How To Keep Your Houseplants Alive When Life Gets Busy

By Amber Kong 

So how are your Calatheas doing? What about that variegated string of hearts you looked high and low to find? And the Ficus Elastica Tineke that never really grew much… You, along with everyone else, purchased plants during the lockdown. Now summer is finally here, and the city has begun to open up, here comes the hard part – to keep the Covid-era houseplants alive after the lockdown. If you entered this strangely addictive, occasionally frustrating but hugely rewarding world of houseplants and became a new plant parent during the Pandemic, but now wonder how to keep your plant babes alive, this blog might be helpful.

Figure out a watering schedule that works, both for you and your plants. I’m confident that by now, most of us have mastered the watering game. Keep it up, and find your style – do you like to water your plants all at once, or do you break up the workload? Whichever one suits you better, as long as you can make sure your plants are well hydrated, but at the same time, be cautious about overwatering. Under-watering is better than over-watering!

Don’t sleep on cleaning. We talked about the importance of cleaning your houseplants regularly in a previous blog, check it out if you’re interested. The same rules apply here. Wipe down the foliage with a damp cloth to clean the dust and to prevent pests.

Light/location is Crucial. Houseplants depend on light to survive, but are you giving them too much light? Most plants love indirect light, so if you know you’ll be away all day, place the plant at a location that will receive plenty of filtered sun instead of direct rays. Once you find the spot, try not to move the plants around too much as they will acclimate themselves to their surroundings.

Feed your plants! This one is so important yet lots of people neglect it.  After we brought the plants home, the nutrients in the soil will gradually be used up. And for the plants to grow as fast and healthy as they can, fertilizing becomes a must. Choose a mild liquid fertilizer, dilute with water, and fertilize every other month or so when you do the watering. As long as you see active grows on your plants, it’s OK to fertilize.

Choose the plants that fit into your schedule. If you’re a busy person, and only got into plants because of the pandemic, now it’s time to re-evaluate your inventory. Pick the ones that you’re confident in care routine, and pick the ones that do not require a ton of maintenance. If you find some plants being too challenging, it’s ok – try to list them on Facebook Market Place, or gift them to someone you know will enjoy the plant and also take care it.

Prep your plants before you go away for a longer trip. Travel restrictions have finally been eased a bit, at least within Canada. You might want to take the opportunity to visit family that you haven’t seen for the past year. To make sure my plants survive the days that I'm not here, I have a little routine to share with you: 

  1. I will stop watering the plants 10 to 14 days before I have to leave, just to allow the soil to dry out and to prevent possible root rot
  2. I water the plants thoroughly the night before I have to leave, to make sure they're well hydrated. 
  3. Move the plants away from the windows to avoid too much sun, so that the foliage don't get burnt.
  4. Check for pest, and spray neem oil as a prevention measure. 

This little routine has helped me countless times, I'm at ease knowing that my plants will be ok while I'm away enjoying time with loved ones. 

Houseplant care doesn’t have to and shouldn't be overwhelming. The plants have been so good to us during that dark and isolating time – they brought a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing; they provided us an opportunity to care for something with routines and rituals; and they made our home green and fresh and cheery. They deserve to be treated well even when we’re busy. Either you like to dedicate an entire day to do your plant work, or you prefer to do as you go, I’m sure you and your plants will soon adjust to this new busy life. It is, after all, a matter of choice where one spends time. However, please remember, plant care shouldn’t be that stressful, find your rhythm and have fun. If you lose a few plants along the way, don’t be too hard on yourself, plants die, it’s only natural.