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12 Healthy Houseplant Hacks For Those Who Lack a Green Thumb

Updated: Mar. 07, 2022

Did you know mayonnaise and tea can make your plants healthier? Check out these unexpected tips to keep houseplants healthy, growing, and blooming for years to come.

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Find a site with the right light

When deciding where to place a plant, keep in mind that south-facing windows receive much more light than north-facing ones. With east- or west-facing windows, observe the amounts of morning or afternoon sun they get before putting plants near them. Plants with brightly colored foliage need more light than others. A half-turn of the pot every day or two will keep the growth of your houseplant even, since foliage automatically bends toward the light. Because light is more intense in summer than in winter, you may need to move sun-sensitive plants in hot months.

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Make pots hold water longer

If your potted houseplants dry out too quickly after watering, try this simple trick for keeping the soil moist longer. When repotting, tuck a damp sponge into the bottom of the pot before filling with soil. It will act as a water reservoir and may help prevent a gusher if you accidentally overwater.

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Feed your ferns

Schedule an occasional teatime for your ferns, gardenias, and other acid-loving houseplants. Substitute brewed tea when watering or work wet tea leaves into the soil to give the plants a lush, luxurious look.

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Read the newspaper to your plants

Seriously. This can benefit them in two ways. One, the carbon dioxide in your breath may energize their gas exchange cycles. Two, if there’s enough natural light for you to read by, you’ll know that the plants are getting the minimum amount of light needed for good growth.

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Before vacation…

Water your houseplants thoroughly and arrange them, without saucers, on a dampened plush towel in your sink or tub; make sure the drain holes are in contact with the towel. Turn on the cold tap until water drips slowly onto the towel and leave the water on; the moisture in the fabric will be drawn up by the roots.

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Mist—but not for the reason you think

Contrary to lore, squirting foliage with water is not an efficient way to increase humidity for houseplants. A humidifier works better, or you can set the plant on a dish of pebbles and add just enough water to touch the bottom of the pot. Misting does, however, help keep leaves clean and fresh, and it’s a good way to provide moisture to cuttings that are slowly developing new roots. Use soft water (water low in minerals) when misting, and make sure it’s no cooler than room temperature. Mist in the morning whenever possible, and never mist plants that are exposed to full sun.

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Don’t toss leftover club soda or egg water

The minerals in the soda water help green plants grow. For maximum benefit, give your plants a drink of soda once a week. After boiling eggs, let the cooking water cool and hydrate your houseplants with the nutrient-filled liquid.

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Use ice cubes to water

Place them around the soil, but not touching the stem. The ice will melt slowly, releasing water gradually and evenly into the soil.

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Mouse pad your plants

To keep plant containers from scratching or damaging your furniture or floors, just set the pots atop old computer mouse pads. Your floor will remain scratch-free. You may need to use multiple mouse pads for large pots.

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Make your houseplants shine

Are the leaves of your plants looking dull? Wipe down each leaf with a soft cloth dipped in a half-and-half mixture of warm water and milk. You’ll get a nice shine, but there won’t be enough residue left behind to clog the leaf pores. Another trick: Rub a tiny amount of mayonnaise on the leaves with a paper towel. They will stay bright and shiny for weeks and even months at a time.

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Know when to repot

Repotting can be done at any time, but the best time is just before growth begins, which is in spring for most houseplants. Here are four signs that a plant is ready for repotting: New leaves appear slowly and are very small compared to older leaves; soil dries out very quickly or water runs down the inside of the pot without soaking in; roots are growing out through the drainage holes or are appearing above the soil’s surface in the pots; or roots are so tightly coiled that when you pull the plant from the pot, you see all roots and no soil.

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Try an ice cream scoop

Does dirt scatter everywhere when you are replanting your houseplants? An ice cream scoop is the perfect way to add soil to the new pot without making a mess.

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More Gardening Secrets

For more insider advice for healthier plants, greener grass, prettier flowers, and better-tasting produce, as well as tricks to keep away pests, improve your soil, and beautify your deck or patio, get the book 1,519 All-Natural, All-Amazing Gardening Secrets. You can get more information here or wherever books are sold.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest