The world of plant care can be more than a little bewildering, can’t it? Unless you’re a gardening expert, it can be tricky working out just what you need to do (or not do!) to make sure your indoor and outdoor plants thrive.
I love gardening, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’ve got the plant care right every time; in fact I’ve had many disasters over the years. I’ve also had lots of times where my plants thrived but I didn’t really know why, which meant I didn’t learn anything for next time!
Years of having a go has helped me gradually pick up plant care tips, and now I think I’m getting it right more often than not. So, I thought it would be helpful if I shared my hard-earned tips in the hope that it helps you avoid some of my mistakes!
I’ve already shared some tips for orchid care, and in this post I’m going to focus on how to look after plants in containers, whether that’s indoor houseplants or outdoor pots. Here’s how to nail container plant care.
Right plant, right place
This phrase is a real gardening buzzword at the moment, so if you’ve seen any gardening programmes or magazine articles recently you’ve probably come across it. It makes total sense too; all plants have their own specific conditions that they will thrive in, so if you put a plant in a place that provides those conditions, you’re well on the way to success.
Check the care instructions on your plant, or look them up online if you’ve lost the little label, and try to put the plant in a place that provides it’s ideal conditions. Some plants love full sun, others need shade; some demand high levels of humidity, while others will enjoy baking dry heat or a cool climate. Get this bit right, and you won’t be constantly fighting to keep your plants alive.
Container plants don’t have access to as much water as plants that are in the ground, so you need to take extra care to stop them drying out. On the flip side, overwatering can really damage container plants, as they tend to hate a puddle of water at their roots. In warmer months check your containers regularly and water thoroughly when required; avoid doing this at the hottest part of the day to minimise evaporation. In colder weather you probably won’t need to water dormant plants or plants that lose their leaves, but you may need to water evergreen plants, so don’t ignore your containers completely.
Houseplants are even more reliant on you for water, as they don’t even have access to rain. If you tend to forget about your houseplants, consider setting yourself a calendar reminder. It’s also a good idea to choose ones that show really obvious signs of needing a drink; my Peace Lily, for example, goes all floppy as soon as it needs watering, so it gives me a very visual prompt. Another option is to choose really tough, hardy houseplants that can put up with irregular watering; succulents and Sansevieria are both great options.
All plants benefit from regular feeding, and it’s especially important to feed container plants. They have limited access to soil and will quickly exhaust the nutrients available; add to this the fact that we tend to pack lots of plants into outdoor containers or hanging baskets and it’s no wonder that they often struggle to thrive.
Feed your container plants regularly with a plant food suited to their needs. I find with plant food, the more convenient the format and method of feeding the better, as that makes me far more likely to keep it up.
A ready to use liquid feed is a really quick and easy way to feed your plants without any hassle – there’s no fiddling about diluting it into a watering can, or worrying about getting the concentration right. I’ve been using Baby Bio Pour & Feed, which is designed for houseplants and outdoor plants in containers and hanging baskets.
I also really like the fact that you can use this product on all your container plants, whether they’re indoors or outdoors, so you don’t need two different bottles of feed.
If you have flowering plants in your containers this is a must – and it isn’t as brutal as it sounds! Deadheading is simply removing any flowers that are dropping, dead or forming seed heads; as well as making your plants look better, it also prevents them setting seed, which encourages more flowers. It’s the sort of job that you need to do little and often, and it’s perfect for kids to help out with too.
If your container plants or houseplants are looking a bit sorry for themselves, it’s possible that they have outgrown their pot. You can check this by easing the plant out of it’s pot and taking a look at the roots; if they’re all crowded up around the bottom and edges of the soil, it’s time to re-pot into a bigger container. This will provide the plant with some fresh compost and give the roots room to expand, which should give it a new lease of life. Remember to water your plant well after re-potting.
Have I managed to de-mystify container plant care a little bit for you? I really hope these tips help you get those plants thriving, and if you have any suggestions to add let me know!
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