dead in no time. If you’re handy, it is possible to drill a hole into pots that don’t come with one, and some plants will do okay if you put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot to create drainage, but for beginners we recommend the easiest route, which is to pick the pot with a hole.
Keep the Plastic Pot
However, you can avoid the entire drainage issue if you leave your plants in the plastic pots they come in. Find a pretty planter that will fit the plant complete with its plastic liner, and then when you go to water your plant you just pull it out of the pretty pot, bring it to your sink or hose water it and let it sit until it’s no longer dripping before you return it to the decorative pot.
Beware of Over-Watering
Over-watering is probably the biggest enemy of most house plants. So many plant newbies worry about not watering their plants enough, that they actually over-water them and cause the aforementioned root rot. Most house plants like to be left alone. When you buy a new plant, ask for watering instructions or look them up online. Start with those recommendations and see how your plant responds. It will be different depending on how much light your plant gets and the average temperature in your home. So just keep an eye. If you’re unsure, touch the soil with your fingertips and only water when it’s dry deeper than an inch or so down.
Remove Dead Leaves
A lot of plants will drop leaves or have some leaves yellow or turn brown in the first couple of weeks after you bring them home. That’s usually normal as plants acclimate to their new environments and periodically through their life spans. Don’t panic, just remove the dead loves neatly with scissors or clippers and be patient. If the issue continues and eventually all of the leaves turn, then it may be time to let go.
Choose Plants Wisely
The most exotic or interesting looking plants out there may not be the plants for you, if you don’t have a bit of extra time to dedicate to them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a plant mom. Varieties like snake plants, spider plants, peace lilies and even aloe like your mami always kept in the kitchen are all really hardy plants that don’t need a lot of attention and can withstand less ideal conditions.
Succulents–which are desert plants like cacti–are so interesting and fun to look at, but they are also so incredibly easy to take care of. Just try not to overthink it. Most succulents just want to be put in a sunny spot and ignored. Water them a bit once every other week or so and that’s it. If the leaves start to look wrinkled, give ’em a sprinkle.
Really all you have to do is take a good look at all your plants once a week or so and see how they’re doing. If they look healthy and happy do nothing. Water them when the soil is dry, and leave them be. If they look a little sad, check if they need water. If the soil is wet and it’s been awhile since you last watered, it’s getting too much. If it’s bone-dry, soak it, let it drain and put it back. If the leaves are crunchy, it’s getting too much sun and you should move it. If leaves are dropping for extended periods of time, it may need more sunlight and you should move it. That’s it.
Most importantly, take some time as often as possible to just enjoy your plants. Once you have just a bit of success with keeping a plant alive, you’ll be hooked and before you know it, you’ll have an entire collection to bring you a bit of happiness each day. Stop and look at their beauty, breathe them in, and relish in the fact that you are the one keeping them alive.