For those who have recently started, or who are looking to start, their houseplant collection, it can be difficult to know what you actually need to purchase and what you can re-purpose or go without. If you have the money or the resources you may be tempted to just buy everything brand new – and you definitely can – but you can also easily find things cheaply second hand, re-purpose things from around the house, or even buy things at the dollar store.
In order to care for your plants there are a few things you NEED (other than plants, of course):
Soil and soil amendments
Pesticide or pest prevention spray
Soil and soil amendments:
It is hard to cheap out here, but the most inexpensive way I’ve found to make a healthy soil mix is to buy a decent houseplant or cactus mix from any old store or garden centre and amend it with perlite and orchid bark. Perlite is relatively inexpensive and easy to find, orchid bark slightly less so but it is still easy enough to find at a decent price. For some plants you can get away with just using perlite. You can also amend the soil that your plant has come in – so long as it still has plenty of nutrients. Soil only needs to be discarded if a plant has rot or there are pests. Even old soil can be brought back to life with the right fertilizers.
I have never found a huge difference in fertilizers. Organic fertilizers can cost more and often you need to use more of them, while chemical fertilizers tend to be a strong concentrate that can go a long way. I personally use an inexpensive chemical fertilizer and cut the amount the directions say to use in half to help prevent fertilizer burn. Nicer fertilizers can have real benefits, but they aren’t essential if you are worried about the price point.
Your first course of action here is to try and find something second hand – or to just re-purpose an old jug from around the house. If you struggle to find something useful, then even a plastic watering can from dollerama will last you decades. I do find, however, that when push comes to shove you can use an old glass or reuse an old jar – just try to pour slowly so that you don’t uproot your plants. I also have re-used a water filtering jug and use that to water my plants (just don’t keep it in the fridge). This can help with hard water build up in your soil. These jugs aren’t essential, but if you have one laying around or find one at the thrift store they are great.
Pests are almost inevitable. For that reason, it is super important that you treat your plants regularly with some kind of pest preventing solution. I bought one large bottle of houseplant pesticide concentrate and I water it down in an old, repurposed spray bottle. I find this to be way less expensive, and less wasteful, than constantly repurchasing spray treatments. Neem oil is another popular way to prevent pests, but I find in my area it can be hard to find and quite pricey – so do whatever works best for you where you live.
You will most definitely need something to keep your plants in. The cheapest is to just keep them in their nursery pots but that isn’t always the most attractive in your home. I do like to save nursery pots and reuse them if I have to repot a plant or plant something I’ve propagated, but I tend to keep them in cachepots that I have found second hand. Terracotta pots are also very inexpensive and last for decades it seems. Whatever you find, you don’t have to buy the expensive decorative pots for your plants to look beautiful.
Who would have thought that watering your plants would so be complicated? One of the many common struggles of plant ownerships is crispy leaf tips. These are incredibly common on prayer plants like Marantas, Calathias, Stromanthes, and Ctenanthes. In most cases, this is from the metals and chemicals often found in tap water.
Some people find that distilled water or rainwater are the only solutions to prevent these crispy bits entirely, but others find that filtered water offers a more convenient and easier compromise. The important thing is that whatever water you decide to use, ensuring that chlorine and fluoride have been removed from your watering source is important. These chemicals aren’t able to be processed by your plant and as a result the ends of your leaves die and crisp up.
At the end of the day, crispy lead tips won’t kill your plant, it’s just aesthetics. So, if filtering water is too much of a hassle, or if the crispy tips don’t bother you, then don’t worry about it. Plants will hardly ever look perfect, as long as they make you happy then that’s all that counts.
There are many reasons why your houseplant might be mislabeled; it could be a lack of knowledge on the part of the shop, but more commonly the answer has a lot to do with marketing. This marketing is apparent in a couple of different ways. Often a grower will label a plant based on a “common name” or nickname. Other times a plant may be labelled with a brand-new nick name, made up by the grower or seller in order to move more product. These names might be cute or funny, but they make it very difficult to learn how to care for the plant you’ve just purchased.
So, that leaves us questioning what it is we have bought, and unfortunately plant ID apps are not always extremely helpful. The easy solution to discovering the true identity of your plant is to look up the label you were given and see what appears. Unfortunately, this is not always a solution either. One of the best solutions, other than doing extensive research, is to reach out to a local houseplant group online and see if anyone there is able to help you.
The more plants you acquire, the more information you take in, the easier it becomes to identify your plants for yourself. By looking at the petioles, the leaves, the growing patter, and the stems of your plant you should, with time and experience, be able to know what it is you’re looking at.
Most gardeners have seen, at some point in their journey, root rot. What is it, what causes it, and what can be done?
Roots Require a few things to be healthy and to function properly. They require moisture, nutrients, and air. Proper aeration of the soil is essential to prevent waterlogging and suffocation. If roots remain stuck in heavy, wet soil for too long they can lose essential access to oxygen and begin to decay. This decay is what is commonly called root rot.
Prevention is the most effective way to combat root rot, although we will also cover measures that can be taken to try to save a plant with rot. The best way to prevent rot is the choose or create a soil mixture with proper aeration. Good houseplant soils will include a healthy amount of perlite, bark, coconut husk, horticultural charcoal, or pumice. It is ideal the choose a soil with more than one of these amendments. You can also add these elements to existing soil in order to improve aeration and drainage. Be sure to also place your plant in a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom.
If your plant does develop rot, the best thing to do is to first remove your plant from its pot and compost the soil, do not reuse it as the rot can spread to another plant. On the affected plant trim any rotted root. Roots that are soft, dark, or falling off should be removed.
If after this pruning you still have a significant root system, the plant can be re-potted in fresh soil. If the plant no longer has roots, or has very few, it can be placed into damp sphagnum moss, or in a glass of water, in order to regrow its roots.
Many of us know about terracotta pots. Whether we have many plants of out own or have never cared for a single houseplant, we have seen terracotta pots in homes, businesses, every garden centre, and even the dollar store. But why is terracotta so popular?
For many the answer may be as simple as accessibility. In addition to being easily found, terracotta is an incredibly affordable option. Many ceramic and decorative pots can cost anywhere from 10 to 50 dollars for a standard 8-inch pot; basic terracotta is usually just a few dollars.
Terracotta also affords your plants a happy home. I have rarely seen a terracotta pot without drainage and a matching saucer. In addition, the unglazed clay pots help to quick moisture away from the soil, allowing for good aeration and helping to prevent overwatering. Terracotta is naturally occurring, sustainable, and a perfect choice for indoor gardening.
While we often view terracotta as an orange-brown, simply pot, the material can actually vary in colour. The amount of iron in the clay, as well as the method used to fire the pottery can affect the final colour. Humans have been using terracotta, also known as earthenware, for numerous used since pre-history. From sculpture to architecture the clay was valued for its light-weight durability and availability. In terms of pottery, there are extensive traditions, across many cultures, including French Anduze Pottery, Italian Galestro Terra Cotta, and Greek Terra Cotta. The material’s widespread use as a planting medium demonstrates both its beauty and its practicality.