Houseplants are one of the trendiest home decor items around. They also better your mental health, clean your air, and provide the perfect prop for an aesthetically-pleasing Instagram post. But how eco-friendly are your gardening practices?
Regardless of whether you’ve been thinking about becoming a new houseplant parent—or if you’ve been growing (no pun intended) a plant family for a while now—these tips will help you become a more sustainable plant parent.
Sustainable Plant Parent Tips
1. Avoid Buying Plastic Pots
If you have to buy a new pot for your plant, avoid plastic. There are so many beautiful pots available that are made from more eco-friendly materials. Terracotta clay pots, for instance, are inexpensive and allow water and air to seep through the walls, keeping your plants healthy.
Another option is to upcycle containers you may already have: jars, baskets, tins—you name it. Just make sure whatever you use has a drainage hole, which prevents root rot. If there’s no hole, simply drill one yourself.
2. Use Natural Pesticides
Spotting bugs on your houseplants is the absolute worst. If a plant develops a pest problem, stay away from toxic pesticides. Many synthetic pesticides contain harmful chemicals that are dangerous to you, and also to your plants. Instead, try using organic neem oil, which is a natural pesticide. Eucalyptus essential oil also helps keep insects away.
3. Choose Air-Purifying Plants
It’s true: Plants can help purify the air we breathe. A few of the best air-purifying plants include snake plants, English ivy, spider plants, and aloe vera. Look into the care for each of your plants so you can maximize their air-purifying qualities. Some plants are even able to purify the air of toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide.
Check out NASA’s Clean Air Study to read more about how plants detoxify the air. And keep in mind: The more plants you have, the cleaner the air in your home will be. (Yes, that’s your excuse to pick up a few additional green babies.)
4. Reuse Your Water
If you live somewhere you can keep buckets outside to catch rainwater, do it. It’s such a great way to use the natural resource Mother Earth provides for us. Using fresh rainwater not only saves water, but it has less chemicals in it than tap water does, therefore it’s more pure.
Another great way to save on water is to recycle the water you used to steam unsalted vegetables. If you do choose to use veggie water, just dilute it with a little fresh water—like your rainwater—to avoid a strong odor after watering your plants.
5. Buy Locally
Of course, always try to buy your plants locally if you can. This supports small businesses and prevents unnecessary waste from ordering online. Find your local greenhouse or farmers’ market and you’re sure to spot some lovely houseplants to take home with you.
Another way to save money, avoid excess packaging, and reuse pots is to propagate your plants. Plants like ivys, monsteras, and pothos are excellent for propagating. Simply clip off a piece of the plant (following instructions online to ensure you do it correctly) and put in a little jar of water. Within a couple weeks, you’ll notice roots growing from the clipping.
When there are enough roots to support the plant, go ahead and replant it into a pot. You can also consider a “plant swap” with friends, where you can trade clippings from your favorite plants.
7. Clip Dead Leaves
To promote the longevity of your plants, be sure to keep an eye on their leaves. If you start to notice the leaves turning yellow, that could mean the plant is being overwatered. Allow the plant to completely dry out before watering it again. If leaves are brown and crunchy, this could mean you’re underwatering your plant. With some extra care, your plants will live long and healthy lives—no rebuying needed.
8. Buy Second-Hand
Oh, the beauty of thrifting! Instead of buying a brand spankin’ new pot every time you need one, head to your local thrift store. Brand new pots can get expensive—especially glass and ceramic ones—so save a few bucks and support your local thrift store or flea market.
When being a sustainable plant parent, it’s also important to think about the items we have that can be used over and over again, and that goes beyond planters. When shopping secondhand, also keep an eye out for other plant necessities, such as a watering can, plant stands, wall hooks, or a grow light.