Passion for plants: A beginner’s guide to horticulture

Horticulture surged in popularity as a great way to destress during the pandemic. Although uncertain of your green thumb credentials, you felt an urge to surround yourself with natural beauty. This is how a pretty green plant (you call her Rosie!) came to sit in a place of honour on your windowsill. But whatever can you do now that poor Rosie’s leaves have started to yellow and fall off? Let’s take a crack at horticulture 101. Your plant may not be a goner after all…

To the app!

First off, before throwing on your gardening overalls – why not? – browse applications on the topic. Plants drink water while horticulturalists consume knowledge. For example, you could download Planta and have a ton of advice at your fingertips to dig into (for real!). And how much you wanna bet you’ll find a picture similar to what ails Rosie there?

Potted plant

Buying a potted plant is sort of like welcoming a newborn. They demand a lot of attention when they get home. You have to satisfy certain needs. You also have to provide the same conditions as their natural environment. This is essential. For example, a native desert cactus requires a lot of sunlight whereas a tropical pothos plant grows well in low light and adapts well to shade. You will find that some plants, just like children, are more precocious than others. Do you have a nurturing side? Time to put that to good use!

Besides apps, the internet is also a fountain of information. Browse details about your plant’s specific needs, including:

  • Sunlight
    Most plants need sunshine to be happy. But beware of sunburn… sunlight can quickly harm foliage. Is Rosie looking a little droopy over there on the windowsill? Try another location. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right spot.

  • Watering
    Generally speaking, potted plants prefer being watered in one dose. So, provide an abundant supply of water and then leave the soil to dry. Keep in mind to follow the flow of the seasons. Plants will drink more in summer than in winter. Excess water can cause roots to rot. If leaves and stems turn soft or yellow, it is a sure sign your plant has been overwatered. In that event, repot it and make sure to remove any damaged roots.

    On the flip side, your plant could get thirsty if the soil is too dry. It’s bath time! Immerse the pot three-quarters in a water-filled tub. When the soil is wet, after around 20 minutes or so, remove the pot and let it drain completely. Then put it back in its saucer.
  • Humidity
    Do you wipe your little one’s face after a snack? Ditto for Rosie. Pamper her often. She laps it up! Gently wipe both sides of leaves with a damp cloth. This will remove accumulated dust while increasing the humidity level. You are also promoting chlorophyll synthesis. Warning! Many plant varieties love a good spray down, but not all of them.
     
  • Soil
    Use rich, quality potting soil. It breaks down over time. And you guessed it, the concept of a healthy, balanced diet also applies to plants! Add the appropriate fertilizer every two or three weeks, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
     
  • Repotting
    Slowly but surely little feet outgrow shoes. Same goes for plants. Repot them every two or three years. Increase the pot size by 2-3 cm. If it is too big, the plant will spend more energy on its roots than on its foliage. Most species prefer to feel cramped in their space. Add some pebbles to the bottom of the pot to aerate the soil. Use a new potting soil. Best to wait three weeks before adding fertilizer to nutrient-rich new soil. Most importantly, water well.

Tips

Keep an eye on your plant. Be on the lookout for stains, small white spots or brown, drying leaves. Beware of tiny invaders! Spray both sides of leaves with black soap to get rid of scale insects or aphids. 

Did these tips contain the secret to reviving your plant? If not, it’s time to branch out and ask the experts at your local garden centre.

Horticulture is a vast field. We’ve barely scratched the surface though your thumb is no doubt already a bit greener. As for Rosie, she could spring back to life… we hope she flourishes long by your side!