As many of us know, caring for the plants that we keep in our homes requires a good deal of effort all year round. But when we go on vacation, we run the risk of neglecting our carefully cultivated greenery. However, using just a wine bottle and a little ingenuity, we can keep our wilting woes safely at bay.
Caring for houseplants can often be a tricky business. And to make things even more difficult, every form of foliage tends to have its own set of specific needs. As a result, it’s important for wannabe plant parents to brush up on their horticultural knowledge.
Three things that the majority of houseplants will benefit from is good light, a draught-free spot and moderately high humidity levels. After this, you’d be mistaken for thinking that the only thing a plant needs is water. That’s because some attention should also be paid to feeding, cleaning, pruning and protecting shrubbery from pests, too.
Many people believe that keeping a plant well-watered is a sure-fire way of keeping it healthy. Therefore, it may come as some surprise that one of the biggest killers of houseplants is overwatering. So to address this, soil should be kept moist rather than saturated and should be almost dried out before watering again.
If you’re unsure about moisture levels, you can check by pushing a finger into the soil. Plants should be watered from above and pots should be placed on saucers to enable excess water to drain off. Usually, plants will require more H20 in the spring and summer seasons, as they often go dormant in winter.
Another important factor in the care of plants is humidity. Many species of ferns, calathea, bromeliads, orchids and tropical plants will benefit from a daily spritzing with a hand-held spray bottle. Apparently, placing plants together on a base of damp gravel can also help to boost humidity levels.
If you want flowering plants to thrive, you should also implement some kind of feeding regime. A weekly dose of liquid nutrients should keep hungry flowers sustained. And for bigger plant pots, adding a few granules of slow-releasing fertilizer to the soil can also help. However, you should follow instructions in order to prevent overfeeding.
Pruning is another thing to consider when caring for certain plants. For example, carefully removing dead or dying flowers by pinching them off is beneficial. Yellowing or damaged leaves should also be discarded, while wayward branches should be taken off using secateurs.
It’s also worth remembering that many houseplants collect dust on their leaves. This layer can reduce the amount of light a plant receives – therefore inhibiting photosynthesis. As a result, leaves should be regularly cleaned with damp cotton wool in order to keep them healthy and growing well.
If you’re already doing all these things but are still left with a lackluster plant, you might be dealing with pests. Some tell-tale signs of an infestation include patches of white fluff, and these could come from a woolly aphid or mealybug – which feed off the sap of houseplants. These can be removed using a mild, organic soap sprayed onto the leaf and wiped off with cotton wool.
Another common pest that is attracted to plants is the red spider mite. These tiny bugs thrive in dry, warm conditions and female mites can lay up to 20 eggs each day. So in order to prevent the mite infestation from spreading, simply cut away affected stems and leaves and mist the plant regularly.
There’s also the general differences between certain plant species to consider when caring for greenery in our homes. For instance, flowering plants tend to need more light than those with green foliage – such as ferns. Succulents and cacti, for their part, will thrive on bright windowsills, though you should avoid placing such plants in south-facing windows during the summer as they may scorch.
In terms of other plants, orchids are popular thanks to their beautiful blooms – though they also require quite specific conditions. They benefit from bright but indirect light, high humidity and plenty of fresh air. In general, if any flowering plant is not blooming, or a variegated plant loses its contrasting colors, it may require better light.
Despite the effort that goes into caring for houseplants, they remain popular additions to any home, and in recent years they have become particularly prized by millennials. According to the 2016 National Gardening Report, of the approximately six million people who’d taken up gardening that year, five million of them were aged between 18 and 34.
Furthermore, by 2017 more millennials were growing plants and herbs indoors than those from the older baby boomer generation. And it’s believed that the increase in green-fingered young people may be related to the popularity of environmentalism and self-care among that demographic.
Caring for plants might also signal a millennial’s coming of age, in a time when the traditional markers of adulthood – homeowning and marriage, for example – have become harder to attain. And while many millennials live in rented accommodation in cities, houseplants can also provide some much-needed contact with nature.
Judith de Graaff, the co-author of Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants explained why millenials may be fond of houseplants in an interview with Nylon in 2017. She said, “More and more people live in cities, they live in very small spaces. And they might have a few parks, but they’re not in touch with nature anymore.”
According to de Graaff, keeping plants was a way to bring the outdoors inside. She said, “… The easiest way to get back in touch with our roots is, well, going outside, but also to have houseplants in your home. You see them grow and you learn how to be patient because they don’t bloom tomorrow or immediately.”
Furthermore, keeping plants around the house is believed to have a positive impact on mental health. Tara Heibel, the woman behind the florist and plant store Sprout Home, told Nylon, “Millennials are going to spend money on what makes them happy.”
Heibel added, “[Millennials are] getting married and potentially having children later in life – or not having children at all – and they’re going to make sure that their surroundings are something that they want to be in. And thank god, plants are part of that.”
No matter how dedicated you are to your plants, sometimes leaving them unattended is unavoidable. For instance, greenery is bound to sustain a bit of neglect when a person goes on vacation. So plant parents need to think carefully about caring for their plants before leaving them for extended periods.
Luckily, the majority of houseplants are able to survive unattended for a couple of weeks, as long as some preparation has been put in place. This involves giving pots a good watering before leaving. Large pots will keep well if placed in a shaded room, while smaller plants that thrive off humidity will enjoy being left in a bathtub on top of a wet towel.
Given how risky leaving plants to fend for themselves for prolonged periods can be, the internet is awash with helpful hints on how to keep greenery thriving in your absence. After all, there’s nothing sadder than returning home after a long trip to wilted leaves and flowers that are on the brink of death.
One trick to keeping houseplants happy and healthy involves the ingenious use of a wine bottle. However, in reality, any kind of glass bottle with a cap or cork would work. You can even choose the size depending on how large a pot your plant sits in. So it might be worth hanging onto your empty sauce, oil and vinegar bottles – especially if you’re a plant parent who’s planning a holiday.
With your appropriate glass bottle selected, take the time to remove any labels. One of the easiest ways to do this with minimal mess is to soak it in hot water and dish soap with a glug of white vinegar to dissolve any glue – making labels easier to peel off. Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer to melt the glue and dislodge the attached tags.
Once you’ve managed to remove the label from your empty bottle, remove the cork or cap and set it aside. Give the inside of the container a good clean by filling it with water and adding a couple of drops of dish soap. Return the cap or cork to the bottle, and shake it vigorously before emptying the soapy water. Next, rinse with just water until the bottle is clean from debris and soap suds.
Now that your bottle is all cleaned up, it’s ready to become a makeshift waterer. If yours has a cap, take this and remove the foam or plastic padding that coats the bottom. One of the best ways to do this is to use a flat-tipped screwdriver and prize the disc away from the lid. But if you haven’t got a screwdriver to hand, a craft knife should work just as well.
Once the cap has been stripped of its padding, it will be easier to poke a hole through the flat edge. To do this, place the cap the right way up on a piece of wood or chopping board in order to protect your worktop from what’s to come. Because now it’s time to punch a hole through your lid.
If you’re using a bottle with a metal lid, the easiest way to create a hole is probably using a nail and hammer. Hold the cap firmly between your forefinger and thumb before driving the nail through it. In order to protect your hands, consider wearing a pair of thick work gloves. Then, once you’ve broken through the top of the cap, pull the nail back out to reveal the hole.
Alternatively, if you’re using a plastic lid, it might be easier to create a hole using a drill. Simply turn the tool on and push down gently on the top of the cap until an incision is made. Once the drill bit is clean through, pull it back out of the opening you’ve just created. And no matter how you’ve created the hole, make sure to wipe any residue away using a damp clog to prevent blockages.
If your bottle comes with a cork rather than a cap, use a corkscrew to create a hole. Soak the stopper first before twisting the screw, just as you would if you were opening a bottle of wine. Keep rotating the device until it emerges out of the bottom, and then turn it in the opposite direction to remove it.
If it’s easier, place the cork back in the bottle when creating the hole, as it will sit in one place as you work. Otherwise, you could place the cork on a piece of wood – holding it steady while you drill a tunnel through it. Again, be sure to remove any debris from inside the hole by gently blowing through it or running it under water.
With your cork or cap prepared, you can then get to work on filling the bottle. Add water up until the point that your chosen soon-to-be waterer starts to narrow. If you wish, you can add a couple drops of plant food, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Now, simply return the cap or cork to its rightful place.
Before putting your makeshift waterer to good use, it is important to prepare the plant pot that it’s destined for. First, you need to ensure that your soil is wet. If not, it will drain the bottle too quickly. Then, make a hole in the compost which is about two inches deep – ready to hold the neck of your bottle in place.
Without first digging into the soil, you run the risk of breaking your bottle when you push it in. Otherwise, you might clog the hole and that will prevent the flow of water. When making your incision, choose a gap close to the edge of your plant pot. If possible, try to dig the opening at an angle, veering in towards the plant so that your bottle can rest against the side of the pot.
Once you’re happy with your hole, push your upside-down bottle firmly into the pot until it creates a seal with the soil. Once in place, the water should be still-looking. If you can see bubbles or the liquid level is going down, remove the bottle and reinsert until the problem is solved.
Once your bottle waterer is correctly in place, it will keep your plants hydrated by steadily releasing water into the soil until it is empty. The hack is therefore perfect for when you go on vacation or if you’re a bit forgetful when it comes to watering. As a result, your plants can stay healthy even when left alone.
So it seems that the wine bottle waterer could be the answer to some of our green-fingered woes. It’s a simple yet effective solution to keeping our houseplants healthy when we can’t be there for them. And, understandably, when a video of the hack was shared on the Nifty Facebook page, it seemed to take the internet by storm.
The wine bottle waterer tutorial video has clocked up an impressive 182,000 reactions and 12,000 comments at the time of writing. And it appeared that the hack was a game-changer for at least one wannabe plant parent. They wrote, “This makes taking care of plants way easier… I think I’m gonna do this and buy plants now.”
Elsewhere, another hopeful commenter wrote, “I’m doing this for my plants around the house… Maybe I’ll stop killing them all…” And for some, the benefits of wine bottle waterers extended beyond the opportunity to keep plants healthy. One person wrote, “This is the perfect excuse for you to finish a couple of bottles.”