How to keep house plants alive

I divide people into two categories: Those who magically make their orchids flower a second (and third and fourth) time, and the rest of us.

I sadly fall in the latter category – I lack the magic skills to keep an orchid going for more than a few months. I do love having house plants though, and I’m ok-ish at keeping the rest of them going. When Netflorist suggested a collaboration with some tips and trick on how to look after indoor plants I was obviously keen to get in on the inside info.

Generally house plants need a lot of bright light (not direct sun necessarily), but limited exposure to wind and air conditioners/heaters. It’s a good idea to rotate them weekly, and if you’re super committed you can take them outdoors for some sun once a week.

Consider children, pets and human traffic when you choose where to put your house plants. My cat finds certain succulents irresistible, and she’s knocked over a few in attempts to eat them. For this reason I only put sturdy pots in areas she walks/sits on. It didn’t stop her from casually taking a bite from the succulent arrangement pictured below as I was photographing it, so I had to move it to my bookshelf.

netflorist succulents

Since certain plants have specific requirements I’ll summarise some of the main ones below:

Orchids

  • Orchids like light, but they don’t do well in direct sun
  • They prefer cooler temperatures to guard against dehydration – typically below the comfort levels of humans, especially at night.
  • Orchids thrive in humid conditions. Keep them away from gas, heaters, aircons, wind, and anything else that dries the air.
  • Orchid roots should never soak in water. Water them weekly/bi-weekly from above when the soil is 80% dry, and discard any excess water that drains through.
  • Once your orchid has stopped flowering, trim the stem above the second node. Place it in a cool, dark, humid room (the bathroom is ideal) so it can get cool induction for 3 months. If your bathroom isn’t suitable, move it to a dark corner and give it moisture by means of a spray bottle every couple of days.  After 3 months, return the plant to its regular spot and water as usual.

Succulents

  • Succulents need loads of light, so they do well in (or close to) windows.
  • Water them well, but not often. I find soaking the soil every 2-3 weeks in summer and every 3-4 weeks in winter works for me – I only water when the soil feels completely dry. This will depend on the type of succulents you have, the size and depth of their pots and the humidity in your home. Do not spray them, and don’t water them daily.
  • I recently went on a succulent potting spree, so I’ll have a whole post dedicated to them in the next week or two. Subscribe here if you don’t want to miss that.

netflorist succulents

netflorist aloe

Lilies

  • Lilies like plenty of indirect light – they burn easily in sunlight.
  • Water lilies regularly – allowing the soil to dry out in between waterings is not ideal.
  • Most lilies do well outdoors, so once they’re done flowering and start wilting, trim them just above the bulb and plant them in your garden.

Lavender

  • Lavenders are growers, so prepare to eventually depot them into a larger pot or flower bed.
  • They need about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Prune Lavender once a year as winter nears its end. Leave 5 – 8cm of soft green leaves, taking care not to cut into the harder stems.

netflorist lavender

Bonsai

  • Place your bonsai in an area where it will get bright light for about 10 hours a day. You can supplement with fluorescent lighting.
  • Mist your tree a couple of times a day to mimic higher humidity if you’re in a dry climate.
  • Soak the soil with water whenever it feels slightly dry, ensuring that the entire root system gets moisture.

Now that I (mostly) have the hang of succulents and I’ve kept a few leafy things alive, I’m tempted to make my next challenge a bonsai and/or an orchid. I’ve had many orchids before, but I actually want to keep one alive long enough for it to flower multiple times. If you have green fingers, please share your tips with the rest of us!

The plants pictured are all from Netflorist. Find the succulent arrangement here, the aloe here, and the gorgeous lavender here.

C x

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12 Comments

  1. September 28, 2016 / 9:14 am

    My mom’s the type that fits into category 2…and I have no idea how she does it. She just chucks the orchids (after they’ve lost their flowers) in the garden under the palm tree and voila… when you least it expect it, suddenly you see them blooming. It’s weird.

    • Chantelle Bester
      September 29, 2016 / 9:05 am

      One of the tips I read was that they do well in the shade of trees so ja, she has the right idea!

  2. Simone Janse van Noordwyk
    September 28, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    I can’t keep anything alive. Even succulents suffer under my care. But I didn’t know lavender can be kept indoors and maybe I should consider bringing my lavender inside…

    • Chantelle Bester
      September 29, 2016 / 9:02 am

      Haha or maybe you should leave them in peace 😛

  3. September 29, 2016 / 8:57 am

    I also fall into the latter category, and have even joked that I have ‘black thumb’ as opposed to a green thumb.

    Very keen to give these tips a bash, as I was given a mini orchid as a gift, and really would love to make it last more than a month!

    http://sugarspicelifestyle.blogspot.co.za/

    • Chantelle Bester
      September 29, 2016 / 9:01 am

      Best of luck!

  4. Marné
    September 29, 2016 / 3:04 pm

    I’m slightly proud to admit that I had a huge orchid which I kept going for so long that I eventually thought that I’ll have to put it in my will. That is, until I forgot it in a sunny spot last year, going away on holiday for 3 weeks. The sun burned it to death 🙁
    Alas, I’ve got a new one this year and hope I can do it again. Watering it with ice blocks and lightly spraying it with orchid food 1-2 times a day did the trick for me {The orchid food must be a very weak concentration if you spray it daily, I would guess 2-5% orchid food and the rest water}. Also, NEVER touch the flowers, the flower leaves tend to die where you’ve touched them. I stay in the driest part of the country (it feels like it), so it is possible indeed.
    Looking forward to your succulent post Chantelle!

    • Chantelle Bester
      September 30, 2016 / 11:59 am

      Thanks for sharing your recipe and good luck for the next one!

  5. R Fourie
    September 29, 2016 / 10:30 pm

    The succulent arrangements are so beautiful !

    • Chantelle Bester
      September 30, 2016 / 11:59 am

      It is! Was sad to give it back to them 😛

  6. October 3, 2016 / 1:57 am

    Very helpful. I’m so useless at keeping plants alive, so I’ve mostly opted for flowers. Must try harder. xxx

    • Chantelle Bester
      October 3, 2016 / 11:35 am

      You can do it 🙂

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