Mary Tessa, from Brandenburg, is pursuing a Master of Science in speech-language pathology at WKU. Tessa has been taking care of her plants for five years.

Houseplant tales: Lessons in plant parenting

The responsibility of caring for another living thing can be a daunting task. With a list of do’s and don’ts that is seemingly endless, buying a plant for the first time can become an intimidating experience, leaving many to feel discouraged. Fortunately, a green thumb is not something that one needs to be born with, but instead is a skill that anyone can acquire. Anybody with patience, and the desire to nurture, has it within them to become a plant parent.

When first looking into purchasing a houseplant, it is important to understand the basics of plant care. One of the most difficult aspects of caring for greenery is knowing when to water them. Depending on the houseplant of course, the amount of water needed will vary, but when figuring out what a specific plant needs there are key aspects to be taken into consideration. According to the New Garden Landscaping & Nursery website, a good tip is checking to see if the soil is dry and being aware of its root maturity.

Other important things to note when first bringing home a houseplant is the type of pot it is in and where in the living space it is placed, so that it gets the correct amount of sunlight for its species. On the New Garden Landscaping & Nursery website, it mentions that it is also necessary to assure a plant has proper hygiene, as one would for a pet, or even themselves.

Cleaning up plants can include cutting them so they will not become overgrown, and encourage new growth, as well as dusting them off occasionally and allowing their leaves to breathe. When purchasing a plant, it is also helpful to ask whomever is selling it for advice on what care it requires. Different plants have different needs, so making sure to ask for advice on what proper care is needed will help develop that green thumb.

Carleigh Riddle, Louisville senior, recently decided to reattempt caring for a houseplant after her first experience did not work out. To Riddle, the beauty of plants, as well as the simplicity of caring for them, is what aided her decision in purchasing one for the second time.

“I think they’re really pretty, and I like to take care of something that’s not a pet and is low maintenance,” Riddle said. “I also like to see them grow.”

Tessa was gifted a beautiful fern from her grandmother which has been alive for several years and continues to flourish along with her other plants.

Riddle purchased her houseplant, a Watermelon Peperomia, at the local Bowling Green shop, Jules With The Flowers. Because she had a habit of overwatering her first houseplant, Riddle asked for advice on how she could better care for her new green friend from an employee at the shop.

“She told me to test the soil before I water and honestly just forget about it every few days so I wouldn’t overwater it,” she said. “Also, learning about things to look for on plants to see if they’re not doing well, like the color of their leaves.”

Other tips that Riddle learned to care for her houseplant are to only slightly water it and avoid putting it in direct sunlight. Riddle believes that these tips will help her to not make the same mistakes as before and become a successful caretaker for her Watermelon Peperomia.

Another senior, Elissa Akers from Lawrenceburg has been caring for houseplants for six or seven years. What first interested her in getting houseplants of her own was an event held in her hometown at a local nursery.

“They were holding an event where you could buy a plant and get a free pot to go with it,” Akers said.“I got a little cactus, and I got a mug to go with it.”
As she got more accustomed to caring for houseplants, Akers added more to her collection and now has a wide variety of species.

“I have a Monstera, and I have a lot of Money Plants because they grow pretty quick, and you can propagate and replant those,” Akers said. “I also have some sort of ivory plant I’m not sure the scientific name of.”

Tessa chose to place a few of her plants by the window for ideal light. Although the window allows for cold air to get in, her plants are still thriving.

Akers’ personal favorite out of the houseplants she owns is the Monstera plant. She said she loves the unique way it grows and the speed it grows at. Because it grows so quickly, it can easily be propagated, allowing her to grow new plants from the original.

Akers also shared some tips on what she believes new plant buyers should consider before purchasing one of their own.

“I would look up to see, especially if you have any pets in the house, what plants may be toxic to them, as well as just general facts on how to water them, how to propagate them if you want to build your collection, and just tips on how to keep them alive,” she said.

Although initially learning to take care of houseplants may be overwhelming, it can be extremely rewarding to nurture something and observe its growth. Caring for plants and developing a green thumb can be an opportunity to learn before taking on larger responsibilities in life. Adding some greenery to a home is not only a great way to make it feel cozier but also a great skill that anyone can learn.