Plant Care 101
By Shabna Cader
Recently decided to give your home and plant an update? That would be me. A year ago, I had no idea I could even have a green thumb, but today, about 30 plants later, I guess it’s okay to say I do.
My number one reason for growing a plant collection was because I wanted to create a nourishing environment around my living space. There’s too much noise, too much construction, too much dusk, and whatnot around my house as I happen to live in the city and sometimes, I crave some solace. During the lockdown, I turned my attention towards the little home garden my mother has been nurturing, and well, the rest is history.
Reason number two would be because they bring peace, calm, and joy. Some of you may not believe it, but multiple studies have proved that people who spend time cultivating plants and gardening have less stress in their lives, and channel a soothing and calming sensation.
For a plant dummy like me, I needed to get to know the basics. Like all living things, the first is to create the space for it. My home doesn’t have much outer space, so I have recently extended my plant collection and attention towards one of the upper floppy balconies. FYI - it’s looking great! Whilst some plants love being in the sunlight, others can’t seem to bear with direct light and would wither. So whether you’re opting for inner or outer space, lighting is important. Do not overexpose or underexpose your plant babies. Find the right balance for them to thrive.
I recently read about plant compatibility and it was an eye-opener. Think about how much time in your day-to-day life you have to dedicate towards actually taking care of your plants. Do you live a busy life? Will you, therefore, be forgetful and miss a couple of days of watering?
If this is most likely you, then you should ideally be picking out plants that do not need a lot of attention or care. Fewer maintenance plants like succulents, cacti, peace lilies, snake plants, ZZ plants, and even aloe can survive for some lengths at a time without you so much as glancing at them. On the other hand, if you do have ample time to baby your plants, go crazy! Air plants, orchids, ferns, and even some herbs require some series of attention.
Now, I’m a little varying about the watering part. The balcony that currently houses over 20 plants gets direct sunlight for a couple of hours in the morning and then partial sunlight around midday. I’m not looking out wondering if they need to be moved depending on where the sun seems to hit at different times of the day, but I do understand that water can easily be drained up leaving the plant-soil feeling quite dry by midday on a blazing hot day. My ideology, therefore, is to water the plants until a tiny bit leaks out of the drainage at the bottom of each pot. This way I know the entire pot of soil is soaked through.
I may be doing this wrong, but a couple of months later, the plants are looking good so I’m going to bless my lucky stars and carry on as I have. I do have some plants I water, let out for some hours of the day, and then bring back indoors because, on previous occasions, I have returned home to find them looking quite fried.
Some other articles I read up on talk about humidity and stability, but; we live on a tropical island and for the most part, both can tend to be out of our control. However, with time spent nurturing your plants, you’ll come to understand which would do better indoors, and in what kind of air (a light breeze or with the air conditioner on for example) and home environment.
Having visited Diyatha Uyana on too many occasions to count, I’ve noticed some people piling on bags of various types of fertiliser and plant food. I’d say the first and most important type of ‘food’ a plant would need is simply water, but then I’m just a newbie to this. Wherever, you plan on purchasing your plants from, ask as many questions on its care and requirements.
If they happen to mention a particular type of fertiliser or plant food, look it up and go ahead and source that too. Keep in mind that most houseplants do not need fertiliser. If you’re planning on nurturing some plants to harvest like vegetables, consider the idea of going organic and use compost from your food waste. It doesn’t cost you anything more and works like a charm.
Sourcing can be a bit of a struggle especially if you are on the lookout for particular plants. Currently, I do understand that it is hard to come by a decent size monstera plant for a decent price. As I said, I hit up Diyatha Uyana now and then just to take a look around and see if any hard-to-find plants have cropped up in any of the stalls. I also have become familiar with some of the vendors which are great ways to built trust and ask for opinions.
Months into this life as someone who cares for plants, I was becoming aware of the fact that some smaller plants were beginning to outgrow their small pots. This meant that I had to repot plants and the thought initially freaked me out. What if I pulled and broke off some of the roots? Plant care 101 over here is to choose a pot that is one to three times bigger than the current pot the plant is in. Your plants should not be swimming in the soil. Instead, it should be nice and closed up, and tight.
Most importantly, enjoy the process of caring for plants. Growing plants can boost your mood, increase the level of creativity and productivity, clean indoor air by absorbing toxins and producing oxygen, and overall make you feel good mentally and eventually, physically as well.