Herbal Interests // Caring for House Plants
I never thought I would be the person to become obsessed with her house plants, but here we are. I LOVE them! So much so I often chitchat with them while watering or working, photograph them, and talk about them on my blog... I mean, if that's not "crazy plant lady" enough for you, then I don't know what is! I often get asked what the best ways to care for your plants are. I know that many people are much more talented at killing their plants than caring for them, and I really think that all boils down to watering, scheduling and patience. You either water them too little or too much, and there is a special balance for what your plants need. But truly, it is much less difficult than you think and like all things, a bit of dedication, understanding, and passion is the true key to making your plants thrive. If you find no interest in keeping plants, you just want them for the look or the trend, then I really suggest getting fakes!! It's easier and you essentially achieve the same vibe, though you miss out on the awesome benefits!
I have various succulents growing around my house. Well, mainly my work table because its window receives the most direct sunlight in our home. I decided to not stage my plants this time around because, though adorable on my peg rack shelf, it's just not practical as I don't have a window near there! The majority of my house plants are succulents. I was growing quite a few herbs, but they were not receiving enough sunlight and were struggling. I decided to say goodbye to them a few weeks ago while I wait for the construction of our kitchen garden. I was so sad to see them go, but it was time! I honestly have too many indoor plants for the space of our tiny home. If you want to read about my tips and research for house plants, you can start here!
Because of all that, we'll just be talking about my succulents for now - I do have one baby cactus! When picking out your succulents, I really don't have any great advice for this except pick one that stands out to you, that you find really pretty or cute, and just go for it! Aloe is a great one to start with as it has medicinal value - you can pop a leaf off and squeeze out the gel directly to your minor burn or minor scrape. I did this the other day when I burned my arm on the inside of the oven, and it was glorious (not the getting burnt part, and don't ask how I do these things). A few other common succulents include several varieties of Echeveria, Cactaceae, Sedum (Stonecrop), Aeonium, Dudleya, Cotyldedon, Sempervivum, Graptopetalum, Kalanchoe, and Senecio. I have representatives of almost all of these families!
Once you have picked out your succulents, it's time to figure out how to want to plant them. The best option for your new babies to be planted in is a sandy, succulent soil. You can find this at any garden center. However, I have planted several of my succulents in regular potting soil, and they have thrived just fine off of that. I prefer clay pots for my plants as I love the way they contrast with the greens, but find any pot that drains well out of the bottom to plant your succulents in. Clay is nice because it can hold in moisture longer, but it also can collect mold along the outside. This can be fixed with a baking soda/water solution and toothbrush.
Fill your new pots up with soil and leave enough room for the succulents' roots to be completely covered by soil. Fill in with soil around the roots. Water your new plant well as the move will shock the roots. I've found my plants grow better when I use room temperature water or slightly warmed water as opposed to cold. The cold water can shock the roots as well. If there is water coming out of the bottom of the pot, then you have watered too much! And don't let your plant soak in the excess water; this is not good for the roots and could cause them to rot. Just dump the excess water in the sink or give it to another plant.
When it comes to fertilizer, I would pick anything that is specified for succulents or cacti. I have given mine vegetable fertilizer, which didn't do anything detrimental, but that was several months ago. I haven't fertilized my plants in a very long time! They don't really need it, and I only like to give them all natural fertilizer. We will begin making our own compost soon, so I will most likely start to use that!
Place your plants near any window that gets at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day, or whatever your succulent's tag recommends. I just read an interesting fact, though this was for herbs, that your plants do not need to live in a place with warm temperatures but cool ones with sunlight as the heat could cause your herbs to grow too quickly and can account for a quick death. I am not sure if this is true, but now that the weather is cooling, the area where my succulents are growing has been fairly chilly save for when the sunlight touches them. They also had a window unit air conditioner blowing on them from across the room all summer; not sure if this reigns true, then! Either way, the direct sunlight they are getting is through a window. So that means it is filtered light. If you were to plant your succulents outdoors at some point after having them inside, you would want to plant them in partial shade so that the direct sunlight would not shock them, and slowly move them to the sunny spot you might want. I experimented and put some potted succulents in the direct sun of my porch, and they shriveled up within a few days!
Watering! It's the hardest part and also the easiest part. How much do you water? When do you water? What am I doing wrong?! When it comes to succulents, you want to check at least 1 to 2 inches below the topsoil for moisture. If the soil is still quite moisturized, it doesn't need water. I feel most people feel the topsoil, which dries out quickly, and assume the plant needs water, essentially rotting the roots and drowning the poor thing. Planting in a clay pot is also a great indicator for how much water your succulent might need. The pot will begin to appear dry around the outside, indicating the plant is in need of water.
When you water, make sure to water deep. That means, pour your water near the edge of the pot and directly into the bottom layers of soil, rather than all around the plant. The top part of the plant is not what needs a ton of water, though you can occasionally spray the green if you feel it needs some moisture. It is best to give your plants occasional but thorough waterings rather than frequent, light waterings. Some people write themselves schedules, but I find that this doesn't really work if you are strict with it. Plants are similar to people when it comes to intake - if you're not hungry, don't fill yourself with more food, even though it's "food time". I would suggest giving yourself a watering schedule (maybe a reminder on your phone) and use that time to check if the plants need water. If not, then wait for your next reminder. If you keep an eye out, you will begin to notice your succulents slacking. I had a day where I felt the leaves of one of mine, and rather than being plump and fleshy as they once were, they were quite squishy and deflated. A little water plumped them right up within an hour. If you are seeking a specific date for watering, succulents typically need to be watered every 1-2 weeks.
And that's really it! Other than the care, you can now just enjoy them. Having plants in your home is extremely beneficial to your physical and mental health. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, the opposite of what we do, and are therefore excellent air regulators for inside your home. The more interesting part? Most succulents change in the night to release carbon dioxide and take in oxygen like us! This is a great way to purify the air and makes succulents the perfect plant for your bedroom while you sleep. I will tell you any day that having plants in our home has made all of us happier! They brighten the space and make it feel so complete. I am inspired everyday by my plants!! Have fun growing your own succulents.