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Do You Need a Soil Moisture Sensor for Houseplants?

The simple answer is that if you’re having trouble knowing when to water your houseplants, then it’s time to buy a soil moisture sensor. These devices can be helpful to beginners and experts alike. Likewise, some houseplants have higher tolerances than others for underwatering and overwatering. If you stick to plants that are hard to kill and follow the basic care guidelines, you may never need one of these devices. If you’re trying to cultivate a houseplant that needs just the right soil moisture level, then a soil moisture sensor may be indispensable.

How to Use a Soil Moisture Sensor

In addition to knowing what type of plant you’re dealing with and watching for telltale signs, the surest way to follow the best watering practices is to measure the moisture level beneath the surface of the potting soil. The manufacturer will include their own instructions and tips. Most of today’s devices are digital and easy enough to insert in the plant’s potting soil. As a general rule, drought-resistant and low-water houseplants may wait until the soil is dry up to 2 inches or more below the surface. Moderate-water plants may be ready for more water when the soil is dry an inch into the surface. You can dial in these moisture readings, soil depths, and watering schedule even more by learning more about that specific type of houseplant. The bottom line is that soil moisture sensors can tell you how wet or dry the soil is underneath the surface, something that isn’t always possible just by looking, and this helps tell you when and how much to water the houseplant.

How Much Do Soil Moisture Sensors Cost?

You can buy a basic sensor with reasonable accuracy for as little as $10-$20. If it’s got a digital display and a few bells and whistles, it might cost $20-$35. You will also find soil moisture sensors for hundreds of dollars. These systems are designs for outdoor plants and soil monitoring, often with some type of wireless/Bluetooth technology as part of remote and automated control of the irrigation system.

There is a huge range of technologies and products to choose from. You can find modular components for self-engineered solutions. You can find automated plant watering systems with drip irrigation that you can pair with a soil moisture sensor. Arguably, the next generation of soil moisture meters is built-in sensors for smart houseplants pots. In fact, some of these smart pots and built-in plant sensors are already available as recently featured on Smart Home Scout.

Better Houseplant Care

Some people take a carefree attitude about their houseplants at first and then discover a passion that leads them to more nuanced plant care. Some people use moisture meters to get a sense of how often to water the plant before letting habit and experience serve as their guide in the future. Yet, because these devices aren’t very expensive, it’s not a bad idea to have a soil moisture sensor just in case you need it.

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Why and What You Should Keep in a Houseplant Journal

If you really want to take your houseplant game to the next level, we recommend keeping a houseplant journal. This journal can create a record of houseplants, environments, care practices, and growth patterns. A different type of journal, you can also keep a personal journal inspired by sitting in front of your favorite houseplant. Maybe describe the qualities and changes you observe in your houseplants over time as a kind of meditative practice. You can include or not include any type of information you want, but for a fulsome record of your houseplant history, here is a full list of information you might include. 

Name and Plant Type: Feel free to add any other basic identifying information. 

Start Date: So you know when you first placed your houseplant.  

Start Size: Basic dimensions will help you track long-term growth. 

Source: Where the plant came from. This may help remind you to show someone how successful their gift plant became, or else track which local home and gardening stores tend to have the strongest plants. 

Soil: This includes notes about the type of soil that was used and amendments that have been added to the soil over time. It may also include notes about things to watch out for or soil additives that are scheduled for the future. 

Repotting and Repositioning: You probably don’t need documentation of a plant’s current pot and position in your home, but if you ever repot or reposition your houseplant, it’s a good idea to make a note of the original pot and position. This can help diagnose what’s different if your plant suddenly takes off or else starts to wither. 

Watering Schedule: If you have numerous plants, creating tips about watering each plant can help ensure you stick to the right watering schedule. A houseplant journal can be a great resource if you travel a lot and plan to have someone else look after your plants. Rather than trying to communicate the entire plant care schedule at once, you can simply leave your plant journal for the person to use as a reference.  

New Growth and Flowering: This includes notations about when and how the plant flowered, created new shoots, or increased notably in size. This type of information can be useful in determining when to repot and when to modify the plant’s watering schedule to maximize health and new growth.  

If creating a full plant journal sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, you can still track some of your most basic plant care needs on a notepad. Check out this Pinterest board of plant care notepads. 

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How to Take Houseplants Outside During Summer

As long as you know a few basic rules about how to take houseplants outside during summer, you can reliably include time outdoors as part of your seasonal houseplant care. Many plants will enjoy their time outside and redouble their growth, but there are a few considerations that must be followed to avoid hurting the plant. Learn the answers to the following questions and you should know how to take houseplants outside during the summer.

How Warm Does It Need to Be to Take Houseplants Outside?

Many houseplants will do fine as long as it doesn’t frost, but it’s still important to watch for a late frost—or an early one at the beginning of fall. Some houseplants that like warmer temperatures should only be outside if it’s going to stay above 50 degrees. True tropical plants may need temperatures that stay above 60 degrees. Unless you live in a warmer climate, you may need to watch out for cold snaps and tropical plants even in the middle of summer. If there’s any doubt, it only takes a minute to bring houseplants back inside for a night, even if you thought they were ready to be outside for the rest of the summer. At the same time, look out for warmer days at the end of spring. Houseplants will do best outside if given a chance to acclimate to its new surroundings. Put these plants outside for a few hours during warm spring afternoon in preparation for making a full-time transition.

What Types of Houseplants can You Take Outside During Summer?

Under the right conditions, almost any houseplant can be taken outside in the summer. We recommend moving only those houseplants that are healthy, hearty, and/or like lots of light exposure. If you have an outdoor spot like a large porch with deep, constant shade, then you may be able to successfully move even shade-loving houseplants outside. We wouldn’t risk it, however, at least not with one of our favorite low-light plants. A mostly shady spot outside is like the sunniest spot inside. Still, most types of plants can live outside in summer if you slowly transition the plant by gradually increasing how much time it spends outside.  

What Houseplants Should NOT Go Outside During Summer?

While most houseplants will enjoy and take advantage of their time outside, this is not a cure for an ailing houseplant. More likely, trying to take a plant with weak growth outside will be the final straw. Likewise, you do not need to be overly worried about bugs and pests attacking the plant outside—so long as it is healthy. Another potential problem is houseplants that are pot-bound. With more roots and less soil, a houseplant will need to be watered more frequently and with less room for error. A better plan is to repot and let the plant establish itself before trying to move it to a new spot.

How Do You Water Outdoor Houseplants During Summer?

Just like inside, houseplants can be seriously harmed by root rot in waterlogged soil. It’s every bit as important to use pots with drainage and not overwater. When it comes to different types of water for houseplants, rainwater is among the best choices. Unfortunately, it may do more harm than good, if it’s thick, pelting rain from a storm. Plus, most houseplants need some shelter anyway to protect them from several hours of direct sunlight. A better way to use rainwater is a rain barrel that can collect and store water. Even when not using rainwater, many people find it easier to water plants outside. Using a garden hose is a lot more efficient than a watering can. Just be sure to clear the water in the hose before hitting the plants; the initial burst of water can be scorching hot.

Have a Year-Round Plan for Your Houseplants

To sum up, your houseplants can benefit from spending the summer outside, but you and they need to be prepared. More than just the plants themselves, you may need to think about your home décor. Will there be eyesores created by empty spots where plants used to be? How do you fill these spaces knowing that the plants will return in a few months? Are you putting tropical, sun-loving plants outside with the plan to use indoor grow lights and air humidifiers during the winter? You need a year-round solution and seasonal care guide for houseplants. Taking houseplants outside is an opportunity to use your creative problem-solving. The good news is that there are lots of solid plans and strategies to care for indoor/outdoor houseplants.

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Professional Plant Stylists and Interior Designers

Houseplants aren’t as foolproof as they first seem. Trying to integrate pots and plants with the rest of your home decor while also cultivating strong and healthy plants is a talent. For some, it’s also a lifelong pursuit. That doesn’t mean you can’t get professional help. Some people love the look of houseplants but have limited time to plan, pot, and place plants throughout their living space. Some people are overwhelmed by the idea of knowing where to start with houseplants, while also packing and moving into a new living space. Plant stylists and interior designers are just the professionals you need to jumpstart your houseplants. 

Interior Design Services Offered by Plant Stylists 

Especially if you have some sense of your personal style and know how much time you can commit to plant care and maintenance, then a professional consultation may be all you need. Plant stylists are more common than you may suppose. It’s not just indoor houseplants, either. From universities to local plant stores, it’s often quite easy to find someone who will provide expert guidance on outdoor gardening plants.  

Some interior designers include houseplants as part of their specialty; other professionals focus exclusively on plants. Moreover, the available services from these professionals include a lot more than a quick chat about what is going to work best for your living space. Most plant stylists and designers can offer an inclusive package that takes care of each aspect of houseplant design and installation. This includes finding the plants, potting, delivery, placement, and care tips for each individual plant.  

How Much Do Plant Stylists Cost? 

It really just depends on what you’re looking for. The service package will also determine what the price quote looks like. If you’re just looking for a simple consultation, somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 per hour is to be expected, though you can probably find someone cheaper if they are attached to a university or local gardening community. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive design and installation package from a professional plant stylist and interior designer, it’s not uncommon to see costs of $2,000 or more.  

The Downsides of Hiring a Professional Plant Stylist 

The experience and cost of hiring a professional plant stylist isn’t for everybody. Even people with the means to hire this type of professional designer may prefer to do it themselves. Making your own stylistic choices, discovering which plants do and do not thrive in various spots, and caring for them season after season provide rewards that can’t replicated when delegating to a professional plant stylist. Plus, you don’t have to spend endless hours just trying to figure out what it is you’re supposed to know about plants. Houseplant Finder makes it easy to choose, find, pot, place, and care for your houseplants.  

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Houseplants vs Other Types of Gardening

Houseplants are different from other types of gardening in that they are almost always in some kind of pot or container. Houseplant gardening is basically container gardening with an emphasis on indoor plants—although there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor houseplants on porches, decks, patios, and in hanging baskets. It’s important to know about the differences between container and in-ground plants because they can have a big impact on how you care for houseplants vs other types of home gardening.

What Makes Houseplants Different from Other Types of Gardening?

The Plants

Many types of traditional and popular houseplants do better in pots, especially if it means they don’t have to face the hard winter freeze. That said, there are also many plants, like hydrangeas and violas, that are popular choices for outdoor container gardening. For houseplant arrangements or adjacent plants in your traditional garden bed, it’s also important to seek out combinations of plants that are companions not competitors.

The Location

In-ground plants are grown outdoors. Houseplants are mostly grown indoors, or at least they are brought inside during the winter. But that’s not the only difference. In-ground plants can become very low maintenance, but potted houseplants are easier to design and easier to control. Looking for the perfectly sized decoration in the corner of a porch, deck or patio? A potted plant is a great choice to match a specific location or decorating scheme. Looking to create a garden bed that will look good year-round? In-ground plants are surely your best bet. 

The Soil

The difference between topsoil and potting soil is a big one. You should always use topsoil for in-ground plants and potting soil for container plants. Topsoil is what we commonly think of as dirt. Even with sand but especially with clay-heavy dirt, the soil is much denser and retains water and nutrients better than potting soil. Topsoil will drown and suffocate most potted plants. Potting soil isn’t dirt so much as a combination of organic nutrients that give the plant easy access to nutrients and aerators (perlite) that keep the soil from retaining too much water. So, while there is usually no immediate risk or danger to using potting soil for in-ground plants, it won’t do as good of a job providing your in-ground plants with nutrients for the entire growing season. Read the label before buying. These different bags of soil are clearly marked on the packaging at most every home and gardening store.

Vulnerabilities: Some types of outdoor plants can successfully winter over by growing deep roots that reach warmer ground soil. This is not possible with pots or containers which invariably freeze outside in cold-season weather. Some types of plants, especially citrus trees, can survive the winter indoors under grow lights and then be placed outside in their pots during the warmer months. In contrast, pots and containers allow for more control over the soil’s composition. Weeding is a lot easier if it’s necessary at all. In fact, growing plants in containers will eliminate or greatly reduce all types of competitor plants. At the same time, you never have to worry about a sprawling plant invading nearby beds when it’s in a container. Fast-growing mint is a great choice for outdoor potted plants. 

Houseplants vs Other Types of Gardening

From pots and containers to traditional gardens to raised-bed planter boxes, there are several ways to build indoor and outdoor gardening areas throughout the home. Knowing how to choose plants and what to expect for maintenance and care is a huge part of houseplant and other types of gardening. Search for specific types of plants as part of creating your home gardening plan.