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Building your plant care routine is a pretty personal business. It depends a lot on how much time you have, why you have plants (I hoard them like a goblin, you may too, or you might have them for decor reasons etc etc), and the types of plants you have.
If you have primarily succulents, you could get away with shoving them outside all summer, ignoring them in winter, and occasionally throwing some fertiliser their way. Those of us with plants like orchids and hoya that we want to bloom need a *slightly* more hands-on approach.
The problem with establishing a plant care routine is that plants don’t follow routines.
I can’t design a checklist that says ‘water once a fortnight’ or whatever, because it doesn’t work like that.
Your plants need watering more in summer and less in winter.
Same with repotting.
There’s no hard or fast rule about when you should repot. I have plants with shallow roots systems that have been in the same pot for YEARS and they’re fine. I fertilise them regularly and you can add stuff to the soil to recharge it.
So this plant care routine checklist is a checklist of, er, checking. Check if your plant needs water weekly. Water it if it does, don’t if it’s not.
So, we’ve set aside some time for plant care every week. What do we do with it?
Btw, I like to set aside an hour, but it doesn’t take that long every week, so I use the extra time to have little nap. You’ll find that every so often you’ll need to spend a couple of hours repotting, or treating pests, so it all works out in the end.
Daily House Plant Care Routine
You don’t have to actually do anything for your plants on a daily basis, but it’s a good idea to just…have a look at them. Check that nothing’s gone drastically wrong.
A mushroom randomly sprouted in my Monstera Dubia yesterday. Mushrooms in house plants aren’t usually a problem, but I’m glad I didn’t miss it! They popped up yesterday and already look like they’re drooping a bit, so I’m guessing they won’t be hanging around for long.
So yeah, cast your eye over your plants every day if you can. This is not mandatory, but it might help you deal with issues more quickly.
Weekly house plant checklist
If weekly is too often, feel free to do this fortnightly. Weekly is the best case scenario, but I definitely can eak this out to more of a fortnightly or even monthly appointment.
How often you carry out these tasks also depends a tonne on the types of plants you have. As I said before, if you have primarily succulents you can probably do these things every couple of months. If you have, for example, a White Fusion Calathea, you’ll have to do them every day (jokes, but also extremely true).
Check the soil
This is how we check whether or not we need to water. If the soil is dry, water it.
I often see ‘if the top inch of soil is dry, water it’ and this advice is of no use to anyone. For starters, that’s really gonna depend on the size of the pot.
Also, just because the top inch of the soil is dry doesn’t mean that the rest of it isn’t a soggy quagmire.
If you’re a newbie, use a moisture metre. No, they’re not particularly accurate, but I can tell you from experience that they’re way more accurate than someone that has no idea what they’re doing. They’re only a few quid, and definitely worth it.
Check for pests
Checking for pests is a pain but it’s so so necessary. The earlier you catch them, the less chance they have to move onto your other plants.
If you see pests, isolate the plant as quickly as possible and move it somewhere that you can see it everyday.
This may just be my ADHD talking, but if you see it everyday you’re more likely to remember to treat it.
Places to check for pests:
- The underside of leaves, especially where the leaf meets the petiole
- Any new growth
- Damaged parts of the leaves
- The ‘veins’ of leaves
Hold plants up to the light to check for spidermites.
Remove dead leaves
Dead leaves are a perfectly normal occurance in house plants. Leaves don’t last forever, and often plants will shed smaller older leaves because they take more energy to maintain than they provide for the plant.
Also…sometimes plants dry out too much, have a bad batch of pests and end up looking sad.
Sometimes peace lilies have hiss fits because they’ve been repotted and look like this:
If you look closely, she’s blooming a LOT, so she’s FINE (admittedly, I think she’s due a feed). She’s just a drama queen. Still, those yellow leaves ain’t coming back, so I may as well chop them and make her a bit tidier. It als might make her think twice about being so dramatic again.
Dead leaves aren’t just messy, they can create a lovely, nurturing haven for things like fungus gnats.
The leaves will disintegrate over time (pretty quickly in plants that like to stay quite damp) and they’re grow fungus, which fungus gnats are…pretty fond of.
Remove the leaves asap. It’s a lot easier to discourage fungus gnats from setting up camp in the first place than it is to get rid of them.
Monthly House Plant Care Tasks
Monthly is easier for these tasks, but 6 weekly is also fine.
Fertilise your plants
Plants need nutrients to help them grow. Whilst good humidity, consisent watering and approriate light is key to healthy growth, you can end up with mottled, yellowig leaves if you don’t feed your plants.
I use the General Hydroponics Flora series, but any house plant fertiliser will do. I typically recommend to use half the amount the manufacturer recommends, one because it’s reduces the chace of your burning the roots, and two, it’s cheaper.
Check any new growth
Keeping an eye on any new growth can help you head off any issues before they, er, kill your plant.
If it’s weird and blackened, it’s probably a pest issue. If the leaf didn’t really unfurl and then sort of rotted off, that’s usually a sign of inconsistent watering (it happens a lot in summer when the soil dries out super quickly) but can also be root rot.
Smaller new growth can be a sign that the plant isn’t getting as much light as it once did. LAck of fenestrations can mean the same thing.
Just remember that leaves grow once they’ve unfurled, so wait until they’ve reached full size and hardened off before changing anything. Anthurium leaves, for example, start off teeny weeny and grow loads once theyv’e unfurled. Schefflera leaves start off like little tiny claws and gradually grow to full size.
If there isn’t any new growth, keep a close eye on the plant. Some plants, such as ZZ plants don’t grow very quickly, but sometimes there’s an issue. My ZZ didn’t grow for a year or more, so I repotted it from a terracotta pot into a plastic one and it immediately took off.
Plants should grow if they’re being cared for properly. If they aren’t it could be a sign that there’s a issue. I have an article here that can help you identify what the problem might be.
Flush leca plants
This definitely a case of do as I say and not as I do. I’m terrible for remembering to flush my leca and I’m at the point now where the mineral deposits have hardened and won’t dissolve when I flush them. I’ll probably have to boil the leca to shift them and I really can’t be bothered. FIngers crossed it doesn’t damage my plants!
Yearly/6-Monthly House Plant Care Tasks
Check the roots
You should be checking the roots if you notice any issues, but every year or so I like to check the roots to see I need to up-pot.
There’s a fine line between keeping an eye on the roots and potentially damaging them by poking around in them too often. Some plants (in my experience, Hoya and Ponytail Palm) keep being quite severly rootbound to themselves.
Tbh, being root bound isn’t that big of a deal as long as the plant is able to absirb enough water BUT it can be more difficult to repot a plant that’s very tightly rootbound. Checking once or twice a year can ensure that repotting is less stressful for the plant.
See? Not too much to do!
AND YET I DON’T DO IT.
I’m really good at bringing plants back from the brink of death, but not so good at regular maintenance. I’m trying, guys.
I’ve made this printable for myself (gonna put it on my iPad home screen where it will glare at me at least once a day), but you can download it if you so wish. If you think there’s anything I’ve missed off, leave me a comment or DM me on Instagram.