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5 Tips for Keeping Your Plants Happy (and, Yes, Alive)

BY liz 11/01/2016

 

You might think Natalie Miller makes her twirling brass plant mobiles as a lower-maintenance substitute for their potted cousins. Not so. In fact, her metal creations just give her the chance to take her houseplant obsession even further. She grew up with a 20-foot-tall cactus inside her house, courtesy of her mother who was a master gardener, and she brought “an irrational number of plants” to her first dorm room, rotating them around her single window every day. Which is all to say: She can keep things alive thriving anywhere, so we asked her to spill the dirt.

 

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1. START WITH HEALTHY, RESILIENT PLANTS

“Little-known plant shopping secret: estate sales! You can find a 20-year-old plant for a tenth of the price you’d pay at a nursery, and it’s often more established and healthier—so you’re starting out on top. Just make sure you check for bugs and diseased leaves. These sales are also great places to find used pots, planters, and gardening tools for super cheap.”

 

2. LOOK FOR LOW-MAINTENANCE TYPES

“My favorite indoor plants are the easiest ones to grow. I’ve had my Heart Leaf Philodendron for over seven years, and she’s still growing like crazy—they grow in giant bursts with vines spanning over two dozen feet. Eventually, I plan to wrap mine around my entire living room. I also love a Monstera Deliciosa (mine is named Phyllis), and she has doubled in size in the two years I’ve known her. Pencil cacti are also a nice addition because they are super sculptural and add a nice contrast to the other leafy plants in my house. So keep an eye out for all those varieties if you’re just starting out.”

 

3. SUPPLY YOURSELF

“You honestly don’t need much if you’re willing to get your hands dirty. But if you want to get serious, I recommend having a little houseplant kit on hand with a watering can, spray bottle, tiny trowel, pruning shears, plant food, and a good mix of potting soil. For soil, I like Black Gold brand—they have mixes geared towards specific plants, but I like the standard potting mix.”

 

4. ASK (OR RUMMAGE) FOR ADVICE

“The internet has great advice, of course, but it’s more fun to ask local people who have experience. I think getting your answers locally results in information that is catered to the climate you live in. Call your local nursery or ask a neighbor with healthy plants in their windows. I also love looking for gardening books at thrift stores! Not only are they informative, but often times they are also super cute and vintage. The seventies was an incredible time for plant books! A few I’ve found and love are House Plants by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, Decorating with Plants by Terence Conran, and The House Plant Expert by D.G. Hessayon.”

 

5. PRACTICE PLANT WHISPERING

“Let the plant tell you what it wants! For example, I wait to water them until they show signs of being thirsty. My biggest rule of thumb is never to water my plant when the soil is still moist—that’s a fast recipe for mold. Other than that, I feed my plant with fertilizer every couple of months, prune them when they start to look too long and lanky, and repot them if they show signs of being pot bound—when the roots are too tightly cramped—like an inability to absorb water. But honestly, plant care shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each week. I also recommend giving them names and talking to them—it encourages growth!”

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