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I used to struggle with keeping a dozen plants alive, but weirdly, I think it’s easier the more you have.
You become less of a helicopter parent, for a start, and become more in tune with which plants need your attention and which ones want to be left alone.
This post isn’t meant to encourage to get into the triple digit, plant numbers-wise, but I o want to offer some tips with caring for a lot of plants. Of course, they still apply if you only have a few.
My schedule for taking care of 100+ plants
There’s not really a weekly or monthly task list. When you have this many plants, you need to cast your eye over them daily.
I don’t mean look at each one in detail daily – just go to the places where the plants are and see if any of them look sad. I water them when they’re thirsty, and I dust them with the cuff of my hoodie if they’re dusty.
I crack out the neem oil and cloth to clean them every month or so, but I don’t keep to a schedule – I just do it when I find myself noticing a lot of dusty plants.
Technically I make sure all my plants are watered before i clean the house on a Saturday, but that’s more because I don’t want to be trailing soil on a freshly vacuumed carpet. I highly recommend linking your housework and plant care – it’s so good when everything’s clean watered.
How to make watering your house plants easier
- Collect rainwater
I literally just keep a couple of buckets outside to catch rain, but I really want to connect a water-butt to the drain pipe. Rainwater cuts down on the need to filtering water and is far less wasteful.
Please excuse the algae. This is also an inadvertent breeding ground for many invertebrates, which my boyfriend feeds to his fish.
Use a watering can to move the water. I’ve tried carrying a tray filled with water, with obvious, damp results. The buckets are big enough so I can submerge the watering can and fill them that way. You can get them from Amazon, but they’re cheaper from building supply stores.
My watering can is an old metal one that my boyfriend found at a car boot sale and painted. It needs bit of tlc. Ok, a lot. The handle is hanging off. Nevermind.
We’re due to have a new water pipe fitted (the blue pipe in the pictures is the temporarily one) since the old one burst on Christmas Eve (yay), so we had to rip up the decking.
I promise my garden doesn’t usually look like a building site.
It usually looks like Pigeon Fight Club, since I love feeding the birds and the pigeons in my garden are MASSIVE and feisty as fuck. I also leave out a plate of cat food in a little hedgehog house because:
a) I want to save the hedgehogs and,
b) Most cats will go for cat food over going through the palaver of catching a bird.
If you can’t collect water then you have a few options. The one I really recommend is to stay away from plants like Calathea that will suffer if you give them tap water. This is the easier and least wasteful solution.
You can always use filtered or distilled water if you prefer, or even ask a friend or family member to keep a bucket of water out in their garden.
In a pinch, you can use fish tank dechlorinator – this is a tip I made up (if it’s good enough for fish I’m sure it’s good enough for plants) and it seems to work pretty well. I recommend Seachem Prime, which is more expensive than other dechlorinators but lasts a lot longer.
- Keep a tray of water out all the time
This is the only way I can keep on top of watering without going insane.
I keep a plastic tray out on the side all the time, filled with rainwater. If I notice a plant is dry, then I can sit the plant in the tray, knowing that the water is already at room temperature and doesn’t contain any chemicals that may harm the plant.
Not only is it convenient for me to water my plants, but I’ve gotten into the habit of cleaning my plants whilst they’re soaking.
It’s forming habits like this that stop plant care seeming so overwhelming. I don’t need to think about carving out the time to dust 100 plants in one go – I try to clean them as I go along.
- Upstairs plants are all happy with tap water
I do sometimes water my upstairs plants in the tray downstairs, but it’s more of a hassle, especially if a lot of plants need watering. It’s easier for me to either top water them, or put them in the bath to soak. For this reason none of the upstairs plants are tap water-sensitive.
- Buy plants to suit your home
Especially if you’re a beginner. It’s much easier to buy a plant that’ll thrive in your home than it is to change the conditions in your home to suit a plant.
How I organise 100+ plants
My kitchen holds all the plants that need extra attention – recently potted propagations, any plant with pests or other issues, and plants that like a humid environment and dry soil, like hoya.
The windowsill houses cacti and succulents, and my Pilea Peperomioides. Then I have two Ikea shelving units and a fireplace, all full of plants. All my Calathea are in my living room, because it has nice east light and ambient humidity of 65% – they’re also close to the kitchen so I can water them easily. Maidenhair fern also lives here for the same reason.
My overgrown and misshapen (they were super cheap) phildendrons also live in the living room, because they look cool on the top of the shelving, and they don’t mind the lowlight+grow light situation.
Syngoniums and pothos, since I have medium light and it’s about 60% humidity. my Ctenanthe has recently moved here since it looks good, and it’s so big that it only needs watering once a month or so, so I don’t mind lugging it downstairs.
Monsteras Delicious and Thai Constellation, plus an Aglaonema. It’s got nice east light and decent humidity.
Philodendrons micans, brasil, and a Pothos n-joy. South facing textured window. They love it in there.
My office is toasty warm all year round with nice western light and varying humidity (I dry laundry in here, so it can range from 40%-70%.
I try not to keep finicky plants in here, because I don’t want to be distracted from work. No one in here is particularly picky (except FLF, but as long as I leave him alone, he’s fine), and they’re all happy to be watered straight from the tap.
We have rubber plants, Aglaonema, spider plants, pothos, ZZ plant, asparagus fern, cacti, snake plants, a Schleffera , a Croton…all pretty chill and low key, which I cherish in work colleagues.
How I make sure all my plants get the light they require
I keep an eye on them. If they’re not growing, or getting leggy, or look sad in any way, I give them more light.
Before doing this, check for root rot, because giving a rotting plant more light will probably just kill it faster.
If you’re out of windowsill real estate, then use mirrors and white furniture to maximise the light in a room.
My desk is a good few feet from the window, but it’s white, and the back corner furthest from the window is great ‘rehab’ light. It’s bright but really indirect, so the plant can get enough energy but isn’t in any danger of overheating or burning.
I tend to keep my windowsills for succulents and cacti, apart from the two textured ones, because the textured glass is great for creating a faux dappled light effect.
If you’re really serious, paint all your walls white. Not even bright white, even a pale yellow or cream will really help bounce light around.
How I make sure all my plants get the humidity they require
If you have humidity loving plants like Calathea and Alocasia, first check your humidity with a hygrometer. If it’s 60% or above you’re fine. Even 55% is probably ok.
But if your humidity is less than 55% and you really want to keep Calathea etc, get a humidifier.
The one I recommend releases warm mist as well as cold, and you can set it to only run when it detects humidity is below whatever you set it as.
Misting may work in the short term, but it doesn’t replace humidity, and it provides great conditions for pests and bacteria to grow.
Do I ever neglect my plants?
Er, yes. Not on purpose, but sometimes plants fall by the wayside – especially those that need a lot of moisture but don’t droop (ctenathes, I’m looking at you).
When you have a lot of plants it’s inevitable that you’ll forget a couple, but I’ve never actually lost a plant through neglect.
However, it’s also easier when there’s so many of them. I check them every day because I know at least of one of them will be dry.
I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t expect to stick to a schedule – the amount of water a plant needs depends on so many factors (season, temperature, humidity, size, whether it’s growing, etc) that I don’t even consider keeping a schedule.
That being said, I do set aside time once a week to quickly check all the plants over. I do it on a Saturday morning before the Big House Clean, because then it doesn’t matter if I drip soil all over the floor.
This is the time when I water all those plants that are annoying to water – like my P. Hastatum that can’t stand up by itself (it needs repotting and shaping so it’s not so top heavy), my staghorn fern, and the upstairs Ctenanthe.
I SWEAR there is no better feeling in all the land than sitting down on a Saturday evening with a glass of wine, a clean house, knowing that none of your plants needs watering.
What do I do with my plants when I go on holiday?
I rarely travel (I’d love to, but climate change + a dislike of flying means I try to avoid it – I’m a huge fan of the staycation), but I don’t worry about my plants when I do.
I have a whole post about leaving your plants for a while, but what I do is this:
- Make sure everyone is watered before I go.
- Put anyone likely to dry out (Calathea, ferns, peace lily) in the bath with an inch or two of water in the bottom.
As long as you let them dry out a bit when you get home, they’ll be fine. Also, I’m assuming you’re only going away a couple of times a year. If you travel often, steer clear of plants that need to be moist.
How I schedule fertilising my plants
I’ve left this point till the end because I’m hoping most of you have stopped reading.
I don’t have a good fertilising schedule. Last year I would just pick one week out of every six and fertilise anybody that needed watering.
I have devised a good method for working out a fertilising schedule though, using coloured popsicle sticks. I have a full article on that here.
This year I’m adding bunny poop to the water so everyone’ll get nutrients every time they’re watered, but it’s not so string it’ll damage them. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Tweaks for this growing season
- The bunny poop thing. Very excited.
- I’m going to add a second tray so I can have room temperature rain water upstairs.
- I’m going to buy more plants, should I ever be allowed to leave the house again.
- I’m going to experiment with putting a couple of plants outside.
Disclaimer: you’d think that I had a big house for all the trays of water I have laying around. I don’t. I have a small 2-bedroom (one of which is my office), 1-bathroom house. I have enough room for a plant station in the kitchen because it’s an L-shape – and the bit where the plants are is the dingy bit where the boiler and washing machine live.
I have room for a tray of water in my office because I have an obnoxiously large desk. The room itself is small (if you put a double bed in here there wouldn’t be any room for other furniture) but the desk is big. There’s literally a small sofa bed under it.
Whilst I don’t have a big house, I also don’t have kids or pets that could upset the water, so I suppose it’s easier for me in that respect.
If you have any cool tips and tricks for taking care of a lot of plants, leave us a comment! Though anything gnarly, like watering orchids with ice will be judged a little bit.