How to grow healthy houseplants this blooming season

If there are anything Millennials and Gen Z love more than their phones, it's their houseplants. 

Houseplant Resource Center claims “Millennials and Gen Zers are waiting longer to start families” and are filling their “need to nurture” with houseplants. 

Now that spring has sprung, how are Millennials and Gen Z keeping their plants alive and healthy this growing season? 

It's a simple formula: provide plants with water and light, and they should thrive, but as expressed by OCC’s Horticulture lab coordinator Joe Stead, all healthy and thriving plants need four things.

“They need water, light, good air movement, to be fed,” Stead said. 

Here are a few essential tips to think about when caring for houseplants:

Watering plants the right way

Overwatering is a common mistake made by new plant parents, causing yellow and brown limp leaves to form instead of vibrant green crispy leaves. According to Bloomscape.com:

  • Water the plant’s soil and not their leaves to prevent infections and other health issues. 

  • For a lush and full plant, water thoroughly and evenly until water flows out from the bottom of the pot.

  • The plant’s pot matters; healthy plants need the correct size pot and drainage holes to help the soil to dry out after watering.

  • Dump out any excess water to avoid soggy soil and the plant’s root from rotting.

  • Plants have different watering needs, and understanding their needs is critical before you start watering them.

  • Consider the seasons; plants require less water during winter than they would during summertime.

“Most houseplants don't need to be watered every week,” Stead said. “It depends on the size of the pot. The larger the pot, the less you have to water.”

Why is lighting important?

When growing houseplants, light is crucial because plants require light to photosynthesize and transform light energy into chemical energy. Light energy converts water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen and energy-rich organic compounds. 

According to GardeningKnowHow.org, plants that are not receiving the best light conditions may show the following symptoms:

  • The stems on the plant are long, elongated, or spindly.

  • The variegated or multi-colored leaves will begin to lose some of their colors. 

  • The plant’s leaves are yellowing and small.

  • The leaves have brown tips or edges.

“If you grow stuff in pots, then you want to rotate them to get good light all the way through,” Stead said. “Because they're just going to grow on one side.”

Why should plants have good air movement?

Whether the plants are indoors or outdoors, the relationship between plants and air movement is critical because plants need air to photosynthesize and breathe.

“It is really important to have good airflow in the soil,” Stead said. “Good air movement in your house is a ticket to healthy plants.”

To improve air quality for houseplants BalconyGardenWeb.com considers;

  • Keeping plants near windows can expose them to fresh air, in addition to adequate light.

  • For indoor plants, a fan can help with air circulation and prevent dampness or condensation on plants. 

  • Position the fan near the plants and not directly on them.

  • To enhance the air quality and remove air pollutants from plants, maintain proper ventilation.

  • Provide houseplants with room and avoid placing them in corners, close to walls, tight areas, and damp spots. 

“Open the front or the back screen door, get some airflow through the house,” Stead said.

Feeding plants with fertilizers

Just like humans need nutrients, so do plants. Fertilizers provide the essential nutrients required for optimal plant growth, like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Fertilizer restores missing nutrients, allowing the plant to thrive.

“The spring through their growing season is the best time to fertilize,” Stead said. “Most plants are most active in the spring.”

TheSill.com recommends:

  • If using organic fertilizer, be sure it has the right ingredients to provide the right amount of nutrients a plant needs.

  • Use chemical fertilizers due to the proper amount of macro and micronutrients in its ingredients.

  • Prevent over-fertilizing plants by diluting fertilizers with water. 

  • Fertilizing fruit and flower plants more often to restore the nutrients lost when harvested.   

According to Stead, plant parents should always make sure to water their houseplants before fertilizing. 

“Never fertilize a dry plant. Fertilizers are salts,” he said. “If the roots are dry, and then all of a sudden you put those salts on them, it could burn the roots.”

It doesn’t matter if the plant is a monstera deliciosa or a fiddle leaf tree, and if it’s indoors or outdoors, the formula remains the same, so don’t overthink it.

“Make sure to give it those four main things: give it air, water, a little fertilizer, good light,” Stead said. “And just enjoy them and let your plants chill out.”

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