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Home visit: how to care for your houseplants

Still unsure how to keep plants alive in your home? Use this beginner’s guide, with tips on watering, positioning and propagating from a homeowner who’s just started cultivating her green fingers. Get set to boost your plant power!

Houseplants, including Monstera and peace lily, in a sink with a gold-handled watering can and plant feed on the counter.
Houseplants, including Monstera and peace lily, in a sink with a gold-handled watering can and plant feed on the counter.

Feed your plants

Most plants prefer to be watered from below. Give yours regular baths by sitting them together in a little water. “I take 30 minutes to an hour each week to look after my plants, it’s not much time,” says Cosima, who shared her plant care tips when we visited her apartment. To boost their growing power, add plant food to your watering routine, especially during the spring/summer, the growing season.

A wood and rattan woven bench topped with an arrangement of potted houseplants including Calathea and Monstera.

Pick the perfect position

“For the first time this summer I had a plant get sick because I gave it too much sunlight. I didn’t know that was possible,” says Cosima. Work out how the light moves around your home and pick plants to match its sunspots and shady corners, humidity levels and temperature. And if a plant gets sick?  “You usually need to cut it back, cut off the bit that is unhealthy and then see what happens.”

Be water wise

“Overwatering is the thing most of us get wrong. Make sure your pots have drainage holes so plants don’t end up sitting in water, and aim to keep soil moist rather than wet. Most of my plants are really easy to look after. The only one that needs a lot of attention is the Calathea. I have to mist it three times a day to keep it humid.”

Plants add so much to your home, it makes me feel good to see them. Displaying plants in groups adds impact. Think beyond windowsills, turn benches and corners into fresh displays that bring life to a room.

Cosima

Start with easy-care varieties

“I didn’t always have green fingers,” says Cosima. “I started taking care of my plants two years ago. My first plant was from my parents. It almost died when we moved so I decided I had to figure out how to care for it. I learned a lot! Spider plants grow well and are easy to look after. Ours has baby plants I can propagate.” Succulents, snake plants and peace lilies are also good for beginners.

Propagate your plants

Cuttings are a cost-free way to grow your plant collection. “There are different ways to take cuttings. The method depends on the plant. For plants like Epipremnum, if you look at their stems, you’ll notice little nodes – kind of like joints! Your cutting needs to have a node so I would cut a piece of stem just above a node and strip any leaves from the bottom. Then it’s ready to put in water.”

Help your cuttings take root

“Sit your cutting in water so it can grow roots. Just water, you don’t need to add anything. But change the water every two to three days to keep it fresh. When roots appear, pot your cutting in soil (don’t use too big a pot). Get special potting soil as normal soil is too nutrient-rich and will end up burning the baby plant’s roots.”

Epipremnum is a great beginner plant. It’s super easy to look after. I have lots of them. They’re great in bathrooms because they don’t need lots of light.

Cosima

Create the right growing conditions

“The main thing about repotting is not to use too big a pot. Just go up one size. I gently tip the plant out of its old pot and remove a little of the soil. In a bowl I mix one part soil with one part gravel. It’s a mix that isn’t too dense so there’s room for the plant’s roots to grow, and water doesn’t get clogged up. You can add in some VÄXER stone wool plugs to boost the drainage.”

A woman carefully splits the head and root ball of a succulent plant to create two plants to be repotted in terracotta pots.

Divide and multiply

Another way to propagate your plants is to divide them – literally split the root and crown. “Carefully tip your plant from its pot and shake off most of the soil so you can see the roots. Then gently tease apart the two halves and put each one in its own pot. Pat it into the soil mix but not too tightly so you avoid compacting the soil.”

A woman wearing a T-shirt and jeans relaxes on a window seat with cushions and a white curtain, reading a book.

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