Getting to Know You...
Educate yourself about the species of plants you're caring for. This includes those little plastic inserts indicating sunlight and moisture requirements and perhaps a Google search to discover more in-depth needs and trivia. If you're just getting the green thumb itch, browsing through your local library's gardening section (Dewey Decimal range in the 630s) can spark ideas and help guide you to the species perfect for your region and skill level.
Want a high-tech way to learn all about plants, or did you inherit a mystery plant? There's an app for that! Just take a photo of the foliage, and the app will pull up a plethora of helpful information — right at your fingertips. (For ease of growing, consider choosing plants that require the same level of care, nutrients and hours of sunlight — especially if you're a beginner. This will cut down on the trial and error of raising potted plants!)
Choosing a Container
That cute ceramic flower pot your Valentine's Day rose came in is just that — cute. It may not be practical for very long, and it may not hold up to outdoor elements. Be prepared for your plant's growth by having incrementally larger containers on hand. This will make transplanting less of a hassle when it's time to move up a container size.
Also, be sure the pots you choose have adequate drainage holes to prevent root disease and overwatering. And remember: using rocks or terracotta pot shards in the bottom of a container to help with drainage should only be done if you are a super attentive (a.k.a. experienced) gardener.
The Main Ingredients
To keep your indoor or outdoor plants happy, they'll require specific sunlight, water and soil needs. Based on your research, the care tags from the nursery (you should hold onto these tags for future reference), or Grandma's directions, you can develop a plan to raise an impressive array of potted plants.
If you're planting containers with more than one species, be sure they play well together — meaning they require the same moisture level, sun hours, and nutrients. Choose a soil based on plant type; i.e., catci will require a much different composition than a hosta. Use plenty of soil in each pot, and don't pack it too tightly.
Since your soil will eventually run out of supportive nutrients, especially in containers, check your research to determine what type of fertilizer to use to feed your plants.
Light requirements are usually listed as full sun, part sun or shade. Full sun generally means six to eight hours. Plants that prefer part sun require about four to six hours. Part shade is also four to six, but these plants don't like intense sunlight (thus the emphasis on "shade"). Full shade varieties require four hours of sunlight.
Again, check your research for each type of plant, as there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to water preferences — succulents like it dry, and ferns like it moist, with thousands of varieties falling in between the extremes.
For inside plants, it's best to use a watering can to control the flow, and remember to evenly wet the soil, not the leaves. Dump out excess water as allowing plants to "soak" can lead to root disease. For outside plants, use a very gentle stream or special garden hose tip to avoid foilage breakage. Also, wait for the shade to water outside — it's more efficient as the water won't evaporate as quickly.
In either location, water slowly, giving the soil time to soak up the water and drain properly.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.