A Plant Addict's Kill-Proof Guide to Caring for Houseplants

May 7, 2018
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Yes, they look gorgeous and instantly spruce up your decor. And once you get one, you can’t help but want another, and another... But if you’re finding yourself constantly visiting nurseries to get a new ‘replacement’ (the last one just withered, a shame) - maybe it’s you, not it?

Caring for houseplants guide

Image Credit: @crazyplantaddict

Fret not! Even if you’re more black than green fingers, plants can still thrive - with the right care! Here, self-professed plant addict and food/still-life photographer Chloe Cheng (@crazyplantaddict) shares with us her tricks on caring for any indoor plant, along with the best ‘kill-proof’ plant types to own for a touch of greenery that’ll last the years. Here’s to no more plant grief.


1. Consider Your Home First Before Buying a Plant

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Third Avenue Studio

Just because that Wandering Jew seems to be thriving at your friends’ doesn’t mean it’ll fare the same at your place. “Don’t just go for the aesthetic. Every plant has different characteristics - some may require more sunlight, some more water. Are you able to fulfill its environmental needs?” Chloe says.

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Third Avenue Studio

So, before committing to a plant, determine your home’s conditions and then find types of plants that best suits your needs. If you have strong sunlight filtering into your home - consider flowering plants, cactuses or succulents. If it’s on the dim side, low-light plants like Snake plants or Staghorn ferns can survive with little sunlight.


2. Don’t Overwater

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Create

Unlike us humans, plants don’t require a daily dose of H20 everyday. “In fact, most people make the mistake of overwatering their plants, which can lead to root-rot, causing them to die”, Chloe adds. Instead, observe your plants, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Indoor plants can be watered every 3, 5 or 7 days - depending on the individual plant. While tracking each plant’s watering schedule can get pretty complicated with more greens, Chloe suggests ‘grouping plants with the same watering requirements together’ so as to help in remembering better.


3. Sunlight is Most Important

Caring for houseplants guide

Architect: Provolk Architects

Between light, water and soil, sunlight will affect the growth most. “Thus, I always make the effort move my plants nearer to the window (for more sunlight) before I leave the house.”, advises Chloe. And while doing that, monitor the sun’s direction too! “As the Earth is always rotating, sunlight doesn’t shine at the same spot forever. You may need to move the plants around the house, based on the sun’s movement.” she adds.

Caring for houseplants guide

Image Credit: @crazyplantaddict

But what if your home is really dim on all sides? There are all sorts of smart planters with artificial light to mimic natural sunlight - though they can be costly. “I’d suggest getting full-spectrum glow lights, which can be bought in aquarium shops or online for a couple of dollars. They do the same job too.” says Chloe.


4. The Signs are in the Leaves

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Bowerman

There’s a reason why plants are considered living things - they react to different stimuli, environments and changes. And one way of knowing how your plant really feels (or fares) is through its leaves! Here are some key, telltale signs to spot:

  • Leaves start to wither, turn yellow or drop: Possibly too much sunlight. Or overwatered. A sign of iron chlorosis from overly wet soil. Cut down your watering schedule and observe. Also, check if the soil is too water retentive (like clay soil).

  • Leaves have spots in them: A sign of fungal infection. Quickly treat it - if it’s a root fungal infection, then the plant is unlikely to survive.

  • Leaves turn brown or crunchy: Needs more water. Water till soil is moist, but not saturated.

  • Leaves are sparse: Needs more water. Water till soil is moist.


5. Research, then Buy

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Third Avenue Studio

It’s time to curb those impulse buys. If you want your greens to last, you’ve got to plan it carefully. “Start with an area you’d want to put a plant, and do your own research on what types of plants would look nice or be suitable for the space. For instance, you won’t want to place plants with fragile leaves near fans or air-conditioners, as it could blow them away”. Chloe says.

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: The Local INN.terior

Chloe suggests reading up online to understand a particular plant before heading to the nursery. “Alternatively, there’s a huge community on Instagram! I learnt a lot about caring for my plants by following certain accounts. @houseplantjournal is where I go for technical advice. Also, @urbanjungleblog is an amazing resource for getting inspiration on decorating with plants.” she adds.


6. Live and Let Live (or Die)

Caring for houseplants guide

Interior Designer: Bowerman

Lastly, don’t get overly attached to a plant nor obsessed over the plant’s growth. “Sometimes, no matter what you do, plants will eventually die. Take it as a lesson, learn from mistakes and move on.” Chloe encourages.


7. Or, Get These Hardy Plants That are Almost Kill-Proof

Caring for houseplants guide

Image Credit: @crazyplantaddict

Snake plant (or Sansevieria)

The most tolerant plant around, the Sansevieria is easy to take care for urban dwellers. The hardy plant can go stay neglected for weeks and yet they can still stay and look fresh. They do not require lots of sunlight (indirect sunlight works best!), and they help to clean the air at home, removing major indoor air pollutants - formaldehyde and benzene. Be careful not to overwater though, and allow the soil to dry in-between waterings. Snake plants do well in sandier soils.

Caring for houseplants guide

Image Credit: @crazyplantaddict

Rubber plant (or Ficus Elastica)

These trees can be tall (up to 15m) and can last up to a month without water! As such you may want to consider getting a young plant. Like the snake plant, indirect light works best - they need plenty of light but not harsh light, so consider placing them near the window that has sheer curtains. To keep the moisture in the plant, take care to wipe its waxy leaves with a damp cloth or spritz it with water.

Caring for houseplants guide

Image Credit: @crazyplantaddict

Monstera Deliciosa (or the Swiss Cheese plant)

A popular and relatively low-maintenance plant that’s often seen on Pinterest and Instagram, the Swiss Cheese plant thrives well in partial shade and sunlight areas as direct sunlight would damage the leaves. They grow best in humid and warm conditions. Note though - Monstera plants can grow pretty fast, so start with a young plant.


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