Earning a green thumb is not always easy. Even in the relatively controlled environment of your home, your houseplants can wilt and wither without the proper knowledge and attention. The larger and more varied your plant collection, the more daunting the task. Help your indoor garden flourish and thrive by using these three simple steps to find a good reference, learn how to inspect your plants and organize and schedule their care.

Refer to your reference

Every plant has its own unique needs, and you need a reliable reference to know what those needs are. A simple Internet search for care instructions for a specific plant type will usually yield helpful results, but if you prefer a trustworthy guide to keep ready at hand, consider purchasing a book such as D.G. Hessayon’s “The House Plant Expert”.

Watch when you water

Plant care is more than just paying attention to the information in the pages of a book. You also need to be observant of your plants themselves. Each time you water them, try to gauge their needs using the signs below.

A plant requires more water if:

  • The top inch of soil is dry
  • Leaves are wilting (unless the soil is moist)
  • Water runs off the soil and drains down the sides
  • The plant is lighter than normal

A plant requires less water if:

  • The soil is soggy rather than moist
  • The roots have begun to rot
  • Fungus gnats are present

A plant requires fertilizer if:

  • It has been more than several months since getting the plant
  • Time-release fertilizer products have been used up
  • Palm fronds have yellowed
  • The plant is growing incredibly slowly
  • It’s been more than a year since fertilizer was last used

A plant should be repotted if:

  • The current potting mix drains too fast or slowly
  • The plant’s roots grow together tightly in the pot, creating a solid clump
  • The potting mix is very old

A plant is receiving too much sunlight if:

  • The exposed leaves are looking white or pale
  • The plant is a shade-loving variety but is receiving direct sunlight

A plant is receiving too little sunlight if:

  • The plant’s new growth is thin or elongated
  • The plant is reaching or growing toward more light
  • The leaves are very dark green
  • The plant is in a room without a window or grow light

Craft some care sheets

Don’t rack your memory or go running to your reference guide for every little aspect of your plants’ care. Instead, make up a care sheet for every plant. Print out a sheet for each plant you have, or store notes on your computer, tablet or phone if you prefer. Jot down the basic needs, and make notes each time you water, fertilize, prune and move plants so that it will be easier to troubleshoot any issues that arise. Store hardcopy worksheets in a folder and make calendar reminders if needed to perform necessary care.