How to Stop Killing Your Plants, According to the Plant Doctor

updated May 24, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

If you think like me, buying an entire basil plant instead of a clamshell pack of leaves in the refrigerated section always seems like a good idea — brilliant, in fact. I’ll never run out of fresh basil! It will pay for itself! Pesto PRESTO. Despite my best intentions, though, none of these things ever pan out because the plant dies before I can reap a second harvest.

This isn’t just the case for fresh herbs, either. It’s the same story for every plant I’ve ever been brave enough to bring home. Blame it on my black thumb, but plant parenting is no joke. This is why I consulted Hilton Carter, aka the Plant Doctor, for some professional plant parenting assistance.

Here are his five best tips for keeping your kitchen plants the way you like them: alive.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

1. Make sure you have the right light.

Having the right light for the types of plants you have is of utmost importance. The direction your windows are facing and the kind of light that comes through those windows will dictate the type of plants you should have in that space. If your kitchen window is west-facing and gets bright direct sunlight in the afternoon, having ferns in the sill isn’t a good idea. For a spot like that you’d want cacti and succulents.

2. Get like-minded plants.

Getting plants that have the same care needs will help you stay on track with your watering and maintenance. This way, you just have to remember one set schedule versus a rotating one. For example, having only tropical plants (which should only be watered when the soil is dry) in your kitchen makes it so that you’ll only be watering those plants when the top two inches of soil are dry. Not sure how to tell? Stick your finger or a toothpick in the dirt. It’s like being a baker and testing out if a cake is done or not. If the toothpick comes out with little dirt on it, it’s time to water. If there’s dirt or mud on the toothpick, let the plant sit longer.

3. Know yourself.

Know the type of plant parent you are. If you tend to travel often or are a bit neglectful, don’t fill your home with finicky plants. Get plants that are low-maintenance like ZZ and snake plants. The more you know about the type of plant parent you can be, the more successful you (and your plants!) will be in the end.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

4. Set calendar reminders.

Remembering when to water can be hard — especially in the colder months when your plants don’t dry up as fast as they did in the warmer months. Setting reminders in your phone or on a calendar will really help you stay on track.

5. Name your plant friends.

Just like you name your pet cat, you should name your new plant. They are a part of the family now and once you name it, you claim ownership of that plant. If your plant has a name, you’re more likely to care about its well-being.

More on Plants in the Kitchen

Do you have any of your own tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!