New Green Pals
October 28, 2019 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I bought 4 small, unidentified houseplants from the grocery store. Can you help me identify them and figure out how to care for them? I'm trying to make a calendar to remind me when to water or rotate or fertilize. Thanks!

The past week I've just had them in a west-facing window, that gets several hours of filtered light through the trees, and several hours of reflected sun from the white house next door. Including root pictures in case they need to be repotted. All 4 plastic markers same the same thing: "Assorted Tropical Foliage, feed w mild liquid fertilizer, keep between 55f and 70f, filtered sun or partial shade". Here's the lineup (excuse the dog, she likes being in the way):

Plant 1 As you can see it's got some serious extraneous roots growing - should I replant in a wider pot? Or do those not need to be in the soil. Here's its underside

Plant 2. It's roots.

Plant 3. Roots again

Plant 4 The leaves are pretty thick and inflexible, and the stems are a reddish color. Rootsss

dog tax <3
posted by FirstMateKate to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Plant 1: I think this is an N'Joy Pothos. Pothos are pretty forgiving. They like to climb so you could stick a moss pole or something in the pot for those aerial roots to grab onto. But it's fine if you don't; those roots will just dry up and fall off and won't hurt it. You might want to put it in a slightly bigger pot than the little plastic one it came in.

Plant 2: Looks like a variety of dracaena to me. Maybe a Hawaiian Sunshine?

Plant 3: I think it's another dracaena... maybe the "Janet Craig Compacta" variety of dracaena fragrans. Those are very common (and easy to care for!).

Plant 4: Variegated Baby Rubber Plant, also called peperomia obtusifolia varigata. Also easy to care for!

Don't overwater them, which means to not water very frequently. Give them a good amount of water (like til water is coming out the drain holes at the bottom of the plant), then wait til the soil is dry before watering again. If you set a reminder to check the soil every week that's a good place to start. They may not need water that often. The size of the pot also affects how quickly they dry out: the soil in smaller pots dry out faster. I would repot them into slightly bigger pots than the little plastic kind they came in, but not much bigger. It's okay for them to be a little rootbound, and pots that are too big risk the soil never drying out fully and the roots rooting. But don't worry too much; these are all forgiving plants.

Probably don't fertilize more than once a month, and maybe less if it's heading into winter where you are. It's okay to not fertilize at all.

Yay plants! Congrats on your new friends. You'll get to know them soon and will feel more comfortable assessing what they need!
posted by aka burlap at 10:08 AM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Plant 1 is a N'joy Pothos. Pothos in general don't mind being a little constrained, but the roots coming out the bottom generally mean repot me. Give the plastic cup a squeeze, does it feel tight? Like too much foot in a shoe? That means repot. The little air roots are just what pothos do to spread, so if you wanted you could clip off a cutting including a air root and see if it can be propogated. repot into a larger but not too much larger pot, with drainage. Pothos can handle very low light, but as a varigated variety, if you put your n'joy into too low light it might get more green then white. They like to dry out a lot in between waterings, water it well so that water comes out the bottom and then just walk away. start feeling the top of the soil around day 5-6 and don't be surprised if it doesn't need water til day 10. BUT all houses are different and if yours is very dry he might need water sooner. Just use your judgement. Pothos are forgiving.

Plant 2 is a draceana! very nice one too. again, give a squeeze, if tight repot. They also don't like being too wet, but perhaps need more water then the pothos. So start feeling the soil but while you don't want to re-water the pothos until it's almost totally dry, maybe wait till dry-ish for the draceana.

I'm not sure about plant 3- possible also a draceana- plant 4 is a pepperomia but I'm not sure what type.

Plants 1-3 probably need lower light- low to medium while plant 4 if a pepperomia needs slightly higher light.

oh! Draceana can get brown tips if they aren't humid enough, so you might want to lightly mist them every other day if your house is dry.

Enjoy your new plants!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use an app called iNaturalist to help me identify mystery plants or bugs. It's surprisingly accurate!
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:58 PM on October 28, 2019

Yay! I love house plants. But am botanically ignorant; from your photos I feel like those are all pretty common, but I don't know the names.

After years of trial and error I invested in a few books to help identify the ones I brought home, and also to learn about different conditions / treatment they require. Turns out there can be a lot of variation, hm. (In the winter, my house is not humid or warm enough for many of them.) Here are a few titles that I've found helpful, but there are lots in this genre:

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Know-How for Keeping (Not Killing) More Than 160 Indoor Plants (ISBN 978-1580175692)

Practical houseplant book (9781465469212)

Good luck!
posted by onell at 7:16 AM on October 29, 2019

Best answer: I'm a reformed over-waterer. Heres some tips Ive picked up recently to avoid killing my pals. I've got several Pothos and Pepperomias, all doing well for past 6 months or so.

By all means set a calendar reminder to check your plants but don't water on a schedule, water when your pal needs it.

Ways to figure that out:

Stick a finger in the soil - I struggle with this one tbh, never feel that I can get my finger in far enough and some of my plants I could damage the leaves by pushing, so instead I use it as first pass - is the top dry? Is my plant one that needs to stay moist 2/3rds of the way through the pot or is it one that prefers to dry out further (Pothos and Pepperomias - yes they can dry out more).

So is it wet further than I can reach with a finger?

Stick a chopstick into the soil - Think dipstick. If it comes out wet, theres water deeper down.

While you're doing the finger/dipstick tests, take the nursery pot out of any decorative pot and take note of the weight of your pal. Take note of how it feels just after you've watered it. After a few weeks you'll be able to tell just from the weight what part of the watering cycle your pal is in.

A couple of things I learned I was doing wrong recently:

If repotting choose a pot that's bigger but not much bigger. A too large pot will retain too much water and make root rot more likely to happen. I was mistakenly thinking that giving a plant loads of room to grow into was a good thing, wrong!

I thought that not overwatering meant not giving your plant much water at once. I've since learned that not overwatering is actually about leaving the right amount of time between waterings. If you water little and often your plant may not develop a strong root system. Give it a good watering then let it get to the point where it needs more before watering well again.

If a plant gets sad or dies don't be put off, you learned something and can try again. Good luck and I hope they bring you great joy.
posted by Ness at 9:13 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

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