Caring for houseplants can seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be! By following some simple yet essential tips, anyone can have thriving, healthy indoor plants in their home. This article will share some key tips to help your houseplants grow big and strong.
These tips focus on providing the right care and conditions to mimic how houseplants grow in their natural habitats. For example, many indoor plants originally grew in tropical forests, so they thrive with high humidity and warm temperatures. By bottom watering and pruning correctly, you can encourage healthy root systems and full, bushy growth.
Other important care steps include removing dead leaves, wiping dust from plant leaves, and rotating plants to ensure even access to sunlight. We'll also discuss how staking vining plants vertically helps them develop bigger leaves.
Follow these fundamental houseplant care steps, and you'll notice your plants becoming greener, fuller, and healthier. Soon your home will be a true urban jungle filled with thriving indoor plants!
|Bottom watering||Encourages root growth, deters fungus gnats|
|Pruning||Fuller, bushier growth|
|Rotate plants||Even access to sunlight|
I. Encourage Fuller Growth
A. Pin Vining Stems to Soil
One tip to get a fuller, bushier houseplant is to pin the stems directly onto the soil. This technique works especially well for vining plants like Tradescantias, also known as inch plants or wandering jew plants. It encourages the plant to grow more stems and leaves from the base, creating a lush, full look.
How Pinning Stems Works
Vining houseplants originally grew creeping along the forest floor in tropical areas. As the stems contact the ground, they put out small roots and new shoots at the leaf nodes. This allows the plant to attach to the earth and create multiple new stems.
We can mimic this natural growth pattern by intentionally pinning the dangling stems and vines to the soil. This stimulates the plant to produce roots and shoots along the buried section.
Perfect for Tradescantias and String of Hearts
Two types of plants that benefit greatly from stem pinning are Tradescantias and string of hearts. Tradescantias are known for their long, trailing purple and green stems. String of hearts has cascading strands covered in unique coin-shaped leaves.
Both plants tend to get "leggy" and bald at the base over time as the vines extend outward. Pinning the strands to the soil fixes this issue. New baby shoots will sprout all along the pinned stems, creating a bushy fill near the root system.
How to Pin Stems
Pinning vining stems is an easy process:
Gather and hold down any long, dangling stems.
Use U-shaped metal pins or bobby pins to secure the stems against the soil surface.
Focus on pinning stems horizontally along the top of the soil.
Cover the pinned sections lightly with a bit of extra soil or moss.
Keep the soil moist to encourage new root growth from the pinned nodes.
New shoots and leaves should emerge within a few weeks.
Tips for Success
Don't bury the stems too deeply - just pin them to the surface.
Avoid damaging the main central stem - focus on side vines.
Be patient - it takes time for new growth to develop.
Consider propagation - pinning prepares perfect stem cuttings.
Rotate the plant occasionally for even pinning all around.
Benefits of Stem Pinning
Pinning vining stems has many advantages:
Creates a fuller, bushier plant from leggy vines.
Produces new stems and leaves from fewer original vines.
Prevents bald spots and legginess over time.
Makes the plant look lush, healthy, and attractive.
Can be combined with propagation for exponential growth.
Easy, natural way to encourage more roots and shoots.
Mimics how vining plants grow in tropical forest floors.
Works for many trailing houseplants beyond Tradescantias.
So don't be afraid to pin those vines! With this simple trick, you can transform scraggly, leggy plants into full, beautiful trailing houseplants. Try pinning stems to encourage new growth and enjoy the results!
B. Prune Regularly
Pruning is an essential houseplant care task that helps plants grow fuller, bushier, and stronger. Though it may seem counterintuitive, strategic cutting actually benefits your plants and in no way harms them. By pruning back overgrown stems and foliage, you encourage dense new growth that makes plants healthier and more attractive.
How Pruning Works
When you make a cut on a stem, it triggers the plant's natural survival mechanisms. In response, the plant sends hormones to activate dormant buds below the cut. These buds then produce two or more new shoots from that point. So pruning tells the plant to split off more stems, creating a bushy shape.
For this reason, pruning is an important technique to prevent leggy growth. Trimming spindly top growth helps redirect the plant's energy to lower buds and branches instead. With regular pruning, plants stay compact with multiple stems instead of stretching out with just one long stem.
Pruning Encourages Fuller Shape
Pruning is hugely beneficial for getting a "fuller plant". By cutting back extended top growth, you force dense new growth near the base and interior. This fills out lanky plants for an attractively shaped, bushy appearance.
Any overgrown or unattractive stems can be removed to guide the plant's shape. Focus on opening up congested plant centers to allow light penetration. Tip: Use clean, sharp pruners or scissors for easy, non-damaging cuts.
How Often to Prune
For houseplants, prune:
- In early spring when new growth emerges
- Throughout summer to manage shape/size
- Less in fall to allow flowering & hardiness for winter
Signs a plant needs pruning:
- Getting lanky or sparse
- Leggy with lots of space between leaves
- Overgrown - touching ceiling or walls
- Congested interior with poor air flow
- Be decisive - don't just pinch, cut whole stems
- Cut at leaf node junctions for best regrowth
- Remove fully any damaged or diseased stems
- Sterilize tools before each plant to avoid spreading illness
- Take stem cuttings to propagate more plants!
Benefits of Regular Pruning
- Fuller, bushier, and more compact growth habit
- Prevent stretching and legginess
- Open up congested plant centers
- Remove old spent stems and directs energy into new growth
- Cutting back improves overall plant health and vitality
- Can propagate more plants from pruned stem cuttings!
So don't shy away from giving your plants a haircut! Remember that pruning stimulates productive new growth. With some simple pruning at the right times, you can transform your houseplants into lush, vibrant, fuller versions of themselves.
II. Promote Healthy Soil Conditions
The soil is where it all starts for houseplant health. By taking steps to optimize soil conditions, you enable plants to thrive. This section covers two key tips to create a clean, pest-free, and well-aerated soil environment suitable for robust root growth.
A. Remove Dead Leaves
Allowing dead leaves to accumulate on the soil surface can cause several issues. Removing them regularly is vital for plant health.
Why Remove Dead Leaves?
Dead foliage left in the pot blocks air circulation around the plant's crown. It also provides the perfect breeding ground for harmful fungi and pests.
Pests - Fungus gnat larvae feed on decaying plant matter. Leaving decaying leaves allows these pests to thrive.
Disease - Wet, compacted leaves can lead to crown rot and other fungal diseases.
So clearing away dead plant debris reduces problems and promotes healthy soil.
When to Remove Dead Leaves
- During regular watering sessions
- While misting or fertilizing plants
- Anytime you notice dead foliage accumulating
- At least every 2-3 weeks
How to Remove Dead Leaves
- Gently brush leaves off of soil with your hand.
- Use tweezers to pluck leaves from base of plant.
- Add fresh topping of soil/moss if needed.
- Consider repotting annually to refresh old soil.
Benefits of Removing Dead Leaves
- Prevents pests like fungus gnats
- Allows air circulation to plant's crown
- Stops fungal issues like crown rot
- Keeps plant and soil looking tidy
- Essential for healthy, thriving plants!
B. Bottom Water Plants
Bottom watering is a technique that offers major benefits to houseplants. It's easy to do and improves soil health.
What is Bottom Watering?
Bottom watering simply means watering the plant by filling the bottom drainage tray. Roots draw moisture upwards into the potting mix.
How to Bottom Water
- Fill a container with water
- Place potted plant into the water
- Allow water to absorb upwards via drainage hole (5-10 mins)
- Remove once top of soil is damp
Benefits of Bottom Watering
- Encourages roots to grow downwards into moisture
- Avoids mineral buildup from watering leaves
- Keeps top layer of soil drier to prevent fungus gnats
- Does not compact soil or splash leaves
- Allows thorough, even saturation of soil
Switching to bottom watering takes a bit more time but is highly beneficial. The results are clearly visible - healthier, vibrant plants with robust root systems!
III. Mimic Natural Growth
A. Stake Vines Vertically
In nature, vining houseplants grow vertically up tree trunks and other structures. Mimicking this natural growth by staking them vertically produces bigger, healthier leaves.
Why Stake Plants Upright?
Vining plants originally evolved in tropical jungles. To reach sunlight through the canopy, they climb upwards on trees and rocks.
When we grow these vines in our homes, they don't have a vertical structure. So the stems cascade downwards unnaturally.
By providing vertical support, we can recreate their natural upward growth. This results in the large, robust leaves the plant is programmed to generate when climbing.
How to Stake Plants
Staking vining plants is simple:
Use a moss pole, trellis, or single stake. Ensure it is taller than the plant's current height.
Place the support right next to the base of the plant.
Use soft plant ties or loops of twine to gently secure stems to the pole as they grow. Don't tie too tightly.
Check ties regularly as the plant grows upwards. Loosen or retie as needed.
Water and fertilize regularly to support fast vertical growth.
Ideal Vining Plants to Stake
- Passion flowers
- Black-eyed Susan vine
- Sweet potato vine
Benefits of Staking Vines
- Generates bigger, more robust leaves
- Achieves full natural growth potential
- Creates visually impressive displays
- Makes large architectural statement plants
- Grows faster vertically with adequate support
- Prevents tangled, unruly stems
- Recreates jungle vibe in home
So give your vining houseplants the vertical support they crave! Staking transforms scraggly vines into showstopper statement plants with huge cascading leaves.
B. Rotate Plants Regularly
In nature, plants grow with light exposure from all angles. Mimic this by rotating houseplants weekly for healthy, even growth.
Indoor plants kept in one spot develop lopsided growth, leaning and facing the window. This causes:
- Spindly, stretched out stems on one side
- Sparse, weak growth on the backside
- Congestion toward light source
- A lopsided, unbalanced appearance
By rotating the pot regularly, all sides get even light exposure. This is especially important for fussy plants like calatheas.
How Often to Rotate
- Weekly is ideal in most cases
- Every 3-5 days for finicky plants like prayer plants
- Every 2 weeks is minimum for most houseplants
Make plant rotation part of your regular care routine for best results.
Tips for Rotating
Turn the plant 90-180 degrees each session.
Rotate in the same direction each time to cover all sides.
Be gentle - don't shake or disturb the plant too much.
Water after rotating to help roots re-establish.
Adjust other light sources to accommodate the new position.
When to Rotate
- When watering each week
- While cleaning leaves and pruning
- Anytime you think about it!
Link rotation with other care tasks for convenience.
Benefits of Rotating Plants
- Prevents lopsided, uneven growth
- Allows all leaves equal light exposure
- Maintains visually pleasing shape
- Keeps growth habit compact and full
- Improves overall plant health and vigor
- Easy preventative measure for problems
Rotating houseplants takes little time but makes a big difference in their appearance and health. Be diligent about giving all sides a turn in the sun!
IV. Maintain Leaves
The leaves of a houseplant are its powerhouse for photosynthesis. Proper leaf care allows plants to thrive. This section covers tips to care for leaves through cleaning and air circulation.
A. Wipe Leaves Monthly
Dust accumulation on leaves blocks light and disrupts growth. A monthly wipe down removes this debris.
Why Clean Leaves?
Like any surface, plant leaves collect dust over time. This dust coating:
- Blocks light from reaching leaf surfaces
- Interferes with photosynthesis
- Can allow pests/pathogens to take hold
- Makes plants appear dull and dirty
By cleaning leaves monthly, you optimize light absorption and plant health.
How to Clean Leaves
- Use a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe leaves. Avoid abrasion.
- For delicate leaves, spray with water and wipe with paper towel.
- Check undersides of leaves for hidden dust buildup.
- Apply leaf shine products if desired for extra gloss.
- Spot clean anytime leaves get excessively dirty.
When to Clean Leaves
- At least every 4 weeks for typical houseplants
- More frequently for plants near windows/vents
- When fertilizing or misting plants
- If leaves appear dusty, dingy or coated
A quick monthly wipe down keeps plants dust-free and looking their best!
B. Improve Air Circulation
Proper airflow around houseplants prevents issues and creates stronger growth.
Importance of Airflow
Good air movement:
- Strengthens plant stems and foliage
- Evaporates excess moisture to prevent disease
- Discourages fungus gnats and pest infestations
- Provides needed CO2 for photosynthesis
- Mimics natural wind patterns plants evolved with
With adequate air circulation, plants develop hardy, robust growth better able to withstand stresses.
How to Improve Circulation
- Use fans to create gentle breeze around plants
- Space pots appropriately to allow air movement
- Rotate plants to prevent congested growth
- Prune congested stems and leaves
- Open windows regularly for fresh outdoor air
Monitor plants for signs of poor circulation like fungal spots, droopy stems, or pest infestations. Address problem areas with increased airflow.
Strong, healthy plants start with great air circulation! Make it a priority in your indoor garden.
V. Manage Root System
A. Repot Annually
Repotting houseplants into larger containers is essential to provide room for root growth. Plan to repot annually for optimal health.
Over time, plant roots grow and take up more space in the pot. This causes:
- Circling, cramped root balls
- Insufficient soil and nutrients
- Stunted growth
By repotting annually, you give roots fresh soil and space to expand. This allows vigorous new growth.
When to Repot
- In early spring before growing season
- When roots are crowded and circling
- When drainage from bottom holes slows
- When plants become top heavy or stunted
Avoid repotting in fall when plants are dormant.
How to Repot
Gently remove from current pot and loosen roots.
Prune any damaged roots and root balls.
Choose new pot 1-2 inches larger in diameter.
Add fresh, high-quality potting mix.
Nestle plant into soil at proper depth.
Water thoroughly to settle roots.
Tips for Repotting
- Handle plants carefully to avoid root damage.
- Only go up 1-2 pot sizes to prevent overwatering.
- Prune roots and tops to balance plant after reporting.
- Water sparingly after repotting to prevent shock.
- Avoid fertilizing for a few weeks until established.
Benefits of Repotting
- Allows proper oxygen and water intake through roots
- Encourages new root growth into fresh soil
- Creates stronger, healthier plants
- Prevents pests and diseases
- Rejuvenates old plants
Though it sounds counterintuitive, repotting gives your plants a fresh start in new soil so they can continue to grow their best! Make it an annual ritual.
B. Bottom Water Plants
Bottom watering is a beneficial technique that improves houseplant root health. Here's how to use it for thriving plants.
What is Bottom Watering?
Bottom watering means allowing the plant to soak up water from the bottom drainage tray. The roots draw moisture upwards into the soil.
How to Bottom Water
Fill a container with several inches of water.
Place the potted plant into the water.
Leave for 5-10 minutes allowing water to soak upwards.
Remove once the top of the soil is damp.
Pour out excess water, allow to drain fully.
When to Bottom Water
- During regular watering sessions
- When soil is partly but not completely dry
- For plants prone to overwatering
Bottom water when the plant needs it, just like traditional top watering.
Tips for Bottom Watering
Check soil moisture first to avoid oversaturation.
Lift the pot to gauge when fully hydrated.
Use room temperature water - avoid extremely cold or warm.
Stick to a consistent watering schedule.
Benefits of Bottom Watering
Encourages roots to grow downwards into moisture.
Maintains drier top layer of soil preventing fungal gnats.
Avoids mineral buildup from watering leaves.
Does not splash or compact the soil.
Allows even saturation as water moves upwards.
Oxygenates roots and stimulates growth.
Switching to this simple method makes a big difference in plant health and root development. Give it a try!
Following these essential tips makes caring for houseplants simple and successful. Focus on optimizing soil health, moisture, light exposure, and mimicking natural growth patterns.
Key takeaways include:
Pin vining stems to the soil to encourage bushy fill.
Prune regularly for fuller, compact growth.
Bottom water to stimulate robust roots.
Rotate plants so all sides get light exposure.
Stake vines vertically to allow larger leaves.
Clean leaves monthly to remove dust.
Repot annually to provide space for expanding roots.
Think of your plants as individuals with unique needs. Observe them closely and adjust care accordingly. With this attentive, consistent care, your plants will thrive indoors.
Soon you'll have a beautiful urban jungle filled with healthy, vibrant houseplants! For more tips, check out these resources:
With the right care, even beginning plant parents can cultivate picture-perfect indoor plants. Follow these fundamental techniques to create your own flourishing indoor garden!