7 Plant-Care Staples to Help Your Greens Thrive

Experts share their essential tools for cultivating indoor plants

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person watering house plants with tea kettle in room filled with plants Photo: Aleksandar Nakic/Getty Images

Filling our homes with greenery is more than just a decorative habit. According to experts, plants have the ability to decrease the body’s stress hormones and increase our work productivity. But caring for them can come with a steep learning curve, especially for those who lack a green thumb (present company included). 

Figuring out exactly how much water a houseplant needs is just the start of it. From choosing the right pot to arming yourself with the proper tools to combat an almost inevitable gnat infestation, there are a number of products that can help take the guesswork out of plant care. And who better to hear it from than the experts themselves? 

So we turned to plant care professionals to learn what they always have on hand and how they keep their greens thriving. Here’s what they had to say.

Moisture Meter

Dr.meter Soil Moisture Meter

Overwatering is the most common cause of death for plants, says Jira Sai, founder of Plant Corner, a New York City-based shop that specializes in rare plants. A moisture meter can help with that. 

“Plant roots need oxygen to function, and drowning the roots in water eliminates the oxygen pockets while increasing the chances for bacteria infection,” Sai says. And if the roots aren’t able to supply the plant with water and nutrients, the plant will slowly decline and eventually die. 

A moisture meter can be a useful tool, especially for novice plant owners. “Use it to check the moisture level in your soil, especially when the pot is too big for your finger to reach the bottom,” Sai says. And confirm that the soil is on the drier side before you give the plant more water.

Plant Mister

Haws Brass Plant Mister

“Most of the leafy plants that thrive indoors originally hail from tropical rainforests,” says Sophia Kaplan, co-founder of the Sydney-based botanical and indoor plant shop Leaf Supply. This includes common varieties such as monsteras, anthuriums, and philodendrons, which flourish in humid environments. 

A water mister can be used daily to add a bit of moisture to the air around them, which will benefit their health greatly, Kaplan says. “Mimicking their native climate will ensure their best chance of success in your home.”

Fertilizer

Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro Fertilizer

According to Samantha Hermann, founder of the blog House + Plant, the one item every plant parent should own is a great fertilizer. (Your houseplants will grow without it, but not as abundantly.) It can provide plants with necessary nutrients they may otherwise not receive from potting soil—and can even replenish the nutrients they may lose over time. 

Hermann recommends this version from Foliage Pro. “One capful per gallon, every time you water, is all it takes to grow big happy houseplants,” she says.

Watering Pot

Ebristar Watering Pot

A watering pot is an item of choice for Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, who has written numerous books about houseplants and plant care. “I have a lot of plants, and it gives me extra reach,” she says. Her preferred version features a long spout. 

And while just about any sort of vessel can be used to water plants, one with a longer spout can be especially helpful for plants in a cluster or those sitting in harder-to-reach spots. A spout that ensures even water flow to the plant is a bonus.

Mosquito Bits

Summit Mosquito Bits Larvae Control Granules

“Fungus gnats can be a very frustrating part of houseplant ownership,” says Andrew Lawrence, a plant enthusiast who shares tips and advice on his YouTube channel Houseplant Hacks. They tend to burrow and hide in the soil of plants, even while in-store, and will eventually hatch. According to Lawrence, although they’re harmless and live only for a few days, if you allow them to procreate unchecked you may soon find a bunch of them flying around your home.

Mosquito bits can help prevent the cultivation of gnats and are able to treat present infestations as well. Lawrence recommends sprinkling them on the surface of the affected plant. “They kill the eggs that are in the soil,” he says. “If you use these on all your houseplants, the gnats will be gone within a few days.”

Terracotta Planter

Pennington Terra Cotta Clay Pot, 10"

Knowing how much water your plants need can be one of the more difficult aspects of caring for them. The easiest way to judge if they have had enough (or too much!) is by planting them in pots with drainage holes. 

“It is possible to grow a plant successfully without a drainage hole, but knowing when to water is not as easy to figure out,” Steinkopf says. “If the water runs out the hole at the bottom of the container, it usually means your plant has been thoroughly watered and it isn’t standing in water, as the excess has drained out the bottom of the pot.”

Steinkopf recommends using either terra cotta or glazed pots, depending on the plant. If you have a planter without drainage, you can still use it as a decorative pot, Steinkopf says, as long as the plant itself is in one with drainage. When watering, simply remove the plant and let it drain before returning it to the original container.

Pruning Scissors

Fluval Curved Aquarium Scissors, 9.8-inch

For Lawrence, pruning houseplants can be a very relaxing time, especially if you’re able to take a moment out of a busy day to enjoy the process. A reliable set of pruning scissors are prime for cutting off old, dying leaves or tidying up any dried, brown tips on your plant, she says. 

Cutting back dried foliage not only encourages better growth but also will allow your plant’s energy to focus on its healthier leaves. Lawrence prefers a set with long handles that provide better access to the base of the leaves, and a stainless steel finish that won’t be susceptible to rust.


Headshot of CRO shopping editor Anna Kocharian

Anna Kocharian

Based in New York City, I'm a shopping editor for Consumer Reports, writing about home, tech, and everything in between. Previously, I covered interior design and market trends as the digital editor of Domino, which shaped my multidisciplinary background in lifestyle journalism. When I'm not seeking out the everyday essentials worth investing in, you may find me perusing my favorite bookstores, cooking, or wandering around the city.