7 Tips for House Plant Care

Dr. Ossola recommended a smartphone app called Planta, which can identify your house plants, share care and location recommendations, and provide watering reminders.

Mr. Satch, however, says that rather than relying on a watering schedule, he recommends that people check each plant every few days by sticking a finger into the soil, about two knuckles deep, and that they only water when the soil feels dusty and dry. “If it feels even a little moist, wait another day,” he said. (Mr. Satch is not a fan of moisture meters: “I haven’t found any one of them that worked properly,” he said.)

As for how to water, Mr. Satch said, it’s best to use lukewarm rather than cold water, because cold water can shock plants. He said to water slowly, too — otherwise the water will flow through the soil and not be absorbed. The goal, basically, is to saturate the plant with water as if it’s just been through a rainstorm. “The trick is to mimic nature,” he said.

I’ll be honest: Pruning terrifies me. I’m always afraid I’m going to cut off an essential part of the plant. So I was relieved to learn that even if you don’t know much about pruning, “Chances are, you’re not going to kill the plant,” said Michelle Bidwell, a horticulturist at Cornell Botanic Gardens in Ithaca, N.Y.

You also don’t have to prune most house plants. “Pruning indoors, for the most part, is an aesthetic choice,” Mr. Satch said. You can prune if your plant is getting too tall or leggy, with long stems and spaced-out leaves, for instance, but you can also leave it alone.

Some outdoor plants, on the other hand, benefit from pruning. Flowers like marigolds and petunias, for instance, should be deadheaded, Mr. Satch said — meaning that dying flowers should be removed to promote the growth of more. Ms. Bidwell often gives her hanging container plants “bowl cuts” when the tops aren’t growing well, she said, because doing so encourages more top growth.

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