Last week I offered some useful money-saving tips with regards to buying new houseplants. This week it’s time to carefully assess how we are using the space in our homes to display our new green friends. Simply squeezing all our plants on the window sill won’t suffice—not only will it look (and be) cluttered, but most plants need a little ‘personal’ space for proper air flow to prevent disease and encourage healthy growth.
Below I’ve outlined five easy methods you can consider to use your precious space more efficiently. Keep your plants happy, keep your home uncluttered, and keep yourself stress free.
1. Purchase smaller plants to begin with
If you have a space issue right off the bat, consider buying houseplants that just don’t take up as much room. For example, a little African Violet is tiny compared to a large Norfolk Island Pine. Not only will you free up space, but you will save a little money too since smaller plants often cost less.
2. Reduce the size of your existing plants
Is a plant getting too big for you? Then trim it down to size. One way is to simply give it a hair cut. Another way is to restart the plant altogether from cuttings. Every once and a while I have to trim or restart some of my aggressively growing houseplants because they just get too large! And one great benefit of downsizing is that plants often do better afterwards because they are getting a fresh start with new healthy growth.
3. Rotate your plants
Let’s say you only have one small south-facing window, but you have several houseplants that need the high quality sunlight coming through that glass. Do you just have to pick which plants will get the sunlight and which won’t? Not exactly, especially considering the fact that the plants that don’t get the sunlight they need will likely not do very well. A more creative solution is to rotate your plants. Give one plant a week in the window and then swap it out with another. That way all the plants are getting sun at least some of the time. This practice will work with many houseplants, but be sure to experiment first because some sensitive plants might not enjoy sharing the sun.
4. Find creative places to put your plants
Not all plants need to be sitting on a window sill. For example, you could buy or build a little stand to set on your kitchen counter so more plants could get sunlight out of that window. You can also try hanging plants from hooks in the ceiling. Finally, take note which plants really don’t need to be in the window and put them somewhere else. Golden Pothos, for instance, will do just fine sitting several feet from a light source, and getting it out of the way will free up space for your sun-loving plants.
5. Get rid of some plants
This last tip is a little obvious (if you have clutter, get rid of it, right?), but sometimes it’s hard to part with houseplants we’ve cared for and enjoyed for a long time. In the end you will just need to make a choice. Are you willing to deal with the clutter? If not, then perhaps you need to get rid of a few plants. Consider giving them away to friends or family—that way you won’t feel like you are just letting them die after all that work. Furthermore, take heart that while you had the plant it most likely benefited you in more ways than you might even know.
Spotlight on the Poinsettia
Last week I talked about a timely houseplant (the holiday cactus) that you are probably seeing a lot of in stores these days. This week I want to talk about another plant popular this time of year, the Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima hybrids). Whether you will buy one yourself or expect to receive one as a gift, it’s good to know how to take care of it so it will last the season (and hopefully even beyond!).
- Light: Indirect sunlight is best.
- Temperature: Normal home temperatures are fine.
- Water: Keep slightly moist, but do not overwater.
- Fertilizer: There is no need to fertilize your poinsettia if you only plan to keep it for the duration of the holiday season. If you plan to keep for longer, however, then it might be a good idea to feed it a normal houseplant fertilizer after it finishes blooming.
- Soil: Any good potting soil is fine.
- Repotting: Again, if you plan to toss the plant after Christmas, then re-potting will not be necessary. If you want to keep the plant, then re-potting in the summer is best.
- Propagation: If desired, you can take stem cuttings and root them in pots to keep outdoors in the summer.
- Toxicity: Now considered non-toxic by most, although it was once thought to be poisonous. Use caution. The milky sap may cause skin irritation, if anything.
- Pests: Uncommon.
- Miscellaneous: To prevent early bract dropping (i.e. the pretty colored ‘leaves’), you need to make sure you transport the plant safely from store to home, not allowing it to get too cold for too long. Also be sure to take the decorative wrapping off the pot as this can often lead to root rot due to overwatering. Finally, as stated above, most Poinsettia owners only keep the plants through the duration of the holiday season. However, if you are looking for a challenge and you live in a warm climate, then you can attempt to get the plant to rebloom the following season. After repotting it, keep it outside in the summer. Then beginning in October, it must be subjected to at least 14 hours of darkness each night to initiate budding.
Now that you’ve figured out where to put all your plants to use your space the most efficiently, it’s important to think about using your time efficiently. Next week we’ll talk about how you can manage and schedule the care of your houseplants.
Have you found any creative ways to display your houseplants?