Bought into the lockdown trend for a houseplant? Of course you have: according to a recent study, people in the UK bought a staggering 322 million more plants in 2020 than in 2019 (and, presumably, a lot of watering cans). Predictably, us green-fingered newbies aren’t terribly good at looking after our new friends, with two thirds of us apparently killing off our houseplants accidentally. Perhaps less predictably, TikTok has provided the solution, with simple gardening hacks to keeping your plants happy and healthy trending among millennial gardeners. But do they actually work? We round up the most useful suggestions.
There’s nothing worse than a spider plant that’s lost its bounce – droopy leaves that only reflect your lockdown mood will do nothing to lift spirits. To rectify this, take cuttings from the vines and replant them in the pot for a bushier look. Snip the end of a section of plant above the second leaf, pick the leaf off to reveal the node (scientifically known as: the bumpy bit from where the leaf grows) and leave it in water for a while to let the roots regrow. Once you have about an inch of root, simply replant in the pot and repeat as many times as it takes for a fulsome look.
Yes, plants are great and all, but what if you’re binge watching something on Netflix? Or making tomato and feta pasta? Or heading off on an extremely exciting, government-approved daily walk? Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If you’re likely to forget to water your precious beauties, don’t leave it to chance: place your pots on a full plate of water and the roots will soak it up from the bottom – simple.
Of course, though this seems obvious, it’s worth pointing out that this hack only works if your pots have holes in the bottom. If you’ve bought some boujie, hole-free pots from which you can’t bear to be parted, there is another solution: all you’ll need is a humble pencil, a ruler and a quick Google of how much water your plant needs. Trust us, it works.
These days, there’s no need to invest in exorbitant sprays, lotions and potions to keep your plant happy. Go the organic route – a vegan-only-diet for your plant child, if you will – with ingredients you’ve probably already got in your cupboards. Plop a few garlic cloves in a spray bottle of water and spritz the leaves once a week to deter pests (and probably everyone else, if you get it on your clothes). A little cinnamon in the soil will help prevent fungi and a few curls of orange peel in your planter will ward off any bugs.
If you need an extra reason to justify that slightly-too-expensive, slow-roasted coffee, you’ll be delighted to hear that any leftovers at the bottom of the mug will wake up your plants as much as you – a chemical stimulant, it’ll aid photosynthesis and the absorption of water, while decreasing pH levels in the soil. Just be sure to dilute it well, so you don’t give your favourite plant the metaphorical jitters.
If you’re more of a tea person (or indeed, never have any leftover coffee – no one’s judging) you can still help out your plants. A used tea bag makes the perfect home for a new seed to sprout; just carefully rip it open, pop your seed in and keep it watered until you see new growth appearing.
Most plants, like people, aren’t too fond of winter: not much sunlight and chilly temperatures aren’t exactly ideal growing conditions. Though we’re heading (hopefully) into a warmer, brighter spring, there’s no harm in keeping an eye on your watering (don’t overdo it) and making sure your leafy friends aren’t too close to any radiators, windows or doorways that might prove too breezy. Demanding creatures, aren’t they?
If you’ve been a terribly neglectful plant parent and your baby is acting out (think drooping leaves, brown spots, possible slamming of doors) it’s time to take emergency action. All is not yet lost: hydrogen peroxide is your friend; try to treat the problem initially by submerging the roots in a water and hydrogen peroxide solution, then repot in new soil. If that doesn’t help, you’ll need to perform some life-saving surgery. Unpot the plant, cut off the dead leaves and toss them, before deep cleaning the pot and the roots with water and (you guessed it) hydrogen peroxide, then repotting in new soil.