How to Grow Baby Houseplants

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***PSA*** This is NOT an article about propagating! Click on the propagation tab under ‘care’ at the top for that.

This is a post on how to keep those little baby plants you can buy for a few quid at garden centres.

In my opinion they’re an AWESOME way for us poors to get our hands on some of the more expensive house plants without having to choose between plants and say, eating.

Advantages of buying baby house plants

  • Price

I got a spider plant for £1.99 and a Philodendron verrucosum for £6.99. That is a BARGAIN.

The selection of baby plants is pretty great too. Only last year you were limited to super common plants or vines such as Hoya or Pothos, but now there are so many options:

  • Calathea
  • Philodendron – even less common ones like White Wizard
  • Ferns
  • Ficus
  • Hoya
  • Fittonia

Etc etc etc

All for under tenner. Glorious.

  • You can ‘try’ plants

Some plants have a reputation for being difficult, but often it’s just that they’re very particular about the conditions they live in and the care they receive. You won’t know if you can provide those conditions and that care until you have a crack at it yourself.

If your dream plant is a HUGE Philodendron Pink Princess that will set you back £250, then why not try out a £5.99 baby one first.

Best case scenario is that you can grow your baby into the plant of your dreams, but if you’re impatient and want to buy a big one in six months, at least you’ll be more au fait with care. And now you have two!

Worst case scenario is that you find that the two of you aren’t suited to one another. At least you found that out with a £5.99 plant rather than a £250 one.

Problems with buying baby house plants

They dry out SO QUICKLY

This is the worst thing about them and the main reason I banned myself from buying them for a couple of years.

I’m talking about a matter of hours, in some cases. Honestly. And I’m not one to water more often than is strictly necessary.

This isn’t too big of a deal for big plants, but drying out too much is a matter of life and death for baby plants. They’re often just recently rooted cuttings that haven’t gotten a chance to get established yet. If you add that to the fact that they’ve been shunted around possibly the entire globe in the past few weeks, and you can appreciate the stress they’re under,

I’ve devoted an entire section of this article to methods of keeping baby plants moist.

They’re not very established

As I mentioned above, they’ve barely got a root system at this point. They may have been still attached to their mother a week ago (probs tissue cultured though). They’ve been through a LOT in the past few days. If you leave them to dry out, even just for a day, then that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

How to make sure baby plants don’t dry out?

Check them every day

No exceptions. Check the soil, don’t just look to see if they’re drooping. By the time the leaves are showing that they’re dry it *might* be too late (but always try rehydrating them – just in case).

Keep them somewhere where you won’t forget them

I keep mine on my coffee table, so not only do I see them every day, but I sit next to them for literally hours.

these have been repotted, so they’re slightly bigger than babies, but they’ll stay here for a few months until they’re established

Bottom water them

There are a couple of reasons why I recommend bottom watering them. The first is that it’s just easier. Keep a shallow bowl near your plants and then pop them in when they feel dry. No faffing about getting water or anything like that. I just use tap water, but if your tap water isn’t great, use filtered or rainwater.

The second reason I recommend bottom watering baby plants is that it’s the easiest way to ensure the soil gets evenly wet. Baby plants often have netting or coir around their base to keep them in place, and bottom watering the plants ensures that water permeates this barrier.

You can (and should) remove netting from the roots of plants, but I recommend you wait until the plant is more established.

Should I repot baby plants straight away?

It can be tempting to repot baby plants straight away, especially if they seem to be root-bound, but repotting is stressful. Wait a couple of weeks if you can. My spider plant was VERY rootbound when I got it, but I still waited (even though I needed to water it every day).

A lot of people assure me that repotting immediately is necessary to reduce the amount of bugs but I personally prefer to wait because it’s less stressful to the plant and a couple of weeks of being rootbound is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the plant.

I got my most recent batch of baby plants in mid-March and I repotted them last Friday, so April 21st.

I’ve found that waiting to transfer your plants and growing their roots on a bit means you can put them in slightly bigger pots. Mine came in 1-inch pots and I put them into 10cm clear pots, so they don’t dry out nearly as quickly. I planted them in ABG potting mix, which is the perfect mix of chunky and water-retaining for my plants. They’re all doing well and they’ve all grown new leaves apart from the Ficus Audrey (IT’S FINE!).

Final thoughts

Baby plants are a great way to try out plants for a slightly lower cost, but their care can be a little bit trickier than their more mature counterparts.

One of the great things about baby plants is you put in all the hard work at the beginning and they get progressively easier to care for as they mature. AND they’ll be used to the conditions in your home, unlike a plant that you buy as a mature specimen.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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