What Plants Need to Grow

Stuff.

End of blog post. Congratulations, you’ve now read the shortest blog post I’ve ever written!

Okay but seriously, the world of houseplants (and outdoor plants, for that matter) can become an incredibly addictive hobby to dive into. But before you start getting your PlantKween poses in front of all that foliage, let’s make sure your plants are thriving with the things they need to flourish.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener, a plant newbie, or somewhere in between, it’s good to keep a reference of some basic, easy ways to keep plants happy and healthy. 

So let’s dive in!

What Plants Need to Grow

The Right Lighting Conditions

Different plants have different sunlight needs, but it’s a general rule that flowering plants are going to need more sunlight than bushy leaf plants (again, it’s a general rule as there are some outliers but overall this is an okay rule of thumb). There are three categories most plants will fall into:

High Light/Full Sun

This is usually tropical plants, carnivorous plants like fly traps, cacti and succulents, and plants found naturally in rocky climates (like lavender). They should be placed in areas that get 6+ of sunlight so put them in south-facing windows. My lavender has done the best when it’s in my south-facing wildflower garden (while the lavender I’ve planted in my north-facing garden hasn’t survived the winters here).

Medium Light/Semi-Shade

This is where the majority of indoor houseplants will fall. Medium-light usually means putting plants in indirect light, like near a window with blinds, or an area that gets a few hours of sunlight (west-facing mostly)

Low light/Shade

These plants rarely have flowers, though there are some exceptions (my coral bells just flowered after 3 years in the shade!). The reason behind this is that creating flowers means using a huge amount of energy, and that’s a tall order when your main source of energy is the sun. These plants usually are pretty hardy, too, so are great for beginners. Plants like saniservias, peace lilies, and ZZ plants can usually handle extremely low light situations and thrive.

The Right Soil

Different plants have different soil needs, so you’ll need to invest in a couple of variations depending on the plants you plan to bring into your home. Cacti and succulents like well-draining mixes, so go for the cactus/succulent blends. Orchids and carnivorous plants do best in orchid mixes or spaghum moss and rarely flourish in traditional soils. Fiddle leaf figs hate to get their roots soggy, so make sure whatever soil they’re in has additives to help keep it dry like perlite. 

The Right Pot

I don’t know why pots will exist without drain holes, but I try to avoid those like the plague. Make sure that whatever pot you’re using has the right drainage needs for your houseplant. If you’re not sure and the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, pick up a drill and put 1-2 holes in the bottom. If a plant sits in soil that cannot dry out, then the roots begin to rot which is a nearly impossible problem to fix (it can be done, but not easily and only if you catch it quickly).

Also, make sure the pot is the right size for your plants! Too big and the soil won’t dry enough for the plant to adjust and grow. Too small and the plant's roots will become too tangled to sustain growth. A good rule of thumb is ~1 – 2 inches wider than the plant.

I picked up a set of these and find them to be a perfect fit for most of my adolescent plants that haven’t fully flourished yet.

The Right Water Routine

It can be SO easy to over-love plants by watering them too much, so be sure to pay attention to the individual needs of the plant. An easy way to do this is to group together plants that require the same watering routine. If you’re unsure whether the plant is thirsty, check the soil: if it’s pulling away from the sides of the pot OR is dry 1” down (stick your finger in to test) then it’s time for a drink. You can also mist your plant leaves regularly to give them a little extra humidity without getting their soil too soggy.

A Little Bit of Food

It helps to add a little bit of fertilizer or plant food when plants are coming out of dormant phases or have been recently moved. Depending on the plant, used coffee grounds, plant food, or even egg shells can be great little treats for your plants. 

A Few Tips to Help Your Plants Grow:

Rotate them often – I like to spin my plants around every few weeks so that they don’t become too heavy with foliage on one side. Plus it helps give the little buds a chance!

Give them the right support – One thing I’ve seen a lot of new gardeners do (and I’ve been guilty of it!) is not give growing plants the literal support they need to flourish. Monsteras are climbers in the wild, so they need something to cling to, otherwise, they’ll spill out and not be able to support the weight of their leaves. Moss poles are a great way to help give them the structure they need to climb. My Easter Lillies also need a little bit of help, too, so I’ve given them these plant supports which were super cheap and help give them something to brace against as they grow upward.