Hi Plant Fam,
I’m Emily - Des Moines-ian and budding (!) plant aficionado. I’ll be doing a series this summer here with Art Terrarium on starting your own urban jungle (or small desk top plant collection...either way.)
We’ll dig in (I can’t stop) to the different types of indoor plants and offer a crash course in each. Consider this your resource on how to get started, whether you’re creating an office oasis or urban herb garden.
Today, we’re talking about a spring refresh for your house plants. We’ll cover cleaning, pruning, repotting, fertilizing and staging. I’m learning right along with you, so sound off in the comments with your questions and we’ll cover them in upcoming posts!
Cleaning:Because you’re smart, you already knew that plants absorb all kinds of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air. Benzene, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and others come from plastics, cosmetics, cigarette smoke, household cleaners, and a variety of other everyday products. Our plants break these down and use them for nutrition, and in order to do so, they actually attract things from the air. Yes, your little plant pal is electric!
While she can’t power a mini-fridge dedicated to guacamole with that electric charge (darn it), she can attract dust particles, which literally stick to the surface of her leaves. A quick once-over with a soft, dry cloth will remove that first layer of dust and prepare the leaves for their real cleaning.
Next, lightly dampening a clean cloth with a drop of dish soap. Gently wipe the plant down again, freeing up her pores and letting her breathe freely. She’ll be smiling at you already.
Pruning:Not to sound vain, but I’ve stepped up my hair game lately (shout out to Lauren at Oliver + James), and your plant should do the same. Pruning can be confusing, so take comfort in knowing that you don’t have to do anything drastic (see: the time I got impulse bangs in 2009).
When pruning, ensure that you are removing only dead tissue. If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to only remove leaves that have completely died. If you have leaves that are brown in places, you can leave them in tact. Taking care of your plant’s overall health can revive her salvageable leaves without pruning.
Repotting:I have two pairs of denim that I have outgrown and still keep trying to wear. You’ve been there. You get it. It’s equally as senseless (and occasionally painful) to confine your plant to a too-small pot as it grows, and that’s when you need to think about repotting.
For most plants, this will be about once a year; Adding it to your spring refresh routine will simplify and help keep you on track. Choose a pot that is 1-2” larger than the existing container. Begin by densely packing potting soil into bottom of your new pot.
If your plant isn’t too root-bound, hold the pot at an angle and gently remove. If you’re struggling to do this with ease, loosen the soil around the sides of your current pot to release your plant.
Once you’ve transferred to the new pot, firmly pack in soil around the sides, ensuring that the top of the soil is at least an inch below the lip of the pot. You’ll want to water the plant thoroughly once you finish. She’s been through a lot, and she’s thirsty! The soil should encourage drainage down through the middle of the pot - not out around the edges.
Fertilizing:This is where we all get a little intimidated. Done right, fertilizing will replenish the soil-based nutrients that your plant has used up. While there are endless varieties of fertilizers, all with different chemical and organic components, a great one-size-fits-all fertilizer is Bonide. Remember that, unlike an outdoor plant, with roots free to roam far and wide for nutrient-dense soil, your plant only has what you give her.
The key to fertilizing is simple, and you can find it in the very specific instructions on your fertilizer bag! Just kidding, but also, not kidding. Everyone knows how scary this can be (you can burn your plant if you overdo it), so follow those instructions to the letter and you’ll be just fine.
Better yet, pop in and talk to Andrea and Shylah. Bring your plant along for the ride (she likes car trips, I bet) and they’ll talk you through what kind of fertilizer you need, how and when to apply, and what kind of response to look for in your friend’s fronds. (My whole life has lead up to that alliteration.)
Staging:Finally, spring and winter plant placement may differ. Shorter days and weaker sunlight in the winter mean that your pals need to be placed in the most advantageous sun. As the light strengthens and lengthens, you may need to rethink your setup. If you’re unsure of what your plant needs, stay tuned - we’ll be talking about how to “find your light” (not for selfies, not for yoga) in an upcoming post!
I already love my sweet plants and everything that they do to clean my air, freshen my space, and keep me happy. Pop back to the blog in the next few weeks to see what I learn - and how I do with keeping green things alive for the very first time!