Sad boy holding dying plant
Kai Holub/Fulcrum.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Stop killing your plants!

Anyone who has ever owned a plant will probably recognize themselves in this image. Maybe you’re trying to add some life to your dorm room, or maybe you want to have something to take care of. Either way, you proudly display your new plant on the windowsill for a few weeks or even months.

And then suddenly, the plant dies. 

But what went wrong? Did you give it the wrong amount of light? Did you water it too often or not often enough? Was something wrong with the soil?

Colin Matassa from Robert Plante Greenhouses has some advice.

He started by listing some of the benefits of having plants at home, and some of the reasons people might like them, from air purification to being good for a person’s mental health.

Their greenhouse stocks a wide variety of plants, from two-inch pots to 15-foot tall trees.

“There’s obviously houseplants that are really easy to take care of. And then some that are a little bit more challenging. But there’s some for every skill level,” shared Matassa.

For beginners looking for low-maintenance plants, he recommends snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) and ZZ plants (Zanzibar Gem).

“You let them go really, really dry in between each watering. They can go pretty much anywhere in your house or your dorm or your apartment. They don’t need much light either, which is good for people who tend to forget or they don’t want to be bothered with watering it too often.”

Both options are also slow growers, meaning you probably won’t have to worry about finding a new pot for it until you’re finished with your degree. That’s another benefit, since you’ll avoid needing to transplant it.

Matassa notices that “people tend to think that when they get a new plant, they have to change the soil, change the pot, [or] go to a bigger pot. More often than not, you just end up hurting or killing the plant.” He says it’s best to leave the plant in the pot it came in, in some cases for multiple years.

His other top tip? Watch out for over-watering.

“Most houseplants like to dry out in between … people tend to overwater plants, which is not a good thing to do.”

Plants especially need less water in the winter because the soil takes longer to dry out than in the summer. Moisture meters are a good, but not necessary, tool to help with learning how often to water. 

For brave individuals, or if you already consider yourself a satisfactory plant parent, Matassa had a few recommendations for trickier plants, such as Calatheas. He also warned these plants — which are native to humid climates — will either require frequent misting or a humidifier nearby to survive dry Ottawa winters indoors.

Armed with this information, you should be ready to become a first-time plant parent. At Robert Plante Greenhouses, 15-20 minutes from downtown Ottawa, “you’re always going to find whatever you need … if it’s a small budget or huge plants, we have everything in between,” says Matassa.

If you know exactly what plant you’re looking for, you can also check out Facebook Marketplace for Ottawa locals selling their own plants for a discount.