New Plant Parent Primer

New Plant Parent Primer

Posted by Megan Nichols on Aug 10th 2019

How to successfully do this houseplant thing that’s all over Instagram

Settle Down, Start Simple

You’ve seen their posts, the plant parents who make it look so easy. They are surrounded by beautiful plants and they reap all the benefits of cultivating greenery in the home or office – stress reduction, calming effects, cleaner air. Yes, there are some awesome plant parents on IG who have dozens or even hundreds of plants, but they’ve been at this a long time. It’s easy to go to a plant shop and get so excited that you buy all the things, but then the plants must be cared for. If you’re just starting out, keep it small and simple. One is great. If you must have more, five is a manageable number for a new plant parent.

There are a few things to consider when shopping for a new plant. All plants are not the same, and the care they require to survive and thrive is different for different types.


Plants eat light. It’s true. It’s not the soil they root in or the water they are given that provides them with food, it’s the light. Plant Biology 101 - plants use photosynthesis to create their own food, so they must have light. Though there are plants that will burn in direct sunlight and should be kept in indirect light, there are no plants that truly thrive in low light (contrary to popular belief), instead there are some that merely survive. If low light is your only option, there are plants that will live, but they might do better in more light.

Light must come from the sun or grow lamps. “Well lit” does not mean a windowless bathroom with a bright overhead lighting. A good rule of thumb is to never place plants more than three feet away from the window. Any further in and they will not be receiving enough light.  

Generally, North facing windows are considered low light, South and West are bright, and East is medium light. If a plant requires bright, indirect light it would do well near an East facing window, or if placed in a room with South or West facing windows, be sure to keep the plant a few feet into the room so it won’t suffer leaf burn. Trees and buildings can also have an effect on the light, so depending on what’s outside, that South facing window may or may not be bright, direct light.


By far the most common way to kill plants is by incorrect watering, but some basic watering knowledge will keep you on the right track. First, not all plants like the same amount of water. Plants like cactus and succulents prefer to be on the dry side and typically only need to be watered once every 2 to 3 weeks, or even once a month. Ferns and Pitcher Plants are high water plants, so they are happiest with consistently moist soil. The majority of plants should be watered when the top inch of soil is dry. Your finger is the perfect tool for the job. When the plant needs it, water until you see it start to drain out the bottom of the pot, the let it drip until finished. The sink or tub is the best place to water plants. If the pot is in a saucer, let it take up water for up to an hour, then empty the saucer so the plant is not in standing water.  


Plants do better with an extra boost of nutrients from fertilizer. A good rule of thumb is to fertilize every week or two during active growth (spring through fall), and every two to four weeks during dormancy (late fall through winter). We highly recommend using Schultz fertilizer products, found in our solutions center here at Tonkadale.

Happy planting! As always, we are here to provide fresh and fun inspiration to your planting experiences.