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Indoor Plant Care

Plants, like people, have different temperaments. Give yourself - and your plant - some time to get to know one another. Nurture the relationship with a little extra attention early on while your plant acclimates to its new environment, and you’ll be together a long time. Below we outline basic plant care tips. 

Sunlight

Don’t be stingy with sunlight. Plants get their nourishment and energy from the sun. Most plants prefer bright light. But what is bright light? Where are you most likely to find it? The brightest light is always directly in front of a window. The lowest light is directly next to a window or at the back wall. The direction your windows face also plays a critical role. Interested to learn more? Read on.

DETERMINE THE DIRECTION YOUR WINDOWS FACE
  1. South: Provides the most light; plants can be situated far into the room and still receive bright light. 
  2. East: Light drops off quickly; it’s best not to situate plants too far away from the window; a few feet into your room should be fine 
  3. West: Same light conditions as eastward facing windows but accompanied by more heat; keep plants near window, but draw a sheer curtain during mid-day sun
  4. North: Provides the lowest light; your plants will be happiest right on the sill
SIMPLE LIGHT TEST

While window direction is key, don’t forget sometimes it’s what’s outside the window makes a big difference, too … a skyscraper, a tree, a brick wall. Here’s a simple test to check the light level in your room: At noon, place a white piece of paper in the spot you’d like your houseplant to live. Then spread your hand out, about one foot above the paper. What do you see?

  1. Well-defined shadow = bright light
  2. Fuzzy shadow, still recognizable as your hand = medium light
  3. Only faintly discernable shadow = low light
IS THERE SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH SUN?

While you always want to provide enough light for your plant, you must also be careful to protect houseplants from intense direct sun. If it’s enough light to burn your skin it’s certainly too much for your plant’s leaves! Moving your plant even a foot away from the window, or drawing a sheer curtain, can prevent excessive sunlight issues.

NO WINDOWS?

If you want a plant in a dark room, choose a “low light” plant but move it to bright light for 2 weeks of each month.

Water

Beware – overwatering is the easiest way to kill a plant. But don’t worry! Here are a few tips to help you figure out when it’s time to water, and how to do it.

  1. To check if your plant is thirsty, simply stick your finger in the potting mix - away from the plant and its roots - toward the edge of the container. Most plants should be watered when the first inch of soil has dried out. No need to overthink it, just go with your gut. 
  2. To water, gently lift your plant’s foliage and flood the potting mix with tepid water until a trickle appears from the drainage hole at the bottom. Let the plant soak up the water for 30 minutes, then empty any remaining water from the saucer. No plant likes to be drowned.
  3. Establish a routine of checking in with your plant every 3-4 days. Changes in daylight, temperature, or even an open window can cause fluctuations in the frequency you should water, so best not to just assume “every Monday is watering day.” Besides, it’s nice to check in and say “Hi” to your plant every few days.

Humidity & Temperature

Most plants featured on The Sill will fair well in average home conditions. If you’re comfortable, they’re comfortable.

HUMIDITY

Average home humidity is roughly 60%, which means our plants can tolerate some dry air. For those plants that prefer slightly more humid conditions we recommend misting them with a water bottle about once a week. During the cold, dry months of winter, group your plants together to help create a humid microclimate.

TEMPERATURE

Average home temperatures range from 55 degrees to 85 degrees, though plants (like us people!) are most comfortable between 65 and 75 degrees. Do your best to avoid placing your plant near temperature hazards like vents, radiators, and exterior doors, which might create hot or cold spots and drafts. 

Nutrients & Fertilization

Plants get minerals from the air, water, and their potting mix. They are nourished and energized by sunlight. It is entirely possible to have a healthy plant without ever fertilizing! Talk about low maintenance. If you are interested in fertilizing your plant, please email us help@thesill.com and we will prescribe a recommendation based on your plant and its conditions, your living environment, and the season.

General Troubleshooting

My plant has wilted.
This one is simple. Your plant needs water. Water it lightly a few days in a row and see if it perks up. Sometimes a plant will perk up within 5 minutes of being watered! Seriously. It’s amazing. What you don’t want to do is go from under-watering to overwatering. Moderation is key. 
  
My plant has yellowed leaves.
If your plant only recently arrived at your home or office, this could be natural. Plants can become mildly stressed when repotted or transported to a new environment (kinda like us people, right?), so give your plant a week or so to acclimate. If your plant has lived with you for some time and continues to turn yellow, this may be a result of overall neglect. We know, it happens. Just be sure to follow the care instructions provided, and give your plant a little extra attention.

My plant’s new growth is yellowish.
Yellow tinted leaves could mean overheating, in which case see the answer below, “My plant looks burnt.” If the yellow tint is accompanied by a foul odor, skip to “My plant has a pungent smell.”

My plant looks burnt (brown or pale spots).
Plant a little crispy? Sun or over-fertilizing could be the culprits. Try pulling your plant back from the window or draw a sheer curtain during midday hours when the sun is most harsh – especially in the summer months. If you’ve recently fertilized your plant, try leaching the pot – which simply means running it under tepid water to rinse it clean of excess fertilizer. Either way, give your plant a little time to recover.

My plant’s foliage has brown spots, brown tips, or is drying up and falling off.
Brown discoloration and/or dryness are usually a result of under-watering and low humidity. Water your plant lightly a few days in a row and see if it perks up. What you don’t want to do is go from under-watering to overwatering. Moderation is key. As for humidity, you can go so far as to run a humidifier. Or, follow these tips:
  1. Group plants together
  2. Rest plants on top of a water filled tray lined with rocks or pebbles (but don’t allow them to sit IN the water)
  3. Temporarily put a plastic bag over the plant (try to keep the plant from touching the bag) until it recovers
My plant is leaning.
To some extent, this is normal. Plants move with the light. If the lean is extreme, though, your plant probably does not have enough light and is therefore reaching toward the sun. Try moving your plant closer to sunlight, and rotating your plant each time you water it.

My plant is tilting considerably.
If you’ve had your plant for some time and it begins to tilt considerably this could mean your plant is suffering from root rot. See answer below.
    
My plant has a pungent smell.
This means trouble. A foul odor signals definite rot. Overwatering your plant for an extended period of time can lead to rotting of the visible plant or its roots. Cut away the parts of the plant that look as if they are rotting. If there aren’t any visible signs of rot, the problem is likely in the roots. In this case, email us help@thesill.com and we’ll walk you through a root trim to see if you can salvage your plant.

My plant has pale green growth or considerable leaf loss.
Pump up the sunlight! Your plant just needs a little more Vitamin D.

My plant leaves looked misshapen, deformed.
This is one of the rare cases when your plant may be lacking nutrition, and could use a good fertilization. Email us help@thesill.com and we’ll prescribe a fertilization recommendation for your specific plant, problem, and conditions.

There is a white crust forming around the inside of my pot.
Don't worry – this is just from mineral build up that occurs over time, or from over fertilization. Leach the pot by running it under tepid water to rinse it clean. You may need to run the water over the pot for a substantial length of time, depending on the level of buildup.

My plant’s foliage looks dirty.
Give it a shower! For more delicate plants, a simple damp cloth on the leaves will do, too.