How to Keep Your Plants Alive

It can be difficult to know how to keep your plants alive, especially when they can’t tell you if they need water or sunlight. Imagine trying to care for a baby that never cried or fussed--you would have to remember how often to feed it, change its diaper and put it to sleep all on your own. 


Because plants prefer to suffer in silence, it’s your job as a responsible plant owner to create a watering schedule for them. If you have more than a few plants though, this can be a daunting and stressful task. In this article, we’ll outline some tips to keep your plants alive. Plus, we’ll reveal some innovative, digital solutions that could ease some of this burden. 


Don’t Neglect the Instructions

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s imperative that you follow the care instructions included with your plant. While some plants (like succulents) have simple care instructions, carnivorous plants (like venus fly traps) are much more temperamental. Proper instructions should include ideal sunlight, water and humidity conditions, but you might have to check online if any of these factors are missing.

Daily Visual Check 

Look at your plant. Does it seem droopy? Are the leaves browning around the edges? The same way you can tell when a person is sick, you can tell when a plant isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. And in that same vein, you should take action when you see that something isn’t right. Here are some tips to help with diagnosis and treatment: 


Red Flag

Diagnosis

Treatment

Soil is damp days after last watering
Overwatering
Let the soil dry out, then start watering again.
Soil is dry and crumbly
underwatering
Water prodigiously until drops emerge from drainage hole at bottom, then water only when you feel dry soil just underneath top soil
No new growth (leaves and shoots)
Fertilizer or root issue
Add light fertilization or repot to give more room for roots
Thin leaves stretching toward sun
Leaves turning yellow and brown
Brown spots on leaf tips
Plant is stunted
Plant is dry
Lack of even sunlight
Rotate plants a quarter turn every week
Issues with watering or humidity
If not overwatering and soil is dry, your plant needs more water
Overwatering -- excess water drowns roots
Mist the leaves or shower plant 2-3 times/week (can also use humidifier)
Low humidity
Water your plant less
Over fertilization
To optimize nutrient absorption and water intake, lower fertilization levels

Be Careful with Water

A lot of plant owners have this notion that the solution to a wilting plant is always water. This oftentimes causes overwatering. While some plants thrive on lots of moisture, the large majority actually require that you let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. You’ll know it’s time to water if the soil is dry an inch from the surface (you can use your finger to check). This is a great way to check for patterns and create a watering schedule that’s personalized to your plant. 


Even if you’re watering the correct amount, you can still have issues with your plants if the quality of the water isn’t up to par. In some cities, the tap water is chock full of chlorine, which is harmful to plants. If you want to really treat your plants, water them with filtered water or rainwater collected in buckets. Chlorine also evaporates, so you can stick your tap water out in a bucket for a few days to get out all the icky chemicals. 


When watering, be sure that the soil beneath the leaves is getting some love and stop watering once you see water trickling from the bottom. You also don’t want your plants sitting in water, so dump an excess water that falls into the saucer or plate beneath. 


Location, Location, Location.

It’s not just watering you have to worry about--plant placement can have a major impact on the amount of moisture it retains and the amount of sunlight it gets. In particular, you want to avoid placing your plant in areas of your home that are either very cold or very hot, such as above a vent or within a sunroom. In addition, you want to avoid draft areas where there’s a lot of wind flow. 


Not all plants can hold up to direct sunlight. You’ll want to check and see if plants in direct sunlight are showing signs of dry leaves and respond accordingly. After all, plants can get sunburned just like us! 


Give Them Room to Grow

Your plant doesn’t like being cramped. Not allowing space for roots to grow can be a surefire way to harm your plant. You’ll be able to tell the pot is too small if the roots are coiled or growing out the drainage holes. In some cases, roots might even try to approach the soil’s surface as a last resort. 


If you notice any of these signs, you’ll need to repot your plant (a natural part of plant growth). As part of your plant’s upgrade, you’ll want to find a new pot that’s about 2 inches wider and deeper than the previous pot. Next, turn the plan on its side and carefully remove it (roots and all) from the undersized pot. In the case that the roots are coiled, simply prune them or unfurl them prior to repotting. Finally, place your plant in the new pot and surround with soil. As a finishing touch, water your newly-potted plant until the soil is moist. 


Balancing Fertilizer 

Another factor to consider on top of water and sunlight is fertilizer. Since fertilizer slows water absorption into the roots, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the fertilizer level. New growth is a sign that you’re at just the right fertilizer level, so no new leaves is a red flag. Other indicators that things aren’t balanced right are fertilizer crust on top of the soil and leaves that look a bit more yellow than green. 


If you notice any of these things happening, simply halt fertilization for a bit to give your plant a chance to rebalance. In some cases, your plant may not even need fertilization, so be sure to look up plant care instructions first! 


Plant Care Apps


If you’ve come to the realization that you just don’t have the time to properly take care of your plants on your own, there are several digital solutions out on the market to help you out. Whether you’d like an application that can help you develop the right habits or a full-on plant nanny that gives you exact plant care instructions, app stores are a great place to start looking. 


Vera, a plant care app that we’ve developed, is designed to help you keep your plants alive whether you have one plant or a whole jungle. The mobile app sends you notifications on your phone when your plants need to be watered and allows you to create custom profiles for each of your plants. 


The app is also super easy to use. All you have to do is create an account and set up your plant profiles. To create a profile, you just have to name your plant, take a picture of your plant, and set the watering schedule. Vera will take care of the rest! See pictures below for screenshots of what the app looks like:


Bonus Tip: Snake Plants are a great option if you’re looking for a plant that’s almost impossible to kill! Plus, these beauties also clean the air in your home (win-win!). 


Ready to Find Your Green Thumb? 

We hope these tips have helped you learn how to keep your plants alive! Just remember that plants are a lot like babies--they need a lot of support, but the payoff is completely worth it. And for all you plant mamas & papas out there, we salute you!


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