Growing up with my mom, we had ficus, philodendrons, and macramé hanging planters all over the house. Yet I felt like I hadn’t inherited her green thumb: I can’t even begin to count how many cacti didn’t make it in my apartment . Then one day out of the blue, I decided to adopt an aloe vera plant. It’s been over two years now and it’s doing fine.
According to Fanie Testa Genovese, founder of vegetal design office Green Monsters, a green thumb can be acquired with practice. “Getting a plant is similar to having a baby or a pet for the first time. There’s no manual on how to take care of them! There’s a big difference in that the plant won’t cry or scratch at the door when they’re thirsty or in need of attention.”
The greenery expert decided to help us lay down some basics for all you first-timers out there.
1. Yes, you should water your plants. No, you shouldn’t drown them!
Contrary to popular belief, plants suffer more from excess watering than from lack of it. When a plant is dried out, it can still be revived. But if it starts to rot because it’s been watered too often, it’s too late to do anything about it.
If the soil of your potted plant is dried out because you’ve forgotten about it for the past month, place it in your sink and submerge it in water (not the leaves!). Wait until the water stops bubbling, which means that it has penetrated the soil. “Most plants stop thriving if their roots are soaking in water. It’s better to water them once in a while in the sink to so that excess water will go through. Don’t forget to empty out the saucer or watering tray after about twenty minutes”
Here’s another tip: You can use a toothpick or a chopstick to poke holes in the dirt so that watering is more efficient. Remember to water your plants once a week instead of just giving them a little water every day.
2. Avoid plant polish sprays
Some brands sell plant polish sprays that are really just bad for the plants. “If you need to clean your plant, just wipe the leaves off with a cloth”, says Fanie.
3. Don’t expose them to direct sunlight
Very few plants thrive in direct sunlight. They do need a naturally bright room to flourish, but if you’re in South-facing room, make sure you never leave your plants by a window – they will likely get scorched.
4. Gather them in a “green corner”
“If it’s at all possible in your home, try to gather your plants and keep them together on a coffee table or a side table,” suggests Fanie. “It’s impossible to describe, but what happens in the air is some kind of plant magic.”
5. Hang your plants if you have a cat.
There’s a long list of toxic plants if you have a cat. They just love scratching and digging up the dirt and eating the plants. If you love your cat as much as you love your plants, you should probably find hanging planters or place them on a high shelf so that they’re out of reach.
“You could also buy some catnip”, recommends Fanie. “Teach him that it’s HIS (or her) plant.”
The Best Plants for a Beginner
Deliciosa Monstera or Faux-Philodendron : They don’t need much sunlight and can even survive not being watered for one or two weeks in a row.
Fittonia: They’re perfect if you want to figure out how plants work. As soon as you forget to water them, the leaves start drooping. They straighten up and bounce back about an hour after you do water them.
Cacti: Pretty easy upkeep since they don’t mind less water. They do need a lot of sunlight though.
Pilea Peperomioides : Just like the Fittonia, this plant only needs a glass of water per week and proper sunlight.
Peperomia : see Fittonia and Pilea Peperomioides.
Plants You really Should Avoid as a Beginner
Orchids: They don’t like their roots in soil and too much water.
Carnivorous Plants: They need humidity and a very specific type of care.
Hanging Plants: As beginners, by forgetting to water plants, we often neglect hanging plants. They’re not as easy to get to and are often overlooked (which is too bad when you own a cat!).
Aloe plants: We usually water them too often.
Thank you so much Fanie!
For more inspiration, check out our indoor plants board on Pinterest: