How to Care for Potted Plants

If you’ve recently acquired some new potted plants, keeping them alive is likely a top priority! Unfortunately, pot plants can perish due to numerous reasons, including lack of water, too much water, excess sunlight, or too little sunlight. However, do not give up hope! Even a beginner gardener can ensure their plants are thriving by having a basic understanding of how to care for potted plants.

At Jim’s Mowing, we provide exceptional gardening services so we know a thing or two about how to care for potted plants! Follow our helpful advice to ensure that you can effectively look after your plants.

Potted Plants


Looking after potted plants isn’t rocket science. You can follow our advice below to ensure that your plants have what they need to stay alive.

Mimic their ideal environment

Many pot plants have been growing and thriving in their ideal natural climates in greenhouses, not just plucked from the wilderness and put in a pot. Many are also hybrids that have been domesticated and pruned long before they reach the shelves.

Creating the same ideal climate or native habitat that they would flourish in naturally is the secret to success with caring for your house plants. Your pot plants are completely dependent on you for food, water and sunlight unlike those in the wild. To find out what environment your plant needs, you can either google their name or check the ‘care tag’ that comes with your plant when purchasing from a nursery or other plant seller.

Fertilise your plants

Fertilising your plants is a great way to ensure that your plant receives the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive! Much like humans, each individual pot plant has different nutrient requirements so it’s always best to research your house plants needs and take note of the warning signs of fertiliser overkill. Beginner gardeners often believe that more is better, but when it comes to fertilising your house plants, this is not the case. Excessive fertilising can burn leaves and roots! The symptoms for over-fertilisation include; misshaped or wilting leaves, brown spots or scorched edges on the leaves and white crust on the exterior of the potting mixture.

The obvious clues as to when your plant might be in need of fertilising;

  • Pale leaves
  • Weak stems
  • Small or no flowers
  • Dropped leaves
  • Weak new growth

It is important to read the fertiliser labels carefully because they all differ for each individual plant. Most fertilisers will list three numbers, for example: 10-20-10. These are the ratios or percentages of nitrogen (enhances growth and lush green foliage), phosphorus (encourages flowering and ensures strong and healthy roots), and potassium (helps eradicate diseases and produces strong stems) which combined are the major nutrients in fertilisers.

You will find other small amounts of supplements in fertilisers called micronutrients which can include; calcium, magnesium, sulphur, copper, iron and zinc. While the majority of house plants require a balanced fertiliser such as a 10-10-10 formula, you can find formulas which contain more phosphorus and potassium and less nitrogen which are specifically made for flowering plants like Orchids.

The most common fertilisers are water soluble, which are easy to use and found in the form of powder, crystal or liquid. Another easy fertiliser to use is a slow-releasing granule; all you need to do is sprinkle them on the top soil and when you water your plant they will dissolve. Fertiliser spikes are also good; ensure that you insert the spikes reasonably deep near the rim of the pot to steer clear of harming the roots of the plant. Generally, the roots are responsible for absorbing the nutrients but foliar feeding is a fast way to revitalise a plant that has a lack of nutrients by spraying directly on to the leaves without scorching them, which many fertilisers can do if not applied correctly.

Avoid overwatering and underwatering


Moisture Metre

Watering your plants can be tricky! Similar to fertilising, potted plants will vary depending on their watering requirements. You can even find plants which need little watering, so you don’t have to worry about it. Although many people worry about underwatering their plants, overwatering is also a big concern. It is extremely easy to drown your house plants, so it is vital for you to acknowledge if a particular plant is actually thirsty. You can easily test this by poking your finger into the soil roughly an inch deep and if it feels damp it’s fine, but if it’s dry you obviously need to water it. Another way to measure the moisture in the soil is via a moisture metre.

Over-watering your plant is more often the cause of your house plants issues rather than under-watering. Since roots only soak up a sufficient amount of water to sustain the plant, the surplus of water is left in place of the oxygen in the soil which asphyxiates the roots and causes rotting.

If you have mistakenly water-logged your house plant and wish to rectify the situation there are three things you can try. The first is to cover the top soil with some paper towel so you can absorb any excess moisture. Repeat this until the paper towels are no longer saturated. Another strategy is to re-pot your plant immediately into a pot with good drainage and fresh soil. You can also allow the extra water to drain out by tipping the plant on its side for a few moments.

Give your plants enough Sunlight

It can be difficult to know if your house plants are receiving the correct amount of sunlight so here is some insight to guide you through the process.

When your pot plants are not getting enough sunlight, you’ll notice:

  • Slow or no new growth at all
  • Fresh shoots will grow towards the light
  • Large gaps between the leaves and a spindly growth
  • Poor bloom or failure to bloom at all
  • Leaves turn yellow and drop off
  • Fresh leaves grow much smaller than the current ones.

When your pot plants are getting too much sunlight, you’ll notice:

  • Leaves will appear faded and dull
  • Leaves will become parched and fall off
  • Leaves have brown scorched patches
  • The entire plant starts to wilt.

There are four categories of sunlight exposure for pot plants, direct sun, indirect sun, partially shaded and shaded. Direct sunlight is quite self explanatory, keep your pot plants directly in the sun so it is flooded with sunlight.

Indirect sunlight is a little trickier, you can place your pot plant on a veranda or under a thin shade cloth, just as long as your pot plant only receives several hours of indirect sunshine per day.

To obtain partial shade or low sunlight it is best to place your pot plant somewhere where the morning sun reaches, as it is cooler than the afternoon sun and avoids over heating your plant. Otherwise you can put your plant up against a tree or fence etc, which provides the plant with low to medium sunlight intensity.

A shaded location, again, speaks for itself. The plant can be anywhere in the yard so long as it’s shaded throughout the day.

Repot your pot plants

pot bound plant

Compacted Mass of Roots

You’ll need to repot your potted plants eventually! If you fail to move your plant to a larger pot your plants will become pot-bound where the roots grow to be cramped and form a compacted mass that hinders further growth. The most obvious signs that your plants need to be repotted are when the roots start emerging through the top soil and the drainage holes. If you turn your plant carefully on its side and ease it out of the pot you will be able to see whether the roots have coiled at the bottom, if so, it’s certainly time to re-pot. At least once a year, your smaller, more vigorously growing plants ought to be re-potted into somewhat bigger pots along with a fresh potting mixture. Larger pot plants like the ficus need only to be re-potted every two years.

Hire the experts to look after your potted plants

We understand that life gets busy which can lead to plants being neglected, so why not trust the professional gardeners at Jim’s Mowing to look after your potted plants. We provide expert gardening services which are tailored to your plants and garden’s unique needs. Call us on 131 546 or use our form online for a free and no obligation quote today!


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