December 16, 2021
Knowing the full name of your new plant is the first step towards getting the care right. Ask your seller to write down the name of your plant for you. This then allows you to research where they are from and what type of care they'll need.
More often than not, the plant you've purchased was grown in a commercial greenhouse, which provides them with optimal conditions (light, water, humidity, nutrients, etc.). Once it is placed in your space, it will need to adjust itself to its new conditions. You may notice that it loses some older leaves - that is completely normal and not a reason to question your responsibility as a plant parent! By continuing to give it the care it needs, it will be nursed back overtime.
Light - is the most important element to keep your houseplant alive. Plants rely on light to produce food, even more so than water or fertilizer. Most houseplants will thrive in bright indirect light, which is close to the windows if your windows are facing north or east, and a couple feet away from the windows if your windows are facing south or west (without any obstruction). The further away from the window, the lower intensity of the light they get.
If your place does not have enough light, think about getting supplemental lights, that way you don't have to worry about your plants slowly dying due to the lack of food.
Remember - those so called "low light plants" are only tolerating the conditions, they do not enjoy it and prefer consistent light exposure.
Water - How much you water depends on the amount of light it gets. More light = more food production = more water needed and vice versa. Therefore, don't rely on a specific time passing to know when to water your plants. It all depends on the plant’s environment: the amount of light, the airflow, the level of humidity, and the surrounding temperature. For plants that live in a low light space, the soil will remain moist longer and you will need to be careful not to overwater - overwatering can cause root rot.
When watering, start small enough to moisten the top soil. Then slowly learn about your plant's needs. Consider other factors like light and humidity, and use them to decide how much water is needed and how frequently you should water.
Air - Air is an underrated factor that people usually don't think about. In nature, the air continuously flows, allowing the plants to exchange gas efficiently and allowing the soil to dry out faster, thus reducing the chances of root rot.
You can mimic nature by installing an air circulator in your room. You can also manually aerate the soil by using a chopstick to poke holes in the soil, wiggling it to allow water and air to more easily reach the roots. Another way to aerate your soil is by mixing substrates like perlite, pumice, charcoal, or bark in your potting mix. The size variety and the drainage property of these substrates will allow your plant's roots room to breathe.
Temperature - Plants prefer warm days and cool nights, just like you’d see in nature! The good news is that home temperatures that are adjusted for human comfort are good enough for houseplants. Remember to check for your plant's temperature tolerance if you plan to leave it outside for part of the year.
Keep in mind that higher temperature during the growing season means that your plant will metabolize water faster. You will likely find your plants getting thirstier during this time and needing additional water.
Humidity - While not extremely necessary to keep all plants alive, a humidity level 60% or above helps to stimulate plant growth and maintain the plant's optimum health. If the humidity level is too low (below 20 or 30%), it can damage the plant, as it loses more water through its leaves due to transpiration. You may notice the leaves dry up, curl, or turn brown. The dryness in the air also prevents the plant from unfurling properly and could damage new leaves.
The optimal and easiest way to increase the humidity level in your space is to use a humidifier. Misting and pebble trays can also boost up some humidity in a smaller space.
The rule of thumb is to feed your plants when they are growing. Fertilizer helps supplement nutrients that are missing from the soil - they don't make plants grow. That is what light does. The three numbers on your fertilizer package signify the three main elements, Nitrogen (N) - Phosphorus (P) - and Potassium (K), which help with the foliage growth, root growth, and general cellular functions respectively.
If your plant is located in a lower light area, nutrients from its soil should be more than enough to support plant growth. Over fertilization would only decrease plant growth and burn its leaves. In some cases, a plant may collapse or die from over fertilization (trust me, I've been there!).
And... there you go! A quick guide to get you started on taking care of your new plant.
Enjoy the plant parent journey - it is all a learning process, and that you and your plants will grow together.