Deciding to plant is akin to making a commitment.

Your plants have to live…and for a long time too. Or what’s the point?

So some people bawl.

I do not want my plants to die

I‘ll feel so horrible if my plants dry out

But to be honest, keeping plants alive isn’t as hard as you think it is. With the right attention and commitment (yes the C word again!) , you can keep your plants healthy and alive for a long, long time.

However, it is easier to keep outdoor plants as they get enough light and water and once the plant is an ideal spot in the garden, and gets water when required, it will be happy.

Indoor gardening is a totally different ball game because of low light indoor conditions, the plants do not transpire as they would outdoors so they need much less water and more infrequent watering. It is a tight balance that has to be gotten right otherwise the plant could die from either overwatering or drought.

Below are a few tips – things to look for and what to do – on how to care for your plants and keep them in good health;

1. Know your plant

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This seems like the most obvious and basic of things. You cannot care for your plant if you do not know it.

When you buy your plants, most plants packets come with tags explaining the conditions they need for growth, or ask the supplier for  the care requirements of the plant.

Do not ignore these explanations and go ahead with what we think they need.

Read the tag or listen carefully and get to know your plant’s requirements for planting, sunlight and watering, especially. Some plants don’t need as much water as you might guess and some need more.

2. Avoid Over-watering

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Overwatering is probably the most common reason a plant doesn’t thrive.

There are a few other reasons of course, but you want to take the issue of watering seriously. While some plants like to have very moist soil, generally, plants do better when you let the soil dry out a bit between waterings.

You can stick your finger an inch into the soil (closer to the edge of the pot, for potted plants), and if it’s dry, then you know it is time to water. After doing this for some time, you should know your plant better and be able to create a watering schedule.

3. Ensure your water is safe for your plant

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Tap water can contain excessive levels of chlorine, which is toxic to plants. You can therefore try filtered water or collect rainwater in a bucket and use that to hydrate your plants. Or, you can put tap water in a bucket and set it out in the sun for a day to evaporate the chlorine and make the water safe for your plants.

4. Properly Drain Water

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Good drainage is critical to plant health and longevity. If your plants are potted, consider putting 1/2″ – 1″ layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot. These pebbles will keep water away from the roots of your plants. Plants like a good bath but they do not want to soak. Also, for plants that like some humidity, a bit of water in the pebbles will help provide that.

When repotting your plants, be sure to use a pot with drainage holes. Pots with no holes will keep all the water in, and root rot can occur.

5. Pay attention to your plant’s appearance

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You should pay attention to the care label of your plant when you first purchase it, or do some research online, to know if your indoor plant wants full sun, partial sun, or shade.

If your plants are indoor plants, keep them away from very hot, cold or drafty areas in your home. Also, move them away from heating vents or air conditioners. And if your plant is in direct sunlight but the leaves look dry, you can move it to a place in your home that receives indirect sun. Leaves can get sunburned also, just like humans.

Also, check to see if your plant is lanky or has paler foliage. This may be an indication that it is not getting enough light. If so, gradually move it to a spot where it can get more light. If a plant has been in a certain spot for a long time, it can go into shock if it’s moved too suddenly, so you want to gradually transition it to a new area.

It is also important to check your plant’s home. For potted plants, if the pot’s soil looks cramped at the bottom, the roots are coiled or growing out of the drainage holes, or if roots are emerging from the soil’s surface, it is time to repot and give your plant more room. Turn the plant on its side and pry it out with tender loving care. If the roots are coiled, pull them straight and prune if need be before repotting.

When repotting, place the plant in a new container that is about two inches wider and deeper than your original pot and pour soil around the sides, then lightly water until the soil is most. If you do not use a bigger container, the roots of your plants will grow to accommodate the new space at the bottom and the top of the plant won’t show growth until later.

6. Check for new growth

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Is your plant producing leaves and shoots? You should check.

If your plant is not growing, it probably needs light fertilization to improve growth or repotting to allow room for expanding roots. On the other hand, if there is new growth, but the leaves are thin and stretching toward the sun, your plant obviously needs more even sunlight.

For even growth, rotate your indoor plants a quarter turn, weekly. Also, keep in mind that stunted plants could be over fertilized, which impacts the plant’s nutrient absorption and water intake. Lower fertilization levels and watch what happens.

And if you notice brown spots on leaf tips, revisit your watering schedule/levels and check the humidity in the area your plant sits.

7. Check for Pests and Dust

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Check your plant for pests and dust build-up on its leaves. If you find pests, you can try washing your plant leaves with a solution of one tablespoon of dish detergent to one quart of water. Place a soft towel in this mixture and gently sponge off the front and underside of the leaves. For dust, this solution works as well.  Or you can use paintbrushes to remove leaf debris and dirt.

Also, be sure to prune your plant if necessary and remove dead, brown and yellow leaves and stems, to allow for new growth. Most houseplants don’t need much pruning and if or when they do, the best time to prune is in the spring.

Conclusion

Often, if your plant is looking limp and lifeless, it’s getting too much or too little of something necessary to its health. You might need to experiment to see what this is, and once it’s adjusted, your plant’s condition should improve within days. Caring for your plant and keeping it alive is something that you can do.