My Easy Guide to Plant Care for Beginners

In spite of growing up in a house full of plants, and coming from a lineage of green-thumbed women, I accidentally killed all of my plants until about two years ago. My mom insisted that they were easy (“You just have to water them!“) but that wasn’t my experience. Remembering to water seemed dull and time consuming, and even though I was watering them they still weren’t doing well. So what was I doing wrong?

Spoiler alert: I wasn’t watering them often enough! Plus some other stuff. These were pretty desiccated.

In case you want to cut right to it and skip past my personal story paragraphs, here are the CliffsNotes. It can be referred to as PARK:

+Pay attention
+Adjust for your space
+Remember it’s a hobby
+Keep a watering schedule

***

The first plant I kept alive for the long term ended up being a succulent – a gift from a dear friend of mine that was (and still is) housed in an Oddish 3D printed planter.

Last year when I topped the little dude and started propagating.

Succulents can go for long, long periods of time without watering, and thus I had finally found something that could withstand my inability to remember! Watching it grow was satisfying, and it taught me a lot about etiolation and taking down mites, fungus, and disease. After I had my Oddish buddy for a year I decided I was ready for another plant, and at long last accepted a dieffenbachia from my mom (something she had been offering to me for a long time).

I now have ten houseplants and numerous succulents, with a variety of dirt for potting and even a grow light setup. Plants have taken over my home and heart, and in it I’ve discovered a deeply rewarding and peaceful hobby. Here’s what I’ve learned about becoming a plant kween, and my best tips for becoming a happy and successful plantsperson! I call it PARK.

***

Some thriving beauties that I’m proud of.

Number 1 – Pay Attention.

This is the biggest, simplest thing, and also somehow the hardest. When I would talk to my mom about how I couldn’t keep plants alive, she invariably expressed her amused confusion over why other people have that problem.

“All you have to do is pay attention to them,” she’d say.

She made it sound easy enough, but it still seemed tedious and time consuming and dull, and I had a hard time imagining how that could be fun. It was just another chore, after all. (More on that later)

Disease, or sunburn? I’m not sure, but I removed it to prevent potential spreading.

Look at your plants once a day, just a quick glance can be helpful. Does it look different than it did yesterday? Is it leaning? Droopy? Pale? Flip the leaves over and look at the undersides. Do you see any spots or bumps? Touch the soil. Is it dry, or damp? Doing this on a regular basis will get you well acquainted with your plants, and before long you’ll know immediately when they need something. If you do find strange spots and bumps be sure to do further research to assist with the issue.

Number 2 – Adjust for Your Space.

In February of 2018 my mom bought me a small fern from a shop in Seattle. When I asked how to care for it the employee said, “I water it thoroughly once a week and leave it in the window.” Easy, right? As it turns out I keep my house warmer and drier than that fern prefers, so I need to water it three times a week. A similar fact goes for my catnip plant. It is insanely thirsty! Once I started watering it every three days it began to flourish.

I’ve since added a spray bottle to my routine and I spray both of those thirsty plants three times a day. Once in the morning, again in the late afternoon, and before I go to bed. They have fewer dried up and crispy leaves now, and the growth is noticeably faster.

Dry and brown-spotted leaves that I removed after a weekly inspection.

Paying attention and creating a watering schedule (more on that later) has allowed me to learn what each plant needs based on my home climate, and more specifically where they are in my house. Plants that are in the kitchen need extra watering since the forced air wall heater is usually on. My plants in the back room stay cool, with no heat blowing, so they are content with less frequent watering.

The point is that your results may vary from the plant’s instructions and/or someone else’s advice!

Number 3 – Remember it’s a Hobby.

At the beginning of 2018 I finally understood. Caring for houseplants isn’t a chore, it’s a hobby. It’s a joyful, rewarding, and peaceful way to spend my time. That realization completely transformed my relationship with my plants, and since then I have accumulated a bunch of them!

Accurate depiction by Alicia Herber

I used to frame them in my mind the same way as dishes or laundry: time consuming, but necessary, upkeep in a well-run household. It was something that took up the precious time I did have to spend on things I enjoyed. Now, I look forward to my plant schedule! It feels like sitting down to read a book or play some video games.

Number 4 – Keep a Watering Schedule.

Having a bunch of plants has taught me that I have a shockingly poor perception of time. Until about a year ago my mom was always reminding me to water my plants, and every time she reminded me I could have sworn that I’d done it within the past week (when in fact it had been much longer than that).

I now own two spray bottles and one beautiful bronze watering can.

Conversely, once I realized it was a fun hobby, I started to notice when they were thirsty or sad (part of Paying Attention!). It happened a lot faster than I expected. It’s silly that I thought plants only needed to be watered once a month. Turns out they’re much, much happier if watered once a week (duh).

So, six weeks ago I started a watering schedule. Thursday night is plant night, and I love it! I take the time to water every plant in the house, which gives me a chance to give them a once over and look for new growth and check for signs of mites or disease. I noticed immediate improvement and perkiness in my plants as a result of regular watering (double duh!).

**

And that’s my PARK advice!

In learning to keep my greenery alive I came across a lot of lengthy, complex articles on plant care. For a novice, someone just starting out and wanting to dip only a wee toe into the vast sea of botanic knowledge, most of the information felt overwhelming and borderline unnecessary. I hope my PARK list is easy enough to help any other person wanting to get into the plant game. Remember that it’s a hobby, not a chore ❤

Lightly wipe down the leaves with a damp rag to remove dust build up, FYI.

Life is good with plants. If you have any questions I’m open to hearing them. I may not be able to help but I’m always happy to chat and give it a try 🙂

x – happy beast


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