6 At-Home Habits You Already Have That Are Also Helping Your Plants
Ask any green thumb and they’ll tell you the same thing: Nurturing your plants at home doesn’t require a lot of money — just some of your attention. “The biggest resource you may need to devote to your plants is your time,” says Summer Rayne Oakes, founder of Homestead Brooklyn and host of the YouTube channel “Plant One on Me.” “Developing a routine with your plants allows you to establish a tempo of caring for them on a regular basis.”
Since most plants only need light, water, and a growing medium to survive, Apartment Therapy’s Plant Doctor Hilton Carter says the trick is giving them the right kind of attention. “To give plants the best chance to thrive in your home, you simply need to place them in the light that’s best for them, make sure to water them when the moisture of their soil tells you so, and check in on them every few days to make sure they’re free of pests and growing strong,” the author of “Wild at Home” notes.
Whether you realize it or not, there are lots of little things you might already be doing at home to help your plants flourish. From saving plastic produce containers to cleaning your windows regularly, here are six habits that plant experts say can promote better plant growth.
Saving old containers
If you have a habit of hanging onto empty glass and plastic containers, Nika Vaughan, founder of Plant Salon, says they can come in handy for way more than storing leftovers. “You can reuse glass jars and bottles to propagate new plants in water,” she explains. “After removing any labels and cleaning the bottle, add enough water for the end of the plant cutting — or if it’s a vining plant, one of the nodes on the stem — to be sitting below the surface, so new roots can grow.”
Plastic produce containers can also moonlight as little greenhouses to help germinate seeds and start baby plants. “These containers already have little holes for ventilation, as well as clear tops for letting light in,” Vaughan explains. After cleaning the container, Vaughan says to line it with a paper towel or coffee filter to cover the holes at the base. Next, fill with a well-draining garden or potting mix before adding your seeds or plants. “Close the lid, and voila! You’ve got a mini-greenhouse that you can place somewhere it will get bright, but filtered light.”
Not only is composting organic materials such as leaves and food scraps an easy way to reduce waste at home, garden expert Melinda Myers says it’s a habit that can help your plants grow stronger, too. “Adding layers of compost material — including lettuce leaves, broccoli stems, coffee grounds, and eggshells — to garden bedding creates a nutrient-rich soil that you can add to your houseplant potting medium,” she explains.
If you dig the idea of composting but don’t have the access to outdoor space, horticulturist Daniel Cunningham of Rooted In suggests investing in a bokashi bin. “Bokashi bins are super cheap compared to traditional compost bins and they are the perfect way to compost in an apartment,” he explains. “Turn your coffee grounds, fruit, and vegetable scraps into healthy plant food by simply tossing them into the bin and sprinkling Bokashi bran on top.”
Cleaning windows regularly
If wiping down your windows is a part of your weekly homekeeping routine, Lisa Eldred Steinkopf of The Houseplant Guru says you’re also helping your plants grow. “You would be amazed at how much dirt collects on your windows and screens,” she explains. “Keeping your windows clean and regularly washing the screens will allow as much light in to shine on your plants as possible.”
While you’re at it, Steinkopf recommends giving your plants a quick wipe down as well. “Clean your plants often using a sponge and water to remove sunlight-blocking dust and debris,” she advises. “Clean leaves promote photosynthesis, so your plants can feed themselves.”
Keeping a water dish outside
If you like to keep a spare dish outside to provide a water source for stray animals, Cunningham says you can also use it to collect growth-boosting rainwater for your plants. “Tap water can be hard on interior plants because of the chlorine and salts included,” he explains. “All plants, but especially indoor plants, prefer rainwater.”
To harvest rainwater on a small scale, Vaughan says all you have to do is set a jar or bucket outside the next time there’s a rain shower. “Then store your water in closed containers that you can use whenever you need to water your plants,” she advises. “Just make sure to double-check that it’s legal in your area, since some municipalities have banned the practice (while others will provide you with a rain collection barrel for free).”
Entertaining your plants
While the jury is still out about whether or not talking to or playing music for your plants can actually help them grow, Myers says devoting any type of special attention to them can have a positive impact on their health. “Chatting with them for a few minutes every week (or playing a favorite song for them) means you are interacting with them and more importantly, monitoring their health on a regular basis,” she explains. “You will be more likely to identify and handle any issues with your plants that could stunt their growth, such as insect and disease problems, early on.”
To ensure you score plenty of hang time with your plants, Oakes recommends positioning them in areas of your home that aren’t just suitable for them, but that are easy for you to access and that you pass by often. “I have many plants hanging from high places, but it can be an inconvenience to get up on my ladder all the time, which means that the plants that are higher up have to be amenable to less attention or else they will suffer,” she explains. It can be visually appealing to have greenery poking out from every corner and cabinet, but if you start to notice your plants struggling as a result, it might be time to rethink their placement.
Grouping compatible plants together when decorating
If you like to arrange your tropical houseplants (think philodendron, sansevieria, and schefflera) in groups depending on their specific needs, like on a south-facing window sill or along a shelf that receives bright, indirect light, Vaughan says it can help them stay healthy and moist. “By nestling plants together, you’ll increase the ambient humidity available to them, which can prevent their leaves from drying out or turning yellow,” she explains.