Plant Tips For Beginners

One of the things we really enjoy about the HPH Facebook group is the great advice more experienced members offer to those who are just starting their plant collections and learning about plant care. We’ve compiled some of our favorite tips and advice for beginners.

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Pick plants based on the light you have

You might spot a cute succulent at the store and bring it home only to see it stretching for light a while later. Before you buy a plant, have an idea of how much light it needs and how much light you have in your home. If you have a sunny south-facing window you’re going to pick different plants than if you only have a shadier eastern-exposure window to work with.

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Know how to check the moisture level

It’s tempting to just water on a schedule so you never forget — but your plants will thank you if you take the time to evaluate their moisture levels. With smaller plants, you can water and pick them up as they dry out to get a feel for how damp they are by their weight. For a larger plant you can’t lift, you can just stick your fingers in the dirt to gauge how damp it is, or if you want to get technical a moisture meter will give you a reading.

Understand humidity levels

Different types of plants need different levels of humidity. This statement might seem a bit obvious, and although a lot of common types of houseplants will do well in the humidity levels that you find in the average house, certain types of plants will not be happy. The best thing to do is to research what type of humidity your plants will thrive in and invest in a hygrometer, the tool that measures the humidity levels in the air, and possibly in a humidifier.

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Learn about types of soil additives

While a lot of plants will be okay with potting mix straight out of the bag, you can amend your soil and craft custom potting mixes based on your plant’s specific needs. Some plants need very light and porous potting medium that dries quickly, others want to stay moist. You can learn about different soil amendments here.

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Know your fertilizers

You’d think that any fertilizer would work for any plant, but that would be wrong. Certain plants need certain amounts of nutrients. If you give a cactus a normal dose of an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, you’re likely to burn it. If you give a cactus fertilizer to a fruit tree, it won’t supply enough essential nutrients. The best bet is to purchase quality fertilizers that are made for the types of plants you own.

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Pick the correct pot size

This can be a bit tricky. Some plants prefer to be in pots that are wider than they are deep, or in terracotta, while other prefer to not be kept in a pot at all. It can be daunting if you’re new to the houseplant world. You should only go up one pot size; if you have a plant in a 4” pot that needs to be re-potted (if you see roots coming out of the bottom of the current pot), then you want to put it in a 6” pot. Anything bigger is running the risk of exposing the roots to too much water and causing rot.

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Don’t buy too many plants all at once

This is much harder than it seems! It’s so easy to pick up a new plant, and then another, and then just one more… but when you’re just starting out sometimes it’s better to go slowly and get the hang of each new plant’s care needs before adding more.

Research the plants before you purchase

We know, we know — we sound like a stuck record, but one of the most disappointing things is bringing home a new plant only to find that it’s not compatible with the environment of your home. Rather than watching a must-have plant decline, it’s better to do the research.

Take advantage of resources

If your grandma has a green thumb, ask her what her secrets are! Check out books from your local library, browse through different Web sites, and join Facebook groups like House Plant Hobbyist to ask questions and learn from other plant people.

Don’t feel bad if you kill a plant or two… or a few

Really, don’t. It happens to all of us.