General Planting Care

Unsure what your plant needs? Not clear on when to prune, let alone what tool is right for that job. We're here to help you learn what you and your plant need. Remember there's no such thing as a stupid question. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Just delivered

Everything you need to know to get your plant out of it's box safely and get it settled in

My plant box has just arrived, but I'm going out tonight. What do I need to do to it?

Absolutely bare minimum? Open the top of the box that your plant came in so it can get some light. Ideally, give it a splash of water as well, to quench its thirst after the journey.

How soon do I need to repot my plant after it's arrived?

Check the bottom of the pot it came it to see if any roots are escaping out of the drainage holes. If they are, aim to transfer your plant to a roomier pot within the next month or so. No roots poking out? Leave it be.
Top Tip: Some plants, like Phalaenopsis, an indoor orchid, actively crave a rootbound life, so make sure you check your new plant’s preferences before showing them too much love.

Do I need to water my new plant straightaway? How much should I give it?

Unless you’ve treated yourself to a cactus or an aloe, yes. Water is a fabulous idea. With most outdoor plants, you can dunk the plant up to the base of its stem - pot and all - in a bucket or sink full of water. When bubbles stop rising up, pull it out and leave it to drain. Alternatively, drench the pot with a watering can or hose until the compost at the base is wet. For fussy Phalaenopsis orchids, ignore the can and spray a fine mist of water over them instead. Sure, they’re prima donnas, but that’s why we love them.

What's the best way to repot my new plant?

First, find a new pot to put your plant into and half fill it with peat-free compost. It’s never a good idea to pull a plant by its stem, so wiggle your plant out of its current pot by gently squeezing the sides.

Snug your plant into its new home. You want it to be level with the rim, so you might need to add or remove some of the compost to get this right. Once it’s settled, top up the pot with more compost and firm it in so the plant’s nice and secure.

Give it a generous glug of water (but not so much that the compost turns into a swamp) and top it up with compost if the level drops down. Add some feed and, if you’re feeling extra, a few decorative stones or gravel on the top for an impressive pot display.

What's the best way to plant my leafy friend in the ground?

Whether your plant’s a sunseeker or a shade lover, needs free-draining soil or craves clay, first find a spot where it’s likely to thrive. Dig a hole roughly twice the width and depth of its pot, to allow the roots to get well-established. Then, gently remove the plant from the pot and pop it in place. Backfill the hole, firm the plant in, then treat it to a good long drink to give it the best start in its new home.

When’s the best time of day to rehome my plant?

The best time to transplant or repot a plant is on a spring or autumn day when the ground is wet and slightly warm. However, you can plant at other times of the year, too - just avoid extremes. Frozen ground is never ideal and, similarly, if it’s too hot to sunbathe, it’s too hot to garden. During high summer, it’s best to tend to your plants in the morning or evening, when it’s nice and cool and the bees are sleeping.

Thriving and surviving?

How to be sure your plant will reach its true potential, and how you can help.

I’ve transferred my plant to its new home and it seems ok, but how can I be sure?

Keep your eyes peeled for new growth, in the form of fresh, green shoots or flower buds. If your plant doesn’t appear to be growing after a few weeks in your care, or the leaves are wilting or turning a funny colour, you may need to take action by changing your watering routine or moving it to a different spot.

Am I watering my plant too much...or not enough? How can I tell?

If your plant looks droopy and the soil’s dry, then it’s likely you’ve not been quenching its thirst. Give it a good long drink to soak the soil, but be careful not to let it sit in a puddle. Too much water can make leaves turn yellow and stems go soft. If this is your issue, leave overwatered plants to drain or forgo their regular tipple until they’ve had a chance to dry out.

My plant has a few brown leaves, but it doesn't look like it's dying. Should I pull them off or leave them?

If the leaves pull off without much resistance then yes, they can be removed. If they’re trying to hang on, leave them be until they fall off naturally. If you’re worried that you might have killed your plant, use a fingernail to scrape away a thin layer of the bark or stem. If it’s green underneath, the plant is alive. If it’s brown...Houston, you may have a problem.

When should I feed my plant?

Spring and Summer flowering bedding plants should be fed with a high phosphorus feed at the time of planting, feed them again as they start to take off usually around four weeks from planting. You can also feed them if you prune them to encourage a second spur of flowers. Shrubs should be fed with a well-rounded feed at the start of the season, usually during spring, a second feed in early summer is also beneficial. Avoid feeding them in the winter months when the plant should be resting as encouraging them to grow with feed during this time is detrimental and can cause damage to the plant. Houseplants can be fed regularly while they’re actively growing, around every 14 – 20 days. Avoid feeding them if they have a dormant spell, usually during winter.

I think my plant is growing, but how can I tell if it’s truly happy?

If your plant is standing sturdy in its pot or in the ground, is showing signs of new growth and appears to be free from pesky pests and diseases, it sounds like you’re doing a great job. Hurrah.

I love my new plant, but should it be... doing something?

Not all plants are quick to grow, so don’t be put off if yours isn’t much of an entertainer. If you’re watering it regularly (not too little, not too much) and it’s not going brown, floppy or crispy, chances are it’s just taking its sweet time and might reward you with a growth spurt or a cheeky leaf at a later date. If you’re worried you might have killed it, use a fingernail to lightly scratch the surface of the bark or stem. If it’s green underneath, there’s no need to panic. Just have patience.

Other Useful Planting & Care

Need more help?

Follow us on Instagram for S.O.S Advice
Help Is Here
ForbesThe Times logoi newsSky NewsTelegraph logo