Student Life

Lazy gardening 101

Plant care tips and tricks for those who suck at gardening

If you’re anything like me when it comes to gardening—meaning you kill 75 per cent of all plants you touch, but are still first in line whenever Plantzy has a liquidation sale—then this article is for you, wannabe master gardener.

I have about 30 plants and counting in my apartment that are thriving, surprisingly, so I’m clearly qualified and in a position to be giving advice about plants. (Shout-out to my roommate who takes care of literally everything plant-wise whenever I’m slacking hard, which is basically all the time). So here’s my fool-proof, totally legit, how-to guide on care for low-maintenance indoor houseplants. Don’t worry, all of this advice has been approved by Concordia Greenhouse official Paul Fournier.


Only water your plants when the soil has dried out. Stick your finger in the soil, and if the first two centimetres are dry, it’s time for some H2O. Waterting proportions typically depend on how large your plant is and how quickly the soil dries out. On average, you should be checking your plants about once a week, and more frequently as ambient heat increases.

Re-potting, or “potting up,” should be done yearly. Increase your pot size by about five centimetres in diameter each time. Keep in mind though: commercial pots are sold in inches! Do not increase your pot size by five inches. A pot that’s too big will cause root rot. Also, be sure to give your plants fresh soil when re-potting.

Most indoor houseplants can’t handle direct sunlight. Some can in small amounts (see examples below), but as a general rule, just avoid it. Unless the species you have requires direct light, indirect, medium-low light conditions are ideal.

Developing roots from plant clippings in water instead of moist soil can be effective for some houseplants—but not all. If you choose to start with water, make sure that, once the roots have grown to about one centimetre, you put them in soil. Many plants, if left in water for too long, will develop a water-root system and their growth will stagnate. Once this happens, the plant is likely to suffer when transferred to soil. However, some plants can be left in water permanently and will grow very well (see examples below).

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect (no direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: Pothos’s are one of the few houseplants that tend to thrive just as well with a water-root system as they would with a soil-root system. (For all the broke students reading this who are not willing to spend money on dirt, just leave your pothos in a mason jar with water). They also grow well in the shade of other plants.

Spider-plant (Chlorophytum comosum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Spider-plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Sunlight: Medium-indirect is best (but will grow in almost any type of light)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: If you add a bit of fertilizer every time you water your spider babies, they will grow like crazy—even during those dreary winter months. They are one of the easiest plants to propagate and, like pothos, thrive with a water-root system.

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum)

Sunlight: Medium-indirect

Soil: All-purpose

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Sunlight: Indirect-low (but will tolerate a bit of medium sun)

Soil: Succulent mix is best (but can manage with all-purpose)

Bonus tips: Some succulent care rules apply to this plant—mainly avoid over-watering. So many plants belonging to the sansevieria genus have similar care requirements: Starfish, Silver Queen, Robusta and Bird’s Nest, to name a few.

Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect (no direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: Weeping figs don’t like to be moved! Find that sweet spot, and leave ‘er be.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia). Photo by Alex Hutchins

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect is best (but will tolerate a bit of direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: ZZ plants like to be “pot-bound,” meaning they thrive in a pot that constricts them. (Yearly re-potting rules still apply). They’re also very forgiving if you forget to water them, or forget that you’ve already watered them.

An important gardening lesson that can take years to learn (you’re welcome) is that all plants have a mind of their own. Trial and error is key when developing your green thumb, and don’t always trust the internet—shocker, I know. Everything you’ve just read here are merely suggestions. More than anything else, it’s important to pay attention to your plants and how they adapt to your specific growing conditions. Even if your methods are unconventional, if they work, keep doing whatever your plants seem to like.

Get started on your garden by hitting up the Concordia Greenhouse plant sale on March 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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