Here at Pretty Green HQ, we’ve been wondering just how long our house plants can actually survive? What is the age limit of these purveyors of magical qualities such as improved mood and reduced stress levels? I’ve been reading how plants present in an office can increase productivity, improve reaction times and inspire an extended attention span. Sounds amazing to me, although I’m deeply skeptical. Nevertheless, there is no doubt the presence of plants brings a serenity to the mood and a calmness to the mind.
So, with these precious qualities how long can we expect this life to exist in our homes or offices and deliver their wonders to our environment? While house plants can make their own food and provide an internal energy source for themselves, they need the help of us to stay alive indoors. The essential trio of nutrients, adequate sunlight, and water are required for them to flourish with no exceptions.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Provide the three and watch them grow, but sadly it’s not that easy. Some require more of the three, while others less which can make their care an awkward puzzle to solve. Get it right and perfect the goldilocks zone and house plants can live on and on.
The primary and most common cause of a plant’s decline is over watering. Here the decerning owner is accused of a crime of passion, where they have literally loved the plant to death. So, in order to avoid the dawn firing squad, there are some very simple watering tips to follow; the watering schedule is different for all plants however the fingertip test can give a fairly accurate indication. If the surface of the soil is moist to slightly moist you can give it a miss for a couple of days. However, if it is bone dry it’s time to water. Avoid the routine of watering everything at the same time and apply this simple test to each. Personally, and where possible I like to water plants and leave them to thoroughly drain before returning the pot to the tray. This way the roots will not be left in standing water and potentially cause them to rot which is to be avoided!
Another elixir of life for house plants are nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus which can be delivered via all-purpose fertilizers. I would however urge caution and recommend users read the instructions on how much to feed their plants and the frequency, remembering all plants have different needs. A far simpler and measured method to deliver nutrients is to re-pot them using enriched potting soil whereby the roots will eventually seek out all the nutrients they require. Re-potting will also encourage growth, so that’s a win win right there.
Finally, we have the priceless element of light. Finding the optimal light for your plant can be a trial and error process and only concluded after close monitoring. Most indoor rooms can be considered as having low light, especially in winter, here plants will find it difficult to flourish but can survive. Where direct sunlight can reach them for perhaps a few hours a day many plants will respond. Of course, the window sill will deliver the perfect environment again only for certain house plants. The trick is to observe the plant and if it seems happy, let it be. Otherwise, experiment moving it elsewhere.
The process of care just like with our delightful children, cannot be governed by a set of static rules for all but requires pragmatic consideration and thought for each. I will go into more detail regarding the fantastic three elements of house plant care in future articles. But in the meantime, stay in love with your plants, especially now when the beautiful spring sunlight will be inspiring them to reach for the skies.