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Keeping a plant alive requires care
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. -- They sit on grocery or home-improvement store shelves, waiting for someone to nurture them. But a worse fate could lie ahead -- too small pots, too little sunlight or the worst of all, over-watering.
That's what a common houseplant can endure given an owner who knows little to nothing about plant care.
"I think people buy things on a whim," said Kate Hogan author of "37 Houseplants Even You Can't Kill." "They look at those beautiful flowers and think 'that would look so beautiful on my sideboard.' But they're not looking ahead to a week from then."
It's easy enough to turn your thumb -- and home -- green. It just requires a little know-how, the right kind of plant and proper care. These steps will help stop even the most clueless gardener from becoming a plant killer.
Location, location, location
Instead of perusing a plant shelf and picking the first leafy item that catches the eye, plant experts recommend first identifying where the plant will live.
"Once you identify a location, you can figure out how much sunlight the plant will need," said Mike Gettler, Merchandising Vice President Nursery and Outdoor Fashion for Lowe's.
It's also important to pick plants that will thrive in your environment, be that a dry desert climate or a low-lit apartment, said Marie Iannotti, About.com Guide to Gardening.
Researching plant varieties beforehand is advisable, but reading the plants' labels in the store is another option. Once at the store, pick a plant that already looks healthy.
"You don't want to buy a plant that is sick or has dropping leaves before you get it out of the store," Hogan said.
Watch the water
After taking the plant home, the next step is to examine the pot. A pot with little drainage can be a death sentence -- especially combined with over-watering.
"You'd essentially be suffocating the plant," said Darin A. Pines, Director and Chief Operations Officer for U.S. Farms, Inc. "Just make sure the pot has drain holes in it."
Another way to avoid over-watering is to test the plant's tolerance, said Mike DuVall, senior live good merchant at Lowe's. Measure out the water used to water the plant and then measure the runoff that leaves the plant.
"Everyone wants to over-water and that is the death note for most house plants," DuVall said.
Set the stage
Finally, Hogan recommends keeping plant care easy by grouping plants together on a tray for convenient access.
"People want some pretty greenery in their home but most people don't want to spent a lot of time taking care of them," Hogan said. "The more you have things well set up the more likely you are to take care of the plants."