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Ask a plant expert: The 5 simple things you need to do to keep your plants alive in 2021.

With all those activities you took up last year — the extra wine consumption, the extended Netflix binges, the ad hoc home exercise regime — it only stands to reason that (and no judgement here), your plant-care game might not be as strong as it could be.

Beginning the year with a strong plant-care routine will set you up with a solid base to really build your indoor jungle and surround yourself with some happy, healthy plants.

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Maybe 2021 is the year you start a consistent watering regime or repot that Monstera that's been trying to escape its pot for the last six months. 

Below are a few of our favourite (and simple) plant-care tips.

1. Chat plants, especially to your local plant shop staff.

This is an easy one. #crazyplantpeople love talking plants (trust us). Next time you are plant shopping, ask a few questions so you can learn a bit about the new addition to your plant family.

The Plant Runner co-founders Duncan Hilder and Dominic Hooghuis. Image: SameeLapham     

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Learning about your plant doesn't mean you’ve got to be able to spell out its botanical name or name five other plants in the same genus. 

It’s just the understanding that all plants will have different requirements for light, water, and potting mediums, and for you to best provide that. 

Understanding that some plants will be OK in darker corners while others need a bright room means you can finally green-up that dark corner that's been screaming for some foliage.

When you get in a habit of sticking your finger in a pot before watering, you’ll quickly learn that some of your plants are drawing up water faster than others, and you can adjust your schedule as necessary (hot tip: if you group plants with similar water and light requirements together, it can make the weekly watering a whole lot easier). 

When you know what potting mix would best suit your plant, you’ll be rewarded with a happier, faster-growing and often larger plant.

2. Get feeding.

When you purchase a plant from a plant shop, they generally have about 4-6 months of slow-release fertiliser in the potting mix to keep the plant happy. After that? Nada. 

Plants can survive on just water and light, but without being able to access nutrients found in the ground (or provided by a fertiliser) they are never going to be as happy and healthy as they could be.

Get in the habit of regularly feeding your plants with a complete fertiliser while your plants are actively growing (usually this is over spring and summer). 

It's often as simple as adding the fertiliser to your watering can and watering as usual, so you won’t have to worry about any other extra steps or time.

Image: Supplied / The Plant Runner

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3. Repot on the regular.

You're forgiven if this seems thoroughly unappealing. Repotting can be messy, a little more time-consuming and a whole lot more intimidating. 

But repotting is great for encouraging new growth, preventing diseases and providing fresh nutrients to your plants. 

Ideally, most plants should be re-potted yearly, with slower growers requiring it every two to three years. You’ll know when it's time, too: your plant's growth may have slowed, its roots may be pushing out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot or up against the edge of the container, or water might be draining out quicker than usual (signs the plant is rootbound). 

If this is the case, grab yourself some quality potting mix and pot up! 

When potting up, try to only go up one pot size. Going straight to a large pot with a small plant will increase the chance of disease like root rot. 

4. Spring (and summer, autumn and winter) clean

Seems a little weird to have to ‘clean’ your plants, but if you have ever run your finger over a Monstera leaf and seen how much dust has accumulated, you’ll understand why. 

Plants, like any other surface in our homes, gather dust. Even worse, the dust can limit your plant’s ability to photosynthesise, which can lead to slower, stunted or ‘leggy’ growth. 

In nature, plants don’t have this problem as the wind and the rain does all the cleaning for them, but indoors it’s up to you. Cleaning your plant’s foliage every couple of weeks will make your plant more resilient and improve its growth.

Use a natural, non-comodegenic leaf shine like Neem Oil to provide beneficial proteins to the plant while giving it a lush “just in from the jungle” look. 

Image: Supplied / The Plant Runner

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5. Get a routine going. 

#SelfcareSundays is a hashtag for a reason. Having a dedicated time (or day, depending on the size of your plant collection!) for you to focus on plant care means things will not be neglected and your plants will want for nothing.

Have a few of the essentials on hand (a good pair of secateurs for pruning, a watering can, a damp cloth for cleaning foliage) and do the rounds. Routines mean you’ll also be more aware when anything isn’t right, and you’ll be in a better position to prevent any pests and diseases that might be looking to step in.

Duncan Hilder is co-founder of The Plant Runner.

Are you a dedicated plant parent? We'd love to see your plant care tips! Share yours in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Getty

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