A good way to think about plant care: Picture a plant’s natural environment. Try to mimic that, says Kat Daigrepont, Louisiana Nursery’s Perkins Road foliage manager.
Cacti and succulents became the darlings of the plant world in part because of how low maintenance they are. The less attention you give these desert plants, the better. But even they aren’t foolproof: Overwatering and poor lighting conditions could mean their demise.
Air plants have risen in popularity recently, too, due to their versatility. They don’t need soil, which means you can plant or place them in anything—you’ve probably seen them in boutiques or on styled magazine pages hanging from ceilings, attached to branches for a rustic look or placed in cute glass terrariums.
Here’s how to keep these good-looking plant varieties going strong all summer long.
• Cacti and succulents: These desert dwellers thrive in heat and direct light. They prefer full sun, Daigrepont says, so keep them in a brightly lit room or near a window.
• Air plants: Part of the bromeliad family, these guys grow in tropical environments. Many grow on tree trunks and branches in rainforests, she says, where they receive a mix of shade and light. Keep them in bright, indirect light.
• Cacti and succulents: While these plants need infrequent watering, Louisiana’s hot humid summers mean you should bump up your watering a bit this season. “In summertime, you’re running the air conditioning full blast, and that will dry out the air in the house,” Daigrepont says. “The sun will also make the windowsills really hot.” A good rule of thumb: Put your finger in the soil. If it’s dry, saturate the plant until water drains out the bottom of the pot, she says. Then leave the plant alone for a while.
• Air plants: Like the name suggests, air plants do draw moisture from the air. But, Daigrepont says, it’s important to keep in mind the air is much drier indoors than outside, especially in the summer. Mist the plants a few times weekly. Research the plant variety you have to determine when it’s time to give the air plants a full water bath. “Some want to be bone dry, and then others need water two to three times a week,” she explains. If you have decent lighting in your bathroom, she adds, that can be a good place to store the plants, since they’ll draw the humidity that builds up during a shower.
• Cacti and succulents: Good drainage is key, so make sure you have them in a planter with holes at the bottom. You can put a drainage tray underneath to catch the water. If you replant them, use a cactus soil mix, which Daigrepont says drains better and holds less water than traditional soil.
• Air plants: Since they don’t need soil, you can hang them or place them anywhere with the right lighting conditions. Use fishing wire to attach them to objects, Daigrepont suggests.
Study your succulents: Hover over each plant to pick your favorite:
How to revive a dying plant: If your plant is drooping or turning brown, don’t give up hope just yet. Pick up a root stimulator or plant fertilizer from a local nursery, and spritz the soil or air plant with it. Place it outside in conditions as similar as possible to the plant’s natural habitat. Most importantly, correct poor watering habits.
How to replant cacti without stabbing yourself: Gently wrap newspapers, a plastic bag and/or towels around the plant before handling. Then, wear gardener’s gloves with nitrile coating or thick, leather rose gloves.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.