Christan Summers and Ivan Martinez—the brilliant plant whisperers behind the Brooklyn-based plant company Tula House—know a thing or two about raising plants in the big city. And because they spend several days each week greeting prospective plant owners at their Bushwick showroom and from their roaming plant truck, they’re well-versed in the common pitfalls of urban plant care. To help us figure out what’s ailing our oxalis and stressing our spider plants, we asked the Tula House duo for the five things we’re most likely doing wrong—and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Treating a Plant as an Inanimate Object
Plants are living, breathing organisms – they even sense gravity! They are amazing and when you start learning about plant life, it may change the way you look at plants forever.
Mistake #2: Not Considering a Plant’s Natural Habitat — Or Your Own
When purchasing a plant, first think about your environment. Do you have lots of sunlight? Are you at the garden level with partial sun? Do you like your home cool or hot? Think about the conditions of your home, and then find a plant that will thrive in a similar environment. A good way to do that is to learn the name of the plant you would like to purchase and research where it comes from. If it’s native to the tropics, warmth and humidity are your best friends. If the desert is where it calls home, heat and sun, sun, sun!
Mistake #3: Not Feeling the Soil Before Watering
Most houseplants (besides certain ferns) want their soil to dry out anywhere between 1 to 5 inches below the surface before you water again. Sticking your finger into the soil will help gauge how moist the soil is and help to avoid overwatering and killing your beloved green friend.
Mistake #4: Not Showering/Misting/Cleaning the Plant’s Foliage
When we bring plants indoors, Mother Nature is not working her magic anymore – there is no rain and no wind to help keep the foliage dust/dirt free and healthy. We always ask people, imagine if you never showered (eek!). That is how your green friend feels. We recommend cleaning your plants with water at least twice per month. You can shower them with a spray bottle or take a wet towel and gently wipe the leaves. This will keep your plant clean, breathing and will ward away pests.
Mistake #5: Unnecessarily Repotting
A good rule of thumb is to repot your plant when the soil becomes bone dry just 1 to 2 days after you’ve thoroughly watered. Generally, this is a sign that the planter has little to no moisture-retaining matter left and consists mainly of roots. When you repot, only increase the size of your new pot 2 to 3 inches wider and 2 to 3 inches tall. The larger pot does not mean your plant will grow faster – but it does mean more soil and more moisture, which can lead to root rot if you’re not watering carefully.
Bonus Mistake #6: Forgetting to Feed Your Plant
Fertilizer is often overlooked and an important aspect to the health of the plant. Feed your plant during it’s growth season (often spring through summer). We use an organic liquid fertilizer of fish emulsion and kelp that we sell at the shop.