Wiping down leaves with a damp cloth will help cut down on unwanted pests. | Gettyimages.com
Toni Reale | File Photo

I recently asked customers if they had any New Year’s resolutions. Quite a few said they want to become better plant parents. Curious, I followed up with questions about what that meant to them and how we might help them on their journey. Here are some insights from my informal study and how you can achieve your goal of becoming a better plant parent this year.

Let go of the guilt

At the end of the day, it’s just a plant. It’s not a pet nor a child. You won’t get thrown into bad plant parent jail, and a couple dead plants doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person. If you hold on to guilt or shame (if you want to understand the difference, I highly recommend Brene’ Brown’s Men, Women, and Worthiness). Guilt will act as a barrier to you becoming a better plant parent. When people comment that they have a “black thumb,” they are telling themselves a story that their past (and likely limited) experience has made them unable to nurture plants. Break that shame narrative and instead see those less than desirable outcomes as just part of the journey — not a character flaw.

It’s all just an experiment

Caring for plants is all an experiment with many variables and feedback loops between them. Each genera of plants requires a certain amount of sunlight, water, humidity, fertilizer, drainage and a certain mixture of soil. However, each individual plant in your home can thrive in the ranges of those general parameters. It’s just a matter of experimenting to find the right fit for that particular plant.

Do your research

When you pick up a new plant, be sure to research the specific needs of that specific type of plant. For example, not all species of ferns require the exact same care. Remember that your home is not your plant’s native habitat so many factors can play into its success. Look into what its native habitat was (understory, rainforest, desert, etc.) and think about how you can help recreate those conditions. For example, if it is naturally a tropical rainforest plant and requires humidity, consider finding a spot away from vents or in the bathroom if the lighting is right.

Engage with your plants

Take a photo of your plants as soon as you take them home. It’s likely that the plant is in top-notch condition and taking a photo can provide a reference should something not seem right. Carefully observe the leaves and lightly touch them so that you can understand what they look like when they are at their healthiest. Often the color, fleshiness, and feel of the leaves will be a sure sign if the plant needs more or less water, light or humidity.

Do preventive pest maintenance. Wipe leaves with a damp cloth and trim any dead foliage. This can cut down on pest susceptibility, especially in the winter months when the plant is in dormancy. Lastly, name your plants. It’s harder to neglect Hattie and Hank than it is a no-name plant.

Celebrate the wins

Take a monthly photo of your plants and put it in a special folder on your phone. This way you can compare growth and celebrate your wins. Share your excitement by researching how to propagate your plant and gift it to a friend. Be sure to tell them a bit about the plant and what conditions you created so that they too can be a better plant parent. 

Toni Reale is the owner of Roadside Blooms, a unique plant, flower, crysta, and fossil shop in Park Circle in North Charleston. roadsidebloomsshop.com

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