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What to Know When You Bring Home a New Houseplant

Small cactus next to watering can

Are you a beginner at indoor gardening? Or maybe you’ve had houseplants for years but still feel like you’re missing something about how to keep them thriving.

Don’t worry.

I’ve got tips from experienced growers to help you get the best results from your houseplants. Specifically, this article covers what things to do when you bring home a new plant.

It turns out you can’t just bring a plant home, plunk it down, and expect it to grow and be vibrant. Just like any other living thing you invite into your place, plants need a few things to help them settle in.

Here’s what to do…

Good plant care starts at the nursery

When you go to the plant nursery there’s a little thing you need to look for, regardless of which plant catches your fancy—the tag. Most plants come with a little tag that tells you about their preferred environment.

Do they need lots of sunlight? Shade? Direct light? Indirect light? What about humidity levels? Most of this information will be found on the plant’s tag.

Plant with tag at nursery

Photo by Pick Up Limes

You’ll need to read the tag before you even pick a spot in your house for the plant to go, or look for a plant with requirements that will fit into a specific place in your house or apartment that you’ve picked out.

Buy a new container

You know how you usually have to buy a few accessories when you bring home a new pet—things like food and water dishes? A plant needs similar considerations.

Plants that have been growing at a nursery for a while tend to get their roots bunched up in the container they are in. Many will need a new, slightly larger container to be transferred to when you take it home.

Make sure any container you select has holes in the bottom or can easily have holes added for drainage. You don’t want to drown your plant or cause root rot or mold.

If you find a great-looking container that doesn’t have holes, no worries. You can still use the decorative pot as an outer pot and put the plant in an inner pot with holes, like this:

Plant with inner and outer pots

Photo by Pick Up Limes

Clean the roots

Yes, you need to give your plant a bath. When you bring a new plant home, it is strongly recommended that you remove all the old soil and rinse off the roots.

This helps to remove any parasites in the soil and can help treat root diseases that may have started to develop while the plant was at the nursery.

You may be wondering if this is hard on the plant. The truth is that yes, plants don’t like having their roots messed with, but they’ll recover fine if you take good care of them, and they’ll be less likely to die from a disease or parasite they picked up at the nursery.

The key is to be as gentle as possible with loosening the roots, picking away packed on soil, and rinsing with a gentle stream of water.

Plant in wet soil

When you add potting soil to the new container, make sure to get the soil moist before adding the plant to the pot. Dry soil is hard for a plant to move its roots through, but if the soil is a little moist, it will be easier for the plant to root itself in the new container.

Provide nutrition

Many potting soils come with added nutrients to help plants grow, but that won’t be sufficient forever. After all, just because you ate yesterday doesn’t mean you won’t want to eat tomorrow, right?

Liquid plant food

Photo by Pick Up Limes

Your plants feel the same way, although you only need to add nutrients every few weeks, depending on what kind you use.

Here are some suggestions for potting soils and fertilizers:

FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil

Happy Frog Potting Soil

Foliage-Pro Liquid Plant Food

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