We all know on some level, even if we forget from time to time, that the filtered and staged images we see on Instagram aren't exactly real life.
Take, for instance, a picture-perfect plant placed in just the right woven basket in a ubiquitous pale-palette living room. It could be a happy, healthy plant cared for by a doting owner. Or it could be fresh from the nursery and not yet showing signs of the imperfect care ahead of it. (Or maybe it's a full-blown fake.)
Yet this sort of behind-the-curtain wisdom doesn't necessarily preclude us (nor should it, necessarily) from wanting our plants to look as good as the ones on Instagram. Here's how to make your living plants as good as — or better — than the day you brought them home.
Step 1: Good Care
The first step, of course, in keeping your plants looking happy is making sure they actually are happy. Pay careful attention to the requirements listed on your plants' tags concerning water, light, temperature, and soil preferences and treat them accordingly. Giving them a good start in life will set them up for IG-worthy looks.
Step Two? That's the Secret
Even if conditions are ideal and your plant is growing like a weed, that doesn't mean the growth is going to look picture-perfect. Well-practiced home gardeners have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves for guiding their plants to grow into their most beautiful selves.
Here are some master gardener techniques you might want to know...
For more flowers: Deadheading
Once the individual flowers of an annual or perennial die off, the plant is still busy forming seed heads. By "deadheading," aka snapping or cutting off dead flowers, you're able to channel your plant's energy towards making more beautiful blooms.
For fuller foliage: Pinching
Gardening Know How describes the result of pinching: "The biggest reason for pinching plants is to force the plant into a more full form. By pinching back, you force the plant to grow twice as many stems, which results in a fuller plant." To pinch back your plants, find new growth at the end of a stem and pinch it off with your fingertips or nails. Do this as close to the lower leaf nodes as you can.
To encourage growth: Pruning
Pruning your plants helps to encourage new growth — in the form of fruit, flowers or branching — and lets your plants keep a picture-perfect shape. For example, a Fiddle Leaf Fig that is getting too leggy or top-heavy in one area may be pruned. The stem of the pruned branch may then send out horizontal buds and branches. This recently happened to my own Fiddle Leaf Fig when one of my sons knocked off a leaf tip. The stem now has several buds poking through! To do some intentional pruning, grab some shears and make sure you're cutting in the right place.
For branching out: Notching
If you have a tree at home (indoors or out) you can also take advantage of notching to inspire horizontal branching. The process involves removing a small section of bark on part of the tree to encourage a new branch to grow there.
Whether through pinching, pruning, or notching, and whether you're dealing with a small trailing pothos or a more formidable house tree, getting fuller, lusher enviable plants is just a few snips — and a bit of patience — away.