Want to master houseplant care? Here’s the most important thing you need to know.

by | Jul 11, 2021 | Houseplant Care

Consistency is the key to mastering houseplant care.

What do I mean by consistency? I mean having a plant care routine that allows your plants to be able to predict what is going to happen during a week, a month, or a year.

I’ll explain exactly how to create consistency in your plant care practice below. But first, let’s talk about why consistency is so important.

Table of Contents

Why is consistency so important?

In the wild, pretty much all plants receive a fairly consistent (or predictable) amount of water, light, and nutrients year round. This predictability or consistency is what sets plants up to thrive.

You might be thinking, “That isn’t true! The weather changes from one day to the next. It doesn’t rain on the same day each week! And sometimes the sun is out all day, while other days it hides behind the clouds.”

If these were your thoughts, you are right. Sort of.

The weather does change some, but the overall trend of temperatures, rainfall, light levels, etcetera doesn’t drastically change.

That overall trend, or climate, remains fairly consistent within a given area. This consistency is how the flora and fauna adapt to survive and thrive in the climate they are found.

The ability to adapt to a climate applies to humans, too!

I live in Michigan where I can plan on:

  • November through March being cold and dim with some frozen precipitation in there
  • I know that April and May are likely to be a bit brighter, rainier, and the beginning of flourishing greenery, flowers, and melodic birds
  • June, July, and August are generally warm to hot with lots of sun, some rain, and lots of greenery (my favorite!)
  • September and October are cooler months as we begin to move toward cold, gray winter. These months are times of crisp, cool air and falling leaves/dying plants.
  • And then the cycle starts all over again.

Knowing what to expect throughout the year allows me to buy appropriate clothes, plan appropriate activities, and generally adapt my life to work with the weather at a given time.

Just like we appreciate the predictability of our local climate, our plants appreciate a predictable climate inside and outside of our homes.

How can we provide a predictable, consistent climate in our homes for our plants?

#1 Find a spot with ample light for the plant and then make that spot the plant’s nearly permanent home

Plants need to have a place they can call home. In order to think of the location as home, they need to be settled in there for a while.

They need to experience the way the light passes through the window, the way air moves (or doesn’t) throughout the day, and the way humidity rises and falls in a given spot.

I recommend choosing a “nearly permanent home” instead of a permanent home because sometimes we need to move the plant in order to provide it with different conditions to help it to thrive.

Making those adjustments is not only okay, but recommended if the plant isn’t doing well in its current spot.

What isn’t recommended is moving the plant every few days or even weekly. A week isn’t enough time to actually know whether the place we’ve moved the plant to is a good home for it.

Think of it this way: If I moved from Michigan with my 4 seasons to a place like Arizona with a very different climate and seasonal pattern, it would take me more than a week to adjust.

So, move plants when it seems worth it to move them. But give them a chance to acclimate to the spot before deciding whether the move was a success.

#2 Check the plant consistently to see if it needs to be watered

Have a schedule to check whether your plant needs to be watered.

Avoid watering your plant on a schedule because plants aren’t always thirsty at the same time.

In other words, watering a plant every Tuesday regardless of whether it is thirsty can cause health issues for the plant. Instead, check to see if the plant is thirsty every Tuesday and water it if it needs water.

Just like we need to drink more when we are running or when we are out on a hot day, plants need more or less hydration depending on what is happening within them and around them.

How do you implement a consistent water check schedule for plants?

The key to developing a consistent watering routine is to figure out what works for you. Here’s the schedule I’ve developed in my own home:

When I first bring a plant home, I check it daily or every other day to see if it needs to be watered. Frequent check-ins allow me to get to know the plant and how quickly it is depleting its water.

Once I’ve developed a feel for how often I may need to water, I create a scheduled time to check the plant.

For example, I check to see if my Fiddle Leaf Fig needs to be watered every Friday.

Most Fridays it does need to be watered, but there are occasions where it hasn’t completely dried and needs a couple more days.

When that happens, I’ll check it a couple of days later to see if it is ready for water.

Want to see my full weekly schedule? (Click to expand)

Tuesdays: I check all of my rare aroids, all of my large plants, and all of the other plants on the second floor of my house. I also check any small pots on the first floor because small pots often dry quickly.

Wednesdays: I check all of my African Violets and Gesneriads (they are in self-watering containers that I refill when needed)

Thursdays: I check all of my orchids, hoyas, peperomias, and similarly semi-succulent tropicals on the first floor of my house

Fridays: I check my Fiddle Leaf Fig and any large plants that didn’t need water earlier in the week. I also check my small pots again in case they are ready for water.

Saturdays/Sundays/Mondays: I check anything that didn’t need water on its regular check-up day

Any day: I do pay some attention to all of my plants most days. Those that have visual indicators of thirst (wilting, wrinkling, curling, drooping, etcetera) get watered any time they start to look thirsty. I try to water them before that happens, but sometimes life happens and I forget.

#3 Fertilize your plant regularly during its growing season

Plants in the wild get nutrients from decomposing plant and animal waste on a pretty regular basis.

Plants in our home do not have a source of extra nutrients unless we provide it to them.

If you feel like you are doing everything right (in terms of light, water, potting mix, etcetera), but you still aren’t seeing a lot of growth… fertilizing might be the answer!

If you are new to fertilizing, my recommendation is to choose a well-balanced fertilizer and follow the instructions for how often and how much to use. As long as you aren’t using more than the recommended amount, you should see some success!

I usually tell people to start by using a half or less of the recommended amount, which will ensure the plants aren’t overfertilized by accident.

I personally use Espoma Organics Indoor Plant Food twice a month at somewhere between a quarter to half strength. For the weeks that I am fertilizing, every single time I water something that week I fertilize.

Because I am using an organic fertilizer which doesn’t have a super high concentration and because I’m not using it at full strength, I have no fear of overfertilizing.

My efforts are rewarded with vibrant, healthy, large new growth on my plants.

One exception for fertilizing:

There are plants that have adapted to living in poor soil conditions (like cacti, succulents, carnivorous plants, etcetera).

These guys don’t want a lot of fertilizer because they don’t get it in nature either.

In fact, carnivorous plants (like Venus flytraps) will do very poorly or even die from being fertilized. They are very sensitive to the salts in tap water and in fertilizers, so special care must be given to keep these plants thriving.

If you have a plant in this category, make sure to approach fertilizing in a way that fits their needs.

Big Takeaway

Plants love consistency. It provides them with a predictable routine of water, nutrients, and light. This predictable care routine sets plants up for success.

It is truly no different than how our own bodies benefit from consistent healthy meals, exercise, sleep, etcetera.

This simple concept is one that I wish I would have understood much sooner. The results of putting in effort on a consistent basis is huge: more growth, healthier growth, larger leaves, more vibrant colors, and more.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.