Dear Plant Pundit

In October 2021, Stuff by Raleigh MagazineLeave a Comment

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New plant mom Hayden Stephens picked up her penchant for houseplants last year (sound familiar?)—and now has a budding collection of 15. As she works on cultivating her newfound plant passion (“I killed one this week,” she mourns), she poses this question to our Plant Pundit: What is one tool, device or lesson that makes all the difference in keeping your plants alive (and thriving!)? –Hayden Stephens 

Dear Hayden,

The most important lesson I can share is that you really don’t know a plant until you’ve killed it a few times! Plants become unhappy for any number of reasons, but each time we lose a plant, we learn another lesson. Don’t beat yourself up if one of your plants passes on. Instead, figure out what may have happened and dust yourself off and try again!

The key to success with houseplants is figuring out the lighting and the water. Succulents and cacti, for example, need very bright, direct light—so they’re not going to thrive 10 feet away from a north-facing window. So, the first question I always ask is: “What kind of light do you get?” Most people answer that it’s pretty bright. That’s great—but what you want to consider is proximity to windows, the direction the windows face and things that would block light (buildings, trees).

If you’re not sure about your lighting, look at the shadows. Dark shadows with a super-hard edge means very bright, direct light. Faint shadows mean lower, more moderate light, and no shadow means low to no light. Understanding your lighting situation will inform which plants will be happiest!

When it comes to figuring out if it’s time to water, the best tool available to us is literally at our fingertips! Forget your apps and your calendars and actually stick your finger in the soil! Depending on the plant, if the soil is still wet a few knuckles deep, you may want to wait a couple more days before you water again. And make sure you really get in there because the soil may be dry to the touch on top, but it’s soaking wet below. Welcome to the wonderful world of houseplants! 

In this series, Copperline Plant Co. owner and founder Anna Grace FitzGerald offers tips on how to plant parent like the pros. When she’s not working in the greenhouse, FitzGerald can be found playing with the dogs, sharing a cold beverage with friends or learning a new craft. @copperlineplants;

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