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Developing A Green Thumb- A Beginner’s Guide To Houseplants!

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Jefferson chapter.

Houseplants make an amazing addition to a dorm or an apartment, and they can do wonderful things, like purify the air, add some color and life to a space, and make you happier! I hear a lot from my friends that they love my plants, but that they could never have the, that they watered them too much or too little, and that they always died despite their best attempts. I used to be the same, but after years of killing numerous plants and lots of trial and error, I am now a happy plant parent to over 50 thriving indoor plants. Here I am going to share some of the most important factors that have helped me successfully keep plants alive and healthy and persuade people that plants can be a rewarding addition to your space that will help more than hurt.  

Firstly, light requirements: The amount of light that a plant needs can be categorized into direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, and low light. For each plant that you bring home, a quick internet search can figure out what light the plant needs. The best method I have found for figuring out which spaces have what kinds of light is with my phone compass app. Direct sunlight is going to be found on a windowsill or right up to a window that has constant bright direct sunlight. These can be a south facing window, or a west facing window. Indirect sunlight can be found in a place that is a few feet away from a south or west facing window, or right near a window if it is a north or east facing window. The key is a bright space, but no direct sunlight on the plants leaves. Low light can be anywhere. There still must be some window in the space, usually a north or east facing window, because most plants will not be happy without any real sun, but it can be in a room corner, on top of tall furniture, etc. If a plant starts to grow really leggy (long stem, barely any leaves), it does not have enough sunlight, and if it starts to get sunburned (burned crispy leaves, red leaves), it has too much direct sunlight.  

Secondly, water requirements: Plants require more or less water based on the seasons. They generally use a lot more water when they get more/stronger sunlight, during the summer. During the winter the sunlight is weaker so they will not need as much water. Ironically even though I have so many plants, I do not like using watering schedules or reminder apps. I focus on what my plants look like and feel like. I water my plants when they need it. Some plants will droop or curl, or I will press a leaf and if it feels thick it doesn’t need water. If it feels thinner than normal, I will water it. A general recommendation until you feel comfortable enough to know when you plant likes water is to water it once a week, or once every two weeks. Never water a plant if the soil is still soaking wet at the top. I like to just stick my finger in the dirt and use that to tell me if it needs water or not. Even the easiest plants to own will die if you water them too much. I also like to use filtered water (from a brita or a water bottle) to water my plants. The chlorine and other minerals in the tap water can irritate some plants and cause the tips of their leaves to turn yellow and brown.  

These are the most important factors you need to know when owning a plant for the first time. If you are nervous about getting a plant, some of my super easy favorites are snake plants, golden pothos, and ZZ plants. They are super forgiving and they will tolerate any light conditions. I learned all that I know through years of trial and error and many dead plants, so don’t be discouraged if it is difficult, you can do it. When your plant grows its first new leaf, or its first flower, it is so worth your hard work! 

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Lilliana Cerrato

Jefferson '25

I love cooking and baking, especially everything from scratch! I love taking care of my indoor plants and watching them thrive, as well as learning how to care for and identify outdoor native plants. I am in a 3+2 PA program at Jefferson University, and am an Emergency Medical Technician as well!