Whether your potted plants are indoors or outdoors, you must give them proper care if you want them to stay healthy and attractive. If you’re like most gardeners, you invest your time and money in plants, containers, soil, and fertilizer, and you don’t want to see your plants turn yellow and wilted simply because you didn’t use the proper procedures to ensure their good health.
Here are seven steps that anyone--even those without that proverbial green thumb—can take to prevent their potted plants from turning droopy and sad-looking by mid-season. It’s all about starting off on the right foot and setting the stage for a full season of growing beautiful planters.
1. Start with the right pot
A pot that drains well (one or more holes in the bottom) is essential if you don’t want your plant to die from drowned roots. Containers made of plastic, fiberglass, or resin work well. That’s because they are non-porous and don’t absorb much moisture, leaving more for the plant. Other than that, all your other choices depend on your style and budget.
2. Choose a potting mix
Buy potting soil from a garden center. It will probably be a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, and decomposed organic matter. It’s okay if the mixture already contains time-release fertilizer and polymer crystals to retain moisture. If you can’t find a mixture that includes them, buy them separately. Do not use soil from the garden! It probably contains weed seeds, insects, and fungal diseases.
3. Choose the right location
Find a location with good light, but keep your plant away from heat vents, air conditioners, radiators, and televisions. South-facing windows provide the most light, while those facing east or west can provide moderate sunlight. Keep your plant out of high-traffic areas so kids and pets won't knock it over.
4. Water the soil, but not the foliage
After you plant in the spring, you should water about once a week. When summer arrives and hot weather evaporates the moisture more quickly, you should water daily. Keep in mind that your plants need more water as they grow larger. Water them until the water comes out of the drainage holes. And be careful to water only the soil; wetting the leaves and flowers can result in fungus and scorched spots.
5. Fertilize them every couple of weeks
Plants grown in containers need more fertilizer than those in the ground. As you water, you flush nutrients out of the soil. So, you should feed them a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer about every two weeks. If you want the happiest and healthiest plants, choose a fertilizer based on the plant species and its stage of growth.
6. Deadheading is essential
Pinching or cutting off faded blooms encourages a plant to keep producing more flowers. The operation, known as deadheading, is not necessary for all plant species. Some prolific bloomers shrivel up on their own and just seem to disappear. For other plants with too many tiny flowers to pinch off, cut the plant back to a third of its size. It will look scalped for about a week and then recover with new buds and blooms.
7. Keep your plants clean and free of pests
Your indoor plants can become sickly looking because of dust buildup and insect pest infections. You can prevent these issues by cleaning them with a soft rag and an organic insecticide soap every few months. Use the same insecticide to keep your outdoor plants pest-free and healthy.