If you’re new to the world of houseplants, some aspects of this hobby can seem outright overwhelming. For instance, the selection of tools is as wide as ever, with things like soil moisture sensors and humidifiers touted as crucial.
Fortunately, a basic houseplant kit isn’t that expansive, nor is it too expensive either. Here’s our check-list of the must-have tools to keep a plant healthy:
A watering can
Sure, you can use a plastic bottle or a regular drinking glass, but a watering can is more convenient. Its spout makes it easier to avoid spillage and provides a way to get water to hard-to-reach places—for example, a plant that’s positioned behind several others, or one that grows in a hanging planter. It’s also great for working with hard tap water, since you can let it settle and warm up for the next watering session. Watch out for mold and algae on the inside of the can, especially if you use it for fertilizer solutions.
A spray bottle
As plenty of houseplants come from tropical rainforests, high humidity is key to prevent their leaves from drying out. Using a spray bottle to mist these plants regularly is an easy way to restore the moisture they lose via evaporation. These bottles come in all shapes and sizes, starting with spray nozzle adapters and ending with hand-made glazed ceramic misters. Whichever you choose, remember to use warm, settled water and spray plants early in the day so that they can dry off before nighttime. Alternatively, setting pots onto wet pebble trays or keeping open water containers near them also raises ambient humidity.
A suitable potting mix
Plants vary in their soil preferences, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There are general guidelines—good drainage, for instance, is almost always a must—but otherwise, you should always research the soil type your plant requires. This will aid in avoiding issues like root rot and stunted growth, saving you a lot of hassle in the long run. Always keep a potting mix on hand so that things like repotting or soilborne pests or pathogens don’t catch you off guard.
There’s only so much nutrition that soil can provide—it’ll need to be supplemented sooner or later. And just like with potting mixes, plants have different requirements for macro- and micronutrients. For instance, succulents can develop cracks on their leaves when fed with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, since its nitrogen content is too high for them. In fact, even a suitable fertilizer may do harm in large doses, causing fertilizer burn. Again, research is key to finding out what will be good for your plant.
A plant saucer
This goes hand in hand with having a pot with holes at the bottom, as the drainage of excess water is incredibly important for preventing waterlogging and root rot. Cachepots look nice, but they’re meant to hide the actual pot from view and not serve as planters themselves, so don’t plant anything directly into one. Additionally, don’t forget to empty the saucer each time the water is done draining, otherwise the extra moisture will continue to saturate the soil.
A pruning instrument
Whether to remove damaged shoots, deadhead spent flowers, or encourage denser growth, houseplants sometimes require pruning. Regular scissors might not make the cut—it’s best to purchase specialized pruning shears or use a sharp knife to work the most difficult tissues. Make sure to sanitize your tool before pruning to avoid introducing pathogenic bacteria or fungi into the fresh cut.
A repotting kit
Very few houseplants can inhabit the same pot permanently, so be sure to have a set of tools at the ready. It should include gardening gloves, a soil scoop, a pair of forceps for handling delicate material or doing precise manipulations, a squirt bottle for washing old soil away from between the roots, and a new pot (or pots). The optimal time to repot is early spring, and we don’t recommend you postpone this procedure if your plant needs it.