Basic plant care involves ensuring each plant receives the appropriate amount of light, water and nutrients. Houseplants will have different requirements than those grown in a garden or in an outdoor flower bed. Choosing the right plant for the right location is also important to avoid additional work to keep the plant healthy.
Whether a houseplant or landscape shrub, it is important to place the plant in the best location for that specific variety. Some plants prefer sun or shade, specific types of soil, or need protection from temperature variations. Research the plant to determine the best conditions to promote growth and health. When researching the plant, gather information on preferred soils, nutrients, and the amount of water needed, particularly if the plant is not native to the area.
Both houseplants and outdoor plants have specific nutrient or soil requirements that will vary by plant. Some plants such as orchids have commercial potting soils designed for their needs, while other plants such as rose bushes only require a mixture of organics and local soil. Use quality potting soil that allows roots to expand but also absorbs water. For outdoor plants, it is a good idea to test the PH balance of local soil. This will provide the information needed to make changes when landscaping with plants not native to the area. The addition of organic material to both indoor and outdoor soil will provide additional nutrients without the use of fertilizer.
Check the specific feeding requirements of the plant before choosing a fertilizer. There are many different kinds of fertilizers with differing amounts of the three main ingredients, nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potassium. Read package directions carefully to determine how much fertilizer is needed for the area being covered.
Plants need the right amount of water. Too much water, and they may suffer root rot or other fungal problems. Too little water, and the plant will dry out and die. Houseplants usually have roots in the bottom 2/3 of the pot so stick a finger into the pot to a depth of 1/3 of the pot height. If the soil is still moist do not water. If the soil is too hard to get a finger that deep, it is time to repot because the soil won’t allow the plant roots to grow either. When soil is merely dry, water thoroughly until the water runs out the bottom of the plant. This helps flush salts and impurities from the soil that can cause problems for the plant. Outdoor plants will vary more depending on the weather and their natural requirements for water. It is generally better to water deeply, but less often.
Indoor plants that like a lot of light should be placed where they will receive at least 6 hours of natural sunlight each day during the growing season. Plants that prefer partial shade should not get more than three hours of direct sunlight each day. Outdoor plants have similar needs, though seasonal changes will generally provide the correct amount of light if the plants were placed correctly when planted.