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Our editors are all homebodies, that's for certain. As resident lovers of all things home and design, they have tried a lot of home products in their day—and they're letting you in on their favorites. As part of our series, Happy at Home, our editors take the stage to share some of their personal favorite products in their homes and accompanying stories they carry.
The first set of houseplants I ever bought were all dead within a month.
At a sidewalk farmers' market in New York City, I purchased three succulents and a leafy plant labeled "tropical foliage." I brought them home and immediately replanted them in painted planters, placed them in areas of the room I thought received decent light, and began watering on a schedule. But soon, the leaf tips soon turned brown, the succulents started to shrivel, and they were all dead.
I would've sworn I was caring for them perfectly and they were just dying to spite me. The reality is that I was caring for them, but I wasn't meeting their needs. I wasn't listening to my plants. I gave my plants what I thought they needed—not what they actually needed.
The secret to plant care is not to pray you wake up with a green thumb—it's to have the right tools to tell you what your plant needs.
Flash forward six years and I have upwards of 50 plants. The secret to plant care is not to pray you wake up with a green thumb—it's to have the right tools to tell you what your plant needs. The right tools are like translators, allowing plants to communicate their needs in a language you understand. That way, you can give your plants what they actually need.
Here are the 7 tools that I use to give my jungle of plants what it needs to thrive.
Plantstraws Brass Plant Straw
I love caring for my plants, but 52 plants is a lot of watering needs to keep track of. The solution to the watering demands is Plantstraws, a Swedish company that ships globally. Using a slim, curved tube that has one end in the pot and the other end in a jar of water, the plant straw keeps potting soil evenly moist by delivering a consistent supply of water via a cord inside the tube. I use plant straws for my plants that require consistently moist soil. I only have to add water to the water-supply jar every other week, and the plant straw takes care of the rest.
Remiawy Long Spout Watering Can
For the first few years of plant parenthood, I watered my plants with a Pyrex measuring cup. I dealt with a lot of spilling and wet foliage until I got this watering can. It holds enough water for me water soak 10 to 15 plants, and the long, narrow spout lets me water the plant at its base.
The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family
This book taught me more about plant care than any other fancy coffee table book has. It gets into the more science-y side of plant care—why you shouldn't freak out about yellow leaves, how to think about watering, and why light is the biggest factor affecting your plant. The New Plant Parent isn't just about how to care for a plant, it's about how to think about caring for a plant. It's the difference between learning to read a recipe and learning to cook.
Dr.meter LX1330B Digital Illuminance/Light Meter
The biggest game-changer to my plant care was a light meter that told me the exact foot-candles a plant was getting. (Foot-candles is the measurement for light intensity per square foot.) I learned that what I thought was "bright indirect light" was really "no light."
Today I check the light at each spot where I keep a plant to see if it's enough foot candles (there are some general guidelines available online for figuring out the numerical ranges that correspond to the different types of lighting a plant might need). I also check the places where I want to put a new plant. And when there's daylight savings, I check again, since the light has shifted.
Woodpeckers Wooden Dowel Rod 3/16" x 12"
Really, wooden dowels. You should be poking your soil with a wooden dowel before watering it (i.e., aerating it). As your plant uses up its water supply, the soil shrinks. Then, when it's time to water your plant, sometimes the soil is so compacted that water can't actually get into it, and instead it just runs down the inner wall of the pot and out the drainage hole.
Before every few waterings, I grab a wooden dowel and gentle poke a few holes into the soil to break up the big chunks that are compacted together.
Yzerel Ceiling Hook With Hardware, Set of 2
When you run out of table, shelf, and floor space for your plants, you can't just stick them further away from the window and deprive them of needed light. Instead, use the ceiling. Nearly 20% of my plant collection is hanging thanks to the Yzerel ceiling hooks, which can hold up to 50 pounds. They're strong enough that I confidently have a double-layer plant hanger that holds two plants.
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, 8 oz.
While it's true that your plant will survive without fertilizer, you will see far more growth with fertilizer. You don't need anything fancy. I use Miracle-Gro's all-purpose plant food with an NPK ratio of 24-8-16. (For foliage plants, you want a 3-1-2 ratio to encourage maximum leaf growth.) Since I started fertilizing, just following the instructions on the box, I've got new leaves emerging on every plant.