Your Guide to Houseplants

How to green your space and live with plants

Would you like to know some basic tips to keeping houseplants and growing your own indoor jungle? Whether you live in a small apartment or a large house, adding plants to your home will improve your health and wellbeing. Caring for a living thing and seeing it thrive and bloom is very rewarding. For me, caring for plants is a form of mindfulness. My name is Catherine O'Sullivan and I turned a once black thumb to green by simply learning a few tricks. 

Catherine O'Sullivan  surrounded by plants watering another plant


Getting started

A question I get asked a lot is, "What plant should I buy?" My first response to this is, “What kind of person are you?" Will you be at home all day and checking on your new plant baby every 5 minutes and drowning it in love?!! If this is you,  then you need to choose plants that love misting and don't like their soil to dry out. Or are you the sort of person that will forget about this plant and hope it survives on the reserves?  Then you need to look for plants that are drought tolerant. Once you know what kind of plant parent you are, next look at your lighting.

Pilea peperomioides plant



You need to make sure your plants have adequate lighting.  All plants need at least a little natural light to grow.  However, there are some that are able to survive with less than most but saying a plant can thrive without any light at all is simply untrue. Do not over complicate this. Look at where you want to position the new plant.

Direct light - this is where the sun will touch the plant if placed here Bright/Indirect - this is a bright spot but the sun does not touch the space Shade/light shade - this is shaded, away from bright light but has natural light in the space, eg. a north facing window.

Now pick your plant, turn to Google to search drought tolerant, shade loving plants or thirsty, sun loving ones. 

Some suggestions:

Direct light....Aloe Vera, jade plant and cacti

Bright/indirect....Monstera, spider plant and pothos

Shade/low light....ZZ plant, snake plants and maranta (prayer plants)


Plants behind a white sink


No one has a special ability that makes them better at caring for plants than others. The most common reason people kill house plants is not watering them properly. I get asked a lot about how do I water my plants?

Your plant needs a nursery pot with drainage holes (this is the pot it usually comes in when you buy the plant.) You can then buy a Cache pot (the decorative one) hiding the nursery pot! Most plants like to dry out slightly before re-watering. I poke my finger into the soil to check it. Looking at the soil and the weight will all be indicators too.

Other plants prefer not to dry out, do not be afraid of these. Keeping an eye on the top of the soil will help you. When you see the surface begin to dry, re-water the plant. For all watering needs, take the plant out of the decorative pot and bring it to the sink/bath. Pour water down through the soil. Give it a good even drink. When water flows out the bottom of the holes, stop! Put the plant on a surface to drain before putting it back into its decorative pot again.

Plants placed near a window



Do houseplants need to be fed? Yes, houseplants should be fed when they are actively growing. I feed all my houseplants every second watering during the growing season (Spring and Summer.)  Pick up a general houseplant feed in any garden centre or plant store. Follow the instructions on the label. Too much fertiliser is worse than not enough and can burn leaves or even kill a plant.

Plants have a dormancy period and for most, this is winter time. It is vital to change your watering routine as the seasons change. Some plants that you were watering weekly in the summer months when it was hot and dry will need watering every 2nd or even 3rd week in the winter. This is why it is important to check your plants and the soil first prior to watering. Houseplants are not in a state of active growth during the winter and therefore should not be fertilised.

I found it very helpful in the beginning of my journey to keep a watering diary. Jot down the name of the plant, date you watered it and you will soon see a pattern. If you have been unsuccessful with a plant, do not see it as failure.  Learn from your mistakes and try again. Some plants are just not suited to our individual home environments and that's ok.

Research and try another. Do not give up!!  Anyone can become a great plant parent.  There is a plant for everyone and it is just a matter of finding the plant for you.


Plants placed on shelves between picture frames

Check out @myplantfamily on Instagram for lots more on houseplants and for photos of Catherine's amazing collection!

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