Give consistent care
One essential aspect of plant care, says Jarema, is consistency. So constantly repositioning your plants in an attempt to even out their light exposure is a bad idea. “Plants really acclimate to the space they’re in. So they will adapt to their light. If you move it around a lot, I think it can be confusing for the plants to be receiving so much light and then lower light.”
Every plant requires different frequencies and styles of watering, and you can learn those through researching your plant and observing them in practice. “Once you really observe your plants, you’ll learn the signs that they give you when they’re thirsty,” says Jarema. If you notice droopy leaves or yellow tips and rims, that’s a good indicator, but the best determiner is the soil. “Normally, if the top inch of the soil is moist, you can hold off.”
You don’t need to use filtered water, but you do need to let the water sit out, uncovered, overnight to distill the fluoride and chlorine, which filters often miss. Jarema uses a “pour-over coffee” watering method, spiraling the watering can so all the soil is covered. “It’s good to watch the soil absorb the water to see how quickly it’s drinking it up, and that’ll help determine how thirsty it was,” she says. “Part of the joy of having a plant is being able to water it and nurture it and watch it grow.”
Fertilizer can help your plant grow stronger and faster, but be careful. For indoor plants, fertilize in the spring and summer. “You don’t want to fertilize your plants during the winter, only during the growing season.” Use half the amount that the box tells you to. Jarema uses liquid fertilizer, and Osmocote smart-release fertilizer is a popular one for succulents.
Pruning and propagating
All plants have nodes on their stems, which often present as raised bumps that look like little joints. The nodes are the source of growth. So when you’re pruning off dead or yellowed leaves, it’s a good idea to cut above them.
When you’re propagating, however, you’ll want to cut below the node—ideally, two nodes down—so that the new baby plant has a source of growth. You can also propagate from leaves that have fallen off, and with a succulent, your best bet is to cut from a stem. For a plant that vines or is very leafy, you can propagate in plain water: “You can take cuttings and put them in a cute bottle and put it near your window, you can watch them grow roots in the water. You can gauge when to plant in soil.”
Succulents are a little different. After cutting the stem, lay it flat near the sun to let it callus over. The cut is like an open wound that needs to heal. Then “propagate them in a shallow amount of soil,” says Jarema. “They don’t want too much soil between the top of the plant and the drainage hole.”