Do You Need a Green Thumb to Raise Houseplants? No, You Just Need a Strong Gardening Foundation

woman holding a potted plant

Quarantine has brought out all kinds of hobbies and projects we were too busy to explore before. Some have spent more time in the kitchen, experimenting on pastries and sourdough bread. Others have chosen to use the downtime to learn a new skill or enroll in a full-time course in engineering technology or international studies. There are also those who have found happiness in indoor plants.

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It’s the trend: lush, healthy indoor plants that make any room or Instagram feed look bright and joyful. But what if you want to join the trend but don’t have what they call green thumb? How can you raise plants?

We can’t cover the specific care needs of every individual plant. But here are some tips to help you have a strong foundation in raising happy houseplants:

Find the right light

First, figure out if your plant receives direct or indirect light. If there’s a straight line from the sun to the pot, that’s direct light. If clouds, trees, or curtains diffuse the light, then your plant receives indirect sunlight. Cactuses and succulents appreciate some direct light, but you can’t say the same for tropical plants.

Then, think about the intensity of the light. Different light intensities include low, medium, and bright. Do a quick test: hold your hand a foot above the pot. If your hand casts a shadow with crisp, clear lines, your plant receives bright light. Does the silhouette look a little fuzzy? Then, you have a medium light. You have a low light if it is only enough for you to read a book.

Overall, many indoor plants thrive in medium or bright indirect light. If you live in a place with low light, choose snake plants, ZZ plants, and other plant types that can tolerate low indirect light.

woman with plants in the house

Don’t follow the strict watering schedule

Overwatering is a common way to kill a houseplant. So, ditch that strict watering schedule you read somewhere. Instead, do the finger test: stick your index finger a couple of inches into the soil and feel if it’s still moist. Though indoor plants have different needs, the general rule of thumb is to water the plant when the top two inches of the soil are dry. Do this test frequently and never stick to “water the plants every Sunday” schedule. You should give your plants a drink whenever they are ready to be watered.

Be proactive

The more you check your plants, the faster you will catch any issues. So, to raise happy houseplants, you should be a proactive plant parent. Watch out for a few pests, such as spider mites, thrips, or aphids. If you notice pests in one plant, isolate it from others. Get rid of pests and rinse the plant with a hose. Then, treat the plant by spraying it with a solution of water and insecticidal dish soap. Continue isolating the plant until the treatment takes effect to ensure that your other indoor plants stay healthy.

Above all, remember that having a green thumb is a myth. Caring for indoor plants isn’t some God-given talent—it’s a skill you develop. After building a strong foundation in gardening, continue to work on your houseplant knowledge and skills. Pretty soon, you will achieve that healthy, thriving indoor garden.

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