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Plants 101: How to pick the right plant for you!

Has this happened to you? You found a plant you had to have, and after a few weeks in your care, it went from lively and colorful to wilted and brown? You’re definitely not alone! People will often choose plants based solely on how they look or how they think they’ll look in their collection, but don’t consider what that plant needs to thrive, which results in plants that very quickly go from cute to sad in a matter of weeks at home. At The Other Side Nursery, we want to help you choose a plant that’ll thrive in your collection, so check out the tips below on what to consider before you buy!


Is it Pet Safe?

If you have pets, this is definitely something to think about when choosing your plants. Especially if you have very curious cats or dogs who love to chew on everything. When it comes to plants, pet safe can mean a few different things: Pet Safe for Dogs & Cats

Plants that are safe for dogs & cats doesn’t mean they can graze on your leafy decorations as they please without issue--it simply means that they’re non-toxic to your furry friends. If they should happen to help themselves to one of these plants, the outcome will be some digestive upset, but it’s not expected to be life-threatening. Pet Safe for Terrariums

For you reptile & amphibian lovers out there, it’s important when adding live plants to your pet’s enclosure that you choose ones that are safe for your scaly or slimy friends. While most reptiles and amphibians won’t eat the plants, a broken branch may cause eye or skin irritation, or the sap could be toxic. Even though plants may be listed as terrarium-safe, we recommend researching for your specific pet to make sure the plants are suitable for eating (if you have an herbivore or omnivore) or that they won’t cause any other issues. Pet Safe for Aquariums Adding live plants to your fish tank is a great way to add decoration, filtration, and even a food source for your aquatic pets! When choosing aquarium-friendly plants, you’ll want to be sure that they’re compatible with your fish (if they’re plant-eaters), substrate, light source, and pH levels. Placement is also important, as some plants can be completely submerged, while others can only have the roots underwater. All aquarium-safe plants we carry are marginal, meaning that only the roots can be submerged.


Lighting and Placement

When choosing the right plant for your home, you’ll want to consider where it’ll be kept, and if that will be an adequate light source for the type of plant you want.


While all plants need some type of light for photosynthesis (basically making their own food), some plants need very bright, powerful sunlight conditions, and others that do well with indirect light. Some plants need as much light as possible, while others may only need light a few hours a day.


Direct light

While there are a few instances where this can happen indoors, most plants who need direct sunlight would be best kept outdoors. Partial direct light

These plants should be somewhere outdoors that only gets direct light for a few hours, but not the whole day.


Indirect light

Plants who require indirect light, partial indirect or full shade tend to thrive indoors. Indirect light simply means that the light passes through something (window shade, tree leaves, etc.) before getting to the plant.



The Right Pot

Our plants ship with their roots bare, so it’s important to have the right pot ready to go before it arrives.


For starters, you’ll want to make sure the vessel has some type of drainage. The excess water needs somewhere to go, or else you increase the plant’s chances of getting root rot.


Many pots will come with holes in the bottom, and you can also add extra rocks underneath your potting media to help with drainage.


Another important aspect of a pot is the size. Generally, you’ll want the pot's diameter to be two inches larger than the size of the pot it was grown in. This will give the roots of your new plant plenty of room to grow!



Water Source

Sure, all plants need water, but did you know that the minerals in the water can affect how well your plant thrives?


It’s important to know your tap water’s total dissolved solids count, TDS. Too high of a mineral count can kill your plants, so you can use distilled or reverse osmosis, RO, water when in doubt.


Distilled water can be found nearly everywhere bottled water is sold, and often you can find RO water at pet shops that specialize in saltwater aquariums. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have soft tap water, which is great for plants! If you’re unsure, TDS meters are relatively inexpensive and can be found online!


Soil

Choosing the right soil depends on the plant you’re bringing home.


Some plants will need a potting media that holds onto moisture, almost like a sponge, while others will need a fast-draining media to keep them reasonably dry (looking at you, succulents!).


All potting soil is not the same, so be sure to check our recommendation in your plant’s description as well as the bag of potting media!


Time of Year

One thing you may notice in our descriptions is Dormancy Period. Nearly all plants have a dormancy period, even if they’re grown indoors. It’s their natural defense mechanism against the elements--growth slows down when they’re in a climate with parts of the year that aren’t great for growth such as winter or dry seasons.


You may be alarmed to see some of your plant’s leaves are turning brown or falling off, but if it’s during the plant’s dormancy period, don’t fret! The roots are still alive and healthy, so water them less frequently, and when spring comes around, give them some indirect light to encourage new growth. Not sure if your plant is dormant or dying? Send us a picture! We’d be happy to help.


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We hope you found this useful in your plant-buying decisions, and if you have any questions about plant care, please don’t hesitate to reach out--it’s what we’re here for! If you liked this article and want to see more, comment below what other plant care tips you want to learn about!