I’ve been guilty of walking through the gardening department of some store and becoming enamored with a beautiful plant. I’ve bought them on a whim without doing any research and then felt confused and helpless when something goes wrong. Sometimes the plants will come with some helpful tidbits attached, but even when that is the case, there’s often additional information worth knowing. While I’m still very much a beginner, I’m finally learning what I need to know to ensure I don’t murder anymore helpless plants through my negligence. These are some things worth taking into consideration whether you’re looking to grow something indoors or outdoors, in containers, or directly in the ground.
I’m not going to be able to get into too many specifics at this point. There are so many things you could potentially want to grow that if I tried to cover every possible scenario, this would quickly start to feel like you were reading War and Peace. Before you purchase anything you’ll want to take the time to research the details about that specific plant. This is especially important if you plan to combine different types of plants in the same container or next to each other because they’re not all going to work well together!
First things first, how long can you expect your plants to last?
Annual– In short, they only live for one growing season and will need to be replanted every year.
Biennial– They require two years to live out their lifecycle and will then need to be replaced.
Perennial– These will grow back year after year from the same root system. The lifespan varies greatly depending on what kind of plant it is.
How much sun do they need?
Full sun– At least 6 hours of sun exposure
Partial sun/shade– Between 3-6 hours of sun exposure
Full shade– Can survive on less than 3 hours of sun exposure
How wet should the soil be?
High moisture– Moist not wet. Roots need air. If there’s not proper drainage allowing the excess water to escape, it can lead to mold or rot.
Low moisture– Certain plants are able to store water and therefore last longer between watering.
Do they prefer soil that is acidic or alkaline?
Acidic– pH below 7
Alkaline– pH above 7
You can get a test to see where your soil lies on the pH scale. Store bought soil will typically be in a neutral range unless stated otherwise.
- If your growing something outdoors, what hardiness zone do they thrive in?
- If it’s in a container how deep should the pot be to give the roots adequate room?
- Will it interfere or be interfered with by nearby plants?
- What’s the best way to harvest it?
- Etc. etc. etc.
The event that inspired this blog took place a couple weeks ago. My wonderful husband came home with two beautiful plants whom I named Sylvia and Henry. Unfortunately, he was so focused on surprising me with something nice that he neglected to research them first. Turns out Henry is toxic to cats and dogs of which we have both. So through no fault of his own poor Henry is stuck in isolation until it’s nice enough that he can go outside. However, we live in Wisconsin and he can’t withstand cold temperatures, so once it gets cold again he’ll have to come back inside and go back in isolation. The whole thing was a very sweet gesture that didn’t turn out quite as my hubby had hoped. My intention is to find a stand that will allow Henry into the general population while still keeping our critters safe. So while we may be able to make this work anyway, many situations will have no long-term solution. So please, heed my warning and do your research first!