A few weeks back I let you guys in on a little secret of mine: I was not blessed with a green thumb. I had a lot of you fooled after sharing our flourishing plants in my porch tour, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t just bought and planted every single one of the plants pictured. Honestly, I fully expected them all to wither up within a few days, but much to my surprise, they’re all alive and well! I’m definitely still a beginner when it comes to gardeningI, but thanks to some awesome tips from the lady at the plant nursery and, ya know, Google, I have somehow managed not to kill any plants yet. I’m not confident enough in my abilities to say my cursed black thumb is gone forever, but little victories folks.
After hearing how many of you guys relate to my black thumb issues, I decided to bravely share some tips and tricks I’ve acquired that may or may not have helped me keep my plants alive for this long. Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert gardener. In fact, I’m not even an amateur gardener, still very much a beginner. Please do not hold me liable for the death of any of your houseplants and feel free to send over any expert gardening tips you’ve picked up that you think I could use!
Potted Plant Basics
As I mentioned, I’m still a beginner and everything I know about potted plants and gardening I either learned from trial and error or asking experts who know MUCH more than me. Oh, or from the internet. But one of the best pieces of gardening design advice I’ve ever gotten is to plant a thriller, a filler, and a spiller in every planter. The first reason being it rhymes and I can remember it, and the second being it is a no fail way to ensure your planter looks full and thriving. Details are below:
- Thrillers: Usually provide a vertical element! These are the eye-catchers of the planter. You could use cosmos or dahlias, really anything with a little height and a little color.
- Filler: Mid-size plants that fill the space! You could just use one thriller or go crazy and use 2-3. Good filler flowers are petunias or begonias! You could also use something with more texture like diamond frost.
- Spiller: Spiller are exactly what they sound like. Anything that will cascade over the side of your planter is the perfect spiller! Think sweet potato vine, ivy, or alyssum.
Now, here are some basic tips for keeping your potted plants alive! Be forewarned that I am in NO way an expert, and will not be held liable for the death of your plants if you take my advice. The tips in this post are amateur at best, and I welcome your advice if you have any to give!
- I always buy pre-potted plants (aka not seeds) because you are much more likely to have success growing and sustaining a plant that is already living (and we all know i need all the help I can get).
- You’ll want to invest in a pair of gardening gloves, some shears, and a watering can so you don’t have to constantly drag the hose through the yard. This is also a great gardening set for beginners if you need shovels and such (plus it’s cute)!
- Always use pots with drain holes in the bottom so you don’t accidentally drown your plant and cause the root to rot! If you are dead set on using a decorative planter, you can add small stones to the bottom of the pot before you add in soil so all the water has somewhere to go. I shared tons of cute planters in this post if you’re interested!
- The size of your pot will depend on how big you want your plant to get, but generally the more room it has, the more it will grow!
- For both water and sunlight, generally I follow a rule of moderation. Some plants can tolerate more water/sun, but overall I stick to mostly indirect sunlight and moderate watering. I always dig about two knuckles deep and feel the soil before watering to see whether or not it’s still moist.
- Most potted plants (especially flowers) need to be pruned pretty regularly (probably once a week or so). Don’t be afraid to cut back attractive/healthy blooms! Often times those are the blooms that are taking the most energy from the plant, so cutting them back gives the plant some energy back to keep producing more.
If you’re like me and your life goal is to be the next Joanna Gaines, a good start is to attempt growing your own indoor herb garden! Herbs are great because they’re multi-purpose: cute, fragrant, and a delicious addition to your favorite dish. I even these as as a centerpiece on my table for the 4th of July. You’ll want to water your herbs 2-3 times a week, saturating them enough each time so that water spills out of the holes on the bottom of the pot. Keep your herbs in indirect natural sunlight and you’ll be good to go!
The Best (& Easiest) Herbs to Grow Indoors
- Basil – amazing for pesto, pizza, pasta, soups, salads, and more!
- Mint – add to your mojito (or another cocktail of choice!) or make a yummy watermelon mint salad.
- Rosemary – use when cooking white meats, veggies, potatoes..pretty much anything.
- Parsley – great for pastas, chicken, soups and sauces!
- Lavender – infuse lavender into sweeter dishes or drinks! It also smells amazing, so you can keep it in bundles around the house!
When I tell people about my black thumb problems, they typically respond with “start with succulents!” Apparently, succulents are supposed to be easy to maintain and the best for beginner gardeners. That hasn’t stopped me from killing a few. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, and now know that the key to keeping succulents alive is NOT to overwater them! Check the soil frequently, and if the top half is completely dry, it may be time to water. This will usually be every 2-3 weeks in the spring & summer, and once a month in the drier months.
You’ll also want to make sure the pots you plant in have good drainage. If you want to use a decorative pot that doesn’t drain, fill the bottom of the pot with small stones so the water has somewhere to go!
I’ve read that the easiest succulents to keep alive are Aloe Vera, Jade, and Echeveria. Keep succulents in indirect, moderate sunlight and literally forget about them – that’s the best way to be sure not to overwater!
Miraculously, I have had some luck with houseplants throughout the year! Notably, my fiddle leaf fig (above) has survived for a couple of years now (though she’s currently recovering from our move). According to my research, here are the easiest indoor potted plants to take care of, and some instructions on caring for them:
- Snake Plant – needs low to medium light and low water
- Fiddle Leaf Fig – needs medium light and medium water
- Rubber Plant – needs bright light and medium-high water
- Peace Lily – medium light, low-medium water
- Kentia Palm – medium light, low-medium water
Outdoor Potted Plants
As for outdoors, here are the potted plants that I have had luck with as a beginner! Most of these I have used in planters around the outside of our home, but I’m sure they could also be planted in beds. Just remember that they do need to be watered if they’re in a place where they won’t get rain (i.e. under cover or on your front porch). If you’re looking for modern planters, I highly suggest these.
- Lemongrass – can thrive in full sun, making them perfect for the outdoors! As an added bonus, these plants are mosquito repellant.
- Hydrangea – prefer full sun in the morning with shade in the afternoon. I’ve heard that you can literally plant a grocery store hydrangea and it can grow into a full, blooming hydrangea plant. Don’t mark my words on that but I mostly just want an endless supply at my fingertips. Be sure to water thoroughly!
- Ferns – ferns prefer dappled shade! They are pretty low maintenance so you don’t have to worry about caring for them too too much. Just make sure they get at least an inch of rainwater weekly, and if not, you may want to water them lightly.
- Diamond Frost – partial sun and keep the soil moist! These are great for planters.
- Sweet Potato Vine – a great spiller plant for your outdoor planters!
Because every planter needs a little color! When you plant store bought flowers, be sure to pull them out of the pots they come in & loosen up the soil a good bit before planting them. You want the roots to be visible from the bottom of the plant! This will help water get to the roots faster, and will help the plant take with the soil you lay it in.
Plant these flowers in an area where they’ll get sunlight for at least 4-6 hours, but will have nice shady breaks at certain points throughout the day.
- Petunias – petunias are heat tolerant, so you don’t have to stress over watering them all the time. Usually once every 5-7 days will do the trick, depending on the climate. Always check the soil for moisture to know when it’s time to water!
- Geraniums – the key with geraniums is to prune prune prune! Deadhead frequently to make room for new blooms! Allow geraniums to dry out between waterings, and then water thoroughly.
- Pansies – great for spring and fall because they favor cooler weather! They like full or partial sun, preferably cooler morning sun. Water regularly!
- Impatiens – water your impatiens frequently to keep them blooming! Keep them moist, but not too wet.
- Begonias – give them morning sun and a little afternoon shade. Wax begonias can tolerate more sun! Again, keep soil moist, but not too wet. Deadhead and cut back regularly!