How to Keep Your Houseplants Happy

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A lot of people ask me how I have so many plants when it feels like theirs are always dying. Really, it all comes down to doing what the plant wants and not what you want – but these three tips are key in keeping your houseplants happy, no matter what light you have.

Know what kind of light you have

A low light plant will get burned if you put it in a window with bright, direct light. A plant that wants direct light with wither in a dark room. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to get excited about a really cool looking plant and forget about its light requirements when you’re just thinking about where you want to put it when you get home.

Always check to see the kind of light each plant needs, and make sure you can provide it with the light it needs before bringing it home!

What is direct light?

Direct light, or bright light, means that a window is facing the sun and gets direct light shining inside most of the day, at least 5-6 hours of full sunlight.

What is indirect light?

Indirect light means the sun is not directly coming into the space or shining directly on your plant, but that it still receives light.

A good rule of thumb for bright indirect light is that, even though the light isn’t shining directly inside, you could read a book without turning on a light.

What is low light?

Low light, or low indirect light, does not mean no light at all! Like indirect light, low light means that the sun isn’t shining directly into your window, but that you get some light. Low light plants can usually be a few feet away from an indirect light source.

Low light plants can usually get burnt if their leaves are touched by direct sunlight, but that doesn’t mean you can put them in a totally dark room!

How do I know what kind of light I have?

  • North-facing windows get the least amount of light and are usually only good for low light plants, if that.
  • South-facing windows generally get the most sun exposure and are fantastic for plants that thrive in bright light.
  • East-facing windows get morning sun which is usually gentler than the bright afternoon sun in west-facing windows. These are great for plants that like bright indirect or moderate light.
  • West-facing windows usually get full, direct sun. These windows are great for plants that want moderate to bright light.

Put your plants where they want to be, not where you want them to be

Just because you have bright or indirect light in one corner of your room, doesn’t mean you can put a plant literally anywhere in that room.

That means, even if you really think plant would look nice beside a window instead of in front of it, if the sun doesn’t move in a way that it provides light, then your plant isn’t getting any sun.

I see a lot of people who seem to be surprised when every single plant they put in the same dark corner always dies – when they aren’t considering that it’s the location that’s the problem, not the plant.

There are other options than natural light if you don’t have a lot of window light – fluorescent or halide lights can also make sure your plants get the light they need. Just remember not to keep them on all the time – even plants crave a break from continuous light.

Make sure your plants have proper drainage

It’s hard to combat under-watering, but if your plants are all potted in pots with good drainage, you can help prevent over-watering and root rot.

Drainage means that your pot has a hole or holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Usually these types of pots come with a tray.

If your pot doesn’t have any drainage, you should add a few inches of gravel into the bottom of the pot before you plant to prevent the water from pooling in the soil and the roots of your plant.

You can also use a smaller plastic pot with drainage inside of your “display pot” – that way you can pop the plant out when it’s time for watering and let the water drain before putting it back inside its display pot.

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