Cactus & Tropicals’ Cory Cumming offers five top tips for maintain healthy house plants.

“When in doubt, dry it out,” says Cumming, who considers overwatering one of the biggest mistakes in houseplant care. “For most plants, it is best to let the surface of the soil to become completely dry between waterings, and there are others that want to dry out even more,” he explains. Research your plant’s preference. “A soil probe can help you gauge the dryness of the soil, but I normally check by simple sticking my finger deep into the soil,” he says.
Photographed by Lindsay Salazar

LIGHT Once you’ve chosen the plant-needy spot in your home, gauge its amount and quality of light before choosing the type of plant you’ll place there, Cumming advises. “Some plants like bright direct light by a window and others do better toward the middle of a room where there is less light,” he says. “Even just three feet in from a window makes a big difference in the type of light a plant receives.” Your nurseryman can help you make the right choice, or you can do a little online research before making your selection.

Photographed by: Becky Kimball
Photographed by: Becky Kimball

CLEAN “Every time you water a plant, dust its leaves with a damp towel or a baby wipe,” Cumming suggests. As dust builds up, he explains, the amount of light absorption decreases as does a plant’s gas exchange. On occasion, spray the plant down with water outdoors or in the shower, if possible. Dusting with canned air can harm a plant by freezing its leaves if sprayed too closely, Cumming warns.

Chamberlain kitchen c 20
Photographed by Scot Zimmerman

ROTATE “One good turn deserves another,” quips Cumming, who suggests giving a potted plant a quarter turn every time it is watered. Even in the center of a room where light appears more even, regular turning helps keep a plant’s growth uniform over time.

Photo Courtesy of Studio McGee

REPOT “Most plants do better when slightly root-bound, so when you buy a plant it’s unlikely you need to repot it right away,” Cumming says. “When it becomes difficult to keep a plant watered, it likely needs to be repotted.” Cumming suggests choosing a pot only one size larger than the root-bound plant’s current container.
Photographed by Lindsay Salazar
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