Houseplant Care Tips for Beginners with Verde Tribe

Thank you to Veronica Leon, owner of Verde Tribe (a Charlotte-based plant shop), for partnering with me on this post and answering some commonly asked questions on houseplants. Follow Verde Tribe on Instagram (@verdetribe) to get even more plant care tips and tricks.


I love my plants and that is no secret. If you follow me on Instagram, you get almost daily updates on my sprouts and blooms, both inside and outside.

Plants are powerful little things in that they have the capability to improve our mood and overall well-being. It’s science! Tons of research has been done on the healing power of plants.

“Scientific research tells us that green leafy plants help boost our mood. If there are nearby plants, we also seem to get along better with others. We also feel better physically when we’re around plants — a good reason to bring a potted plant to your great aunt in an assisted living facility or the hospital. Being near indoor potted plants helps us to de-stress and restock our stores of mental processing power after we’ve depleted them doing knowledge work.”

Sally Augustin Ph.D.
Psychology Today

Plus, it has been proven that they purify the air in our homes by taking toxins, processing them, turning them into their food, and then producing oxygen.

Monstera Deliciosa in a pop up basket.

Personally, indoor plants bring me so much joy, which is why I keep my home filled with them. More is better, in my opinion. Since adding plants to my home, I have noticed significant improvement in my anxiety and depression. I look forward to caring for my plants and giving them what they need to thrive (a feeling that is not uncommon in people who experience anxiety and depression and keep houseplants around as a natural way to maintain their well-being).

While I recommend houseplants to anyone and everyone, I also realize that these leafy babies are not always easy to care for.

Pothos and Ivy plants in macrame hangers.

Much like a pet, plants can’t tell you what they need to help them survive and thrive, so it is up to us to figure out what they respond to best (and not give up on them when they’re not doing so great).

There are many plant care tips and tricks to go over, and I hope to eventually cover them all.

Veronica Leon, owner of Charlotte plant shop Verde Tribe.
Photo credit: Claire Rodahaver (Instagram @clairerodahaver

However, after talking plants with Veronica Leon, owner of Verde Tribe, for only 1 hour, I realized that we should start small with this first post about houseplants.

She is a wealth of knowledge, and I have learned so much from her already.

I highly recommend you follow Verde Tribe on Instagram to learn more about plant care and see all of the beautiful plants Veronica sells!

Veronica reminded me that you don’t have to have a “green thumb” to be a good plant parent. You simply need to pay attention to the unique needs of your plant.

“You need to get to know your plant individually to be able to help it thrive,” Veronica says. “It could be the same species of the same type of plant and each one could need different things.”

Aside from getting to know your plant, there are really two things it requires to survive: light and water. And that is what we are going to cover here today.


Light

Veronica says most houseplants don’t need direct sunlight because sunlight would burn their leaves, and you don’t have to put them directly in front of a window for them to get light. Plants naturally grow under trees in their places of origin and are not used to direct sunlight.

There are 3 types of light that plants require: Indirect bright light, medium light, and low light. As we mentioned above, each plant is different and you need to get to know your plant to be able to put it in the right place.

Monstera Deliciosa

When you purchase a new plant, ask the nursery, garden center, or plant shop you buy from what type of light is recommended for that plant. That will give you a good place to start.

If indirect bright light is suggested, place your plant close to an east facing window. If your plant prefers medium light, put it few feet from a window or close to a sunny window using curtains to create filtered light. And if it likes low light, any corner or space away from windows and doors will do.

Your plant might be getting too much light if you notice its leaves turning brown. However, brown leaves can also be a sign of water issues, so it truly is all about trial and error and learning what your plant likes.


Water

Veronica says most problems people experience with indoor plants is from over watering them.

Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy guide for how often you should water your plants, but the best thing to do is wait to water until the first layer of dirt is dry.

As a general rule, stick your index finger in the soil to your first knuckle. If the soil is dry, water the plant.

If you think you have over watered your plant (if the leaves are turning brown or yellow), put it in a bright and well-ventilated area to help it dry out and don’t give it any additional water until the soil is dry.

If under watering is your problem, try setting a reminder on your phone each week to remember to give your plants a drink. Make it fun by calling it #ThirstyThursday. Always check the soil before you water, though, to make sure your plant even needs it.


Additional Tips to Get You Started

  • Terra cotta pots are porous and keep plants in a healthy environment.  Clay pots breathe, allowing soil to find its perfect moisture balance.
  • Buy pots with drainage holes. Water gets stuck in the bottom of the pot and could cause root rot if you don’t have drainage holes.
  • If you want to use decorative pots that don’t have drainage holes, put your plant in a simple pot with a drainage hole or in its nursery pot and then place that pot down in the decorative pot.
  • Repot each year or as your plant needs it. If your plant hasn’t outgrown the pot it’s in, leave it. If the plant’s roots are coming out of the pot, repot it.
  • When you do repot, repot it to the next size up. For example, if your plant was in a 4-inch pot, go to a 6-inch. If you put your plant in a pot that’s too big, it won’t thrive like it’s supposed to. It has to be a slow progression as your plant grows.
  • Clean plant leaves. Veronica uses the inside of a banana peel to keep leaves shiny, make them look healthy, and give potassium to the leaf.
Photo credit: Veronica Leon, Verde Tribe

Favorite Houseplants

  • Monstera Deliciosa: A natural air purifier and commonly known as a split leaf philodendron. These are very trendy right now but are not pet-friendly so make sure to keep it away from your animals. Monsteras love indirect bright light. I have mine sitting next to windows where it gets lots of indirect light (the sun never shines directly through those windows) but not too much to where its leaves are burning. Mine (which I named Phil) is absolutely thriving where it is.
  • Ferns: Also popular right now are leafy green ferns. I have two on my front porch and they are absolutely beautiful. They are natural air purifiers and need a lot of bright light (close to a window, no direct sunlight) and humidity. To keep your fern alive, you can spray it with water several times a week, buy a humidifier to keep moisture in the air around the plant, or create a pebble tray using a plastic plant tray and small pebbles (put small amount of water in bottom of tray and place plant on top of it to keep the plant moist. Don’t let the plant sit in water, though, because that will cause root rot).
Fiddle leaf fig
Photo credit: Veronica Leon, Verde Tribe
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees: Veronica considers this natural air purifier a medium maintenance plant and wouldn’t suggest it for a beginner. It is one that people tend to over water, and these get root rot quickly.
  • Bird’s Nest Fern: This is a pet-friendly, low-maintenance natural air purifier that doesn’t require a lot of humidity like a traditional fern. I love the unique, wavy leaves of the bird’s nest fern and keep one in my kitchen.
  • Snake Plants: Also not pet friendly, but very forgiving. Snake plants can tolerate drought, don’t need much light, and can be neglected. This is a plant for people who tend to forget to water their plants. Keep it in your room for better sleep; they purify the air at day and night.
  • ZZ Plant: These tough, low-light guys don’t mind being neglected, either, and like to be more dry than usual. They are great for beginners. Keep it in your room for better sleep as they purify the air at night.
ZZ plant
Photo credit: Veronica Leon, Verde Tribe

If you’re a new plant parent, hopefully you found this information helpful.

I often get messages from people saying they’re afraid to buy houseplants because they’re not sure if they can keep them alive. As Veronica says, as long as you’re giving them water (not too much or too little) and light (not too much or too little), they will be happy.

If you’re adamant about bringing plants home, start small with one of the low-maintenance plants from the list above and then work your way up from there.

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