10 Tips to Keep Plants Alive in a Small Space
By Samantha Brazeau Wilson

Contrary to popular belief, it is indeed possible to keep your houseplants alive and thriving in a small living space.

True, plants are fickle and don’t communicate their emotions well, but with a little effort and TLC, you’ll be on your way to having a green thumb in no time. Whether you’re a first-time plant owner, or experiencing a total house plant meltdown, here are some tips to keep your plants lean and green.

1. Bring on the sun

It’s no secret that plants need sunlight to live – let’s not forget grade school science class where we learned about photosynthesis. The closer your plants are to natural light the better, but be careful with plants that don’t need sunshine all day long.

Sarah Pflug/Burst

2. Keep them comfortable

Although every plant is different, most houseplants thrive in 20-25°C temperatures. When it gets colder outside, plants that hang out in front of a window or near a heater vent can experience extreme temperature changes causing them to go into shock and possibly die.

If you have sun-loving plants that still need lots of natural light, move them away from the windowsill onto a nearby end table. This way, they can still soak up the sun’s rays — but won’t get chilly from drafty windows. If it’s a plant that doesn’t need a lot of light, find a new home somewhere special like on a bookcase or the dining table.

3. Control the humidity in your space

Plants love moderately humid spaces, but in the winter, much like your skin, they can experience dryness from the lack of moisture. No, you don’t have to apply some sort of miracle plant moisturizer, but it’s wise to keep a humidifier going to maintain a comfortable environment. If you don’t have a humidifier, spray some water onto the plant’s leaves once a week to give them an extra boost of hydration.

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4. Give them the right amount of water

Speaking of hydration, unlike the human body, plants don’t need 64 oz of water a day. However, they do need a little bit every once in a while. Never trust the top layer of soil. Even though it looks and feels dry, it doesn’t mean it’s ready for a big gulp of H2O. An easy trick to check if your plants are ready to be watered is to push your finger down into the soil about two inches. If it feels damp, it doesn’t need water. If it’s dry, hydrate away!

5. Don’t forget to water them!

Sounds easy enough, but forgetting to water your plants is the most common reason why they die. Most plants should be watered once a week if they need it. If you have trouble remembering, set a reminder on your phone or mark it on the calendar to stay on top of their hydration schedule.

Kaboom Pics/Pexels

6. Rotate, rotate, rotate

Imagine you went to the beach and only suntanned one side of your body. Talk about uneven! Plants need an equal amount of sunlight — or else they’ll start to grow crooked. Each time you water your plants, make it a habit to rotate them by a quarter.

7. Give them a clean

Plants are living things, which means they should be cleaned off often. Gently wipe off dust and dirt from leaves about once every month. The clean surface will allow the plant to absorb more sunlight, so it can grow into a strong and independent green machine.

8. Feed your plants

No, you can’t share your Chinese take-out, but you can give your houseplants an energy boost with fertilizer. Unlike outdoor plants, houseplants don’t get a natural source of nutrients from the elements, so giving them a bit of fertilizer will help them flourish. Look for special indoor plant-specific fertilizers at your local garden centre.

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9. Do the research

The internet is a big, beautiful thing that has all the answers and info you’d ever need. If you’re thinking about buying a new plant, or have recently brought home the cutest little succulent from the farmer’s market, take the time to look up common care tips for that species.

Why is this important? Take the cactus for example. Many assume these types of plants appreciate hot, dry environments — when they actually prefer chilly (yet bright) spaces. A quick Google search will set the record straight for your new leafy friend.

10. Switch your soil to water

If you just can’t seem to catch a break, and your beloved houseplants keep dropping like a Game of Thrones character, try growing them hydroponically. Wondering what the heck that is? Certain plants can survive without potting soil, and will grow in a vase of water. They’re just as beautiful and need less care making it a win-win!

Got tips we didn’t share here? Let us know by tagging @BeMakeful on social!

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Samantha Brazeau Wilson

Samantha is an Ottawa-based writer who runs a crafty side hustle creating jewellery for her nature-inspired brand. When she's not killing the craft show game, she indulges in good food frequently, enjoys cuddling with her pug, and is a sucker for a good Netflix binge. Learn more about Samantha @samanthadolly on Instagram.

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