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—Food and Water

Most potting mixes have fertilizer already added to them, so you won’t need to worry about feeding your plants for the first three to four months. Once that fertilizer is used up, it’s time to add more. You can use any commercial fertilizer sold for houseplants.

Your choices are really a matter of personal preference. Some fertilizers are powders or liquids that you add to your watering can. Others are time-release pellets you incorporate into the potting mix. Some of these are considered organic, others are not. I’ve used a wide variety of products: liquid concentrates, powders, time-release pellets, fish emulsion—and even my homemade “worm tea” (the diluted run-off from my worm composting bins). It all works fine.

Mix your fertilizers according to the package directions. More is not better—you’ll burn your plants. I’ve found that mixing fertilizer at half-strength and applying it twice as often gives good results. If you notice white minerals accumulating on the plant’s container, run some water through the potting mix to flush out the build-up of fertilizer salts. Be sure to let the pot drain thoroughly afterwards.

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