Plant Care Guide
Our plant care guide includes tips and easy-to-remember rules-of-thumbs over decades of experience. This section is all about sharing these tips with you so that you too, can experience the joy that comes from successfully caring for a plant.
One other note is that we like to think in general terms vs. specific care for specific plants. This way, you can learn the principles that will help you understand plants better in general in cases where specific care instructions are not available. That said, we included a list of commonly found plants in the indoor environment here as well.
plant care guide faq and primer
Why is there a range of watering intervals?
Plants respond differently in different environments. Generally speaking, the more light and the warmer the temperature, the more the plant would grow and use up water and nutrients. So if your space has more light or is kept at a higher temperature, you may want to water more frequently than the same plant in a cooler temperature or receiving less light.
Why are leaves turning yellow and dropping?
Plants usually have a settling-in period when they arrive at a new environment and may drop leaves as a response. A few leaves dropping is normal, so simply discard the leaves that fall. However, if over 50% of the plant is turning yellow or dropping, there may be other causes. Plants can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to settle into their new environment. Faster growing plants will show signs faster and recover faster than slow growing plants. If leaves are turning yellow and dropping after the plant has been in a location for a while, this may mean too little light or not enough water. Increase both and see if the plant responds.
The tips of the leaves are turning brown. What do I do?
This is a common sign of too much flouride in the water. You can collect rain water or use filtered water to reduce tip browning. You can also trim away the brown tips in the meantime to help with the plant’s appearance.
I see little black flies around my plant when I water or disturb the plant. What are those and how do I get rid of them?
Little black flying insects around plants are usually fungus gnats. They love wet soil and lay eggs on the top 1-2″ of moist soil.The larvae eats dead materials in the soil before they emerge as flying adults. There are a number of ways to treat them:1) reduce watering so the top levels of the soil can dry off.2) set up sticky yellow tape to trap the flying gnats. They’re attracted to yellow. 3) water with beneficial nematode, which are microscopic worms that eat the larvae. 4) Use Neem oil (plant extract) on the surface of the soil in the evening when adults settle onto the soil surface. It will kill the adults, but will not affect the eggs. 5) take the plant out of its pot and scrape away the top 1-2″ of soil, discard it and replace it with fresh soil.With all of these, you will see a significant impact on gnat population. Keep soil on the dry side and you should be able to eradicate the pest in a couple of weeks.
I see sticky residue on my plant. Where does that come from?
Look for flat bugs like scale or aphids on your plants. Their secretion is sticky. So if you find evidence, look for the bug. Check under leaves, in-between leaf and stem and growth tips. When you find them, simply spray Neem oil or insecticidal soap or remove by hand.
How can I tell which direction my window faces?
Look for a ‘compass’ app in your phone’s app store. The app usually has a mark for ‘North’. Stand facing your window and line up the ‘moving needle’ on the display with North. Whatever matches your window’s direction is its direction.
How can I tell how much light I have?
You can start with the compass app. You can also do the shadow test, where you hold out your hand and see how blury or sharp the shadow’s edge is. The sharper the edge, the more light you have. If you can barely see the edge of the shadow, it may be too dark for plants.
When and how should I fertilize?
We recommend fertilizing with a slow release and balanced fertilizer during the plant’s growing season, which is usually Spring and Summer. However, for tropical plants, they’re growing (perhaps slower) even in the middle of Winter. The key factor in applying fertilizer is the availability of light. Plants that get more light, more water will grow faster and need fertilizer more frequently. A slow growing plant such as Snake Plante or ZZ plant in a low-light location can go one or two years before needing any fertilizer.
When and how should I repot?
Plants should be repotted when the roots become rootbound (are roots growing out of the bottom or pushing up through the pot?) or the plant is no longer thriving in the pot (do you find that the plant leaves are yellow or wilt more frequently with the same watering routine). If you want the plant to get larger, repot the plant into the next size pot, meaning 2-3″ inches bigger in diameter.First loosen the plant from its existing pot, tease the roots loose (it’s ok to remove some of the old soil in the process), fill the bottom of the new pot with a layer of fresh potting soil, place the plant in the middle of the pot and fill around the sides with fresh soil.Lastly, water the plant thoroughly to help it settle. A couple of other tips to note: ensure the new plant has drainage holes. If the plant is a succulent, look for a grittier mix or use cacti soil mixture which has better drainage than typical potting soil. If you want to keep the plant the same size, you can trim away the roots on the edge of the root ball, remove the existing outter layer of soil and then return the plant back to its old pot and fill with fresh soil.
My plant is getting so big. How do I prune it?
Congratulations on doing a great job of growing a big plant! Pruning is a very useful technique that can help to improve the shape and vigor of a plant. First, remove any diseased or broken parts, then look at the shape of the plant to determine what needs to be done. For trailing plants like Pothos or Philodendron, simply take a pair of sharp scissors and cut next to a leaf node (a node is where a leaf grows out of the stem) to reduce the plant to a length that you like.