There are many benefits to incorporating indoor plants in your home. Not only are they an essential part of your interior design, they can also brighten up the space (and your mood) — and even provide health benefits, such as by helping to purify the air.
If you’re a novice gardener, you may have been intimidated by past experiences, but we’re here to set that straight: Indoor plants can actually be relatively easy to tend, if you get to know exactly what your plant needs to lead a long and healthy life. Read on to see our guide to buying houseplants for first-timers.
1. Decide where you wish to place the plant
Most people make the mistake of heading straight to the store, choose a pretty plant they see and decide where to place that afterwards. This is exactly what you should avoid doing, because different types of indoor plants thrive in different places based on the amount of light, space and moisture available. There are specific plants that thrive in wet environments like showers and bathrooms, whilst others that prefer drier, sunnier locations such as on your windowsill.
One of many things to consider when choosing the right spot for your plant is also making sure there’s a good amount of distance — at least 6 inches — between the pots and other furnitures, keeping them away from air conditioners/heating units and picking somewhere with good air flow. Places like hallways, in front of windows, and on top of tables are a good place to start.
Never make the mistake of squeezing a plant into a corner or behind furnitures; not only will it hinder its growth, it will also seriously block the air circulation, making it really hard for the plant to breathe. A good amount of space and flow of air will encourage stronger stems and also allow the plant to achieve better temperature control, CO2 replenishment and also reduce humidity, thus lowering the chance of catching plant diseases, which are often a result of extreme moisture.
2. Do your research and choose the right plant for your home
Choose plants that are suited to your home’s conditions, which includes the type of space and also the amount of light. Typically, you’ll want taller plants for the floor, and shorter ones for those that sit on windowsills, shelfs and tables. Be reminded that plants do grow, so you’ll want to choose ones that are slightly shorter than what you wish for.
As for light, be mindful about the light level at the specific spot you plan to place your plant at, and remember it differs even for those on different windowsills based on the direction they face. Last but not least: Pay special attention if you have pets at home, as some indoor plants — such as sago palm, azaleas and lilies — are toxic to animals, and can pose serious health hazards to your furry friends.
Another thing to think about is your habits and schedules. Plants need routine watering, so if you have a busy schedule, travel all the time or are generally more ‘forgetful’, you’d want to go for species that require relatively less attention. Even so, it is important to note that not only a lack of water kills plants, too much water will do so too, as soggy, waterlogged compost causes disease and can be rather fatal. Avoid that by keeping your plants in pots with drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain out.
3. Where to buy your houseplants
Purchase your indoor plants from reputable stores where you’re confident their plants have been given the proper care they require before arriving in their new home. If you’re ordering online, make sure you choose ones that offer money-back guarantees and return the plants immediately if they arrive damaged, dry, or even worse, diseased.
4. Examine carefully for healthy growth
Found something that ticks all the boxes? Examine carefully before making any further decisions. For foliage plants, make sure they are lush and full, and the colours are fresh. Double check that the leaves and stems are firm, and nothing is wilted or distorted. Next, search for new leaves as evidence of growth; they should be naturally looking, and without any polished or waxed surfaces. As for flowering plants, avoid those with full blooms and, instead, go for ones with multiple buds, which generally last much longer (with some exceptions).
You’d also want to pay special attention to the nodes, or the areas where the stems branch out, which can indicate the presence of disease and insects. The chance to discover pests are also higher if the plant was initially grown outdoors. If during your shopping trip you find any mealybugs, red spider mites or scales, turn away immediately — it won’t take long for them to infect the entire plant.
Lastly, feel the soil with your fingers. You want it to be neither too loose or compacted. Some growers cut costs by using ordinary garden soil for potting, which tends to turn hard as a brick when dry — an unfavourable condition that causes stunted growth. You’ll have to repot the plants with better soil if you run into this issue.