How to Grow a Houseplant—Potting

A pet bird has a cage and a gecko has a terrarium. Plants need a special places to live too.

You have a lot of latitude in choosing a container for your plant. Consider not only made-for-plants pots, but other bowls, cans, and even shoes. However, there are a few requisites.

Drainage is paramount. If your chosen pot doesn’t have a drain hole, add one.

Size matters too. The larger the container, the longer it can go between waterings. Larger containers are also more stable. And large containers provide plenty of root space. However, you need to match the container size to the plant that will occupy it.

Another consideration is container shape. I once had a lovely pot that was smaller at the top than in the middle. It looked great—until it was time to move my plant to a bigger home. Then I realized there was no way to extract the roots without damaging them.

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How to Grow a Houseplant

spider-plant_home_20090908_lah_0280“Mom, can you fix it?”

My college freshman was looking at me with a dejected, mournful expression. She was holding the spider plant I had sent to school with her. It looked awful. Wilted, brown leaves hung limply over the edge of the plastic pot. There were no signs of life.

“Well, that one looks kind of done, but I can give you another one. I’ve got plenty of spider plants. What happened?”

The story unfolded… it was below freezing outside, but the heat in the dorms was turned way up. Suffocating in her room, she’d opened the window a crack. No one thought to move the plant on the windowsill. Unfortunately, spider plants aren’t equipped to survive six degree drafts. The poor plant had frozen during the night.

As I potted up another victim, er, spider plant for my daughter, I realized that while our house is full of greenery, I’d never taught our kids how to care for any of it. Here today, and for the next two Fridays, is how to grow a houseplant.

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