Pandemic Plants—How to Care For Houseplants When Returning to Work

When the world turned upside down and we were doing our part by staying home, some of us filled our spaces with houseplants to bring a bit (or a lot) of the outside world inside. We appreciate the plants that made us smile, created lush, green backdrops for countless zoom meetings, and even purified our air during the bleakest of times. As the world slowly crawls its way back to an upright, normal position, and we return to our in-office jobs, there are ways to ensure your houseplants thrive, even if you aren’t around all day to care for them.

Read the Leaves

First things first, consult your plants–they’re trying to tell you something! While our plants don’t actually talk to us, they do communicate their needs in their own leafy language. If you look closely at your plant’s leaves, you should be able to tell if you are over or under watering. If your plant’s foliage is beginning to droop, it might be time to put down the watering can for a bit and give your plant a chance to dry out. If the tips of its leaves are beginning to brown, this is not a sign of drought, but actually another sign of over watering. That said, if the stems are brittle, this is a sign of under watering, which means you might want to dust off the old watering can after all. You can also tell if your plant is getting too much, or too little sunlight by the look of its leaves. If they seem bleached or discolored, you should pick a new spot that is better suited for your houseplant’s needs.


Thrives on Neglect

Many houseplants, like the ZZ Plant or the Snake Plant, thrive on neglect and will often be advertised this way. While some people may forget their plants entirely, leaving them to shrivel up on that one high shelf, others tend to over water them, which hurts more than it helps. So, if you already have any of these low-maintenance plants in your home, or you were hesitant to buy a houseplant knowing you’d be going back to work, don’t fret! You don’t have to miss out on the houseplant paloooza.


So maybe your houseplant doesn’t thrive on neglect. Maybe it thrives on love and care. We’ve got you covered, too! With a self-watering system, you can ensure your plants are watered, even when you aren’t home. There are things you can purchase that will water your plants for you, like simple self-watering terracotta spikes, or slightly less simple IV-Fluid-style self-watering drip bags.  But, if you’re looking for a quick fix, you can accomplish a DIY self-watering system with some yarn and water. Here’s how this method works—place a jug of water next to your plant, put one end of the rope in the water and the other end in your plant’s soil. The water will make its way up the rope and to your plant. This method is particularly useful because your plant knows how much water it needs, and won’t overwater itself.

Pruning is Prudent

If you have some spare time, try to cut off all of the dry and dead leaves that might still be clinging to your otherwise healthy plant. Dead leaves can carry diseases that will infect your entire plant, no matter how much love, water and sunlight you give it. Trimming the dead foliage makes sure your plant is giving all of its time and energy to the leaves that still have life in them!

Plant Reminders

There’s an app for any and everything these days, even ones to help keep your plants alive! Acting as a schedule, these apps send you reminders to water your plants. If apps aren’t your thing, consider a colorful sticky note on your door that reads something along the lines of “Hey, you! Don’t forget to water your plants today!” With our busy schedules, sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge to remind us our plants are thirsty.


Last Resort

So, you sought out the plants labeled “Thrives on neglect,” tried a self-watering method, pruned your plants when needed, and even stuck endless orange sticky notes around your house as a reminder to water your plants, but they still didn’t make it? Maybe the solution to your problem isn’t any plant hack or friendly reminder. Maybe you just need to opt for the forgiving and just-as-lovely Air Plant! Air plants look especially nice in a glass terrarium or nestled in a hanging basket. Because this plant doesn’t need to be placed in soil or have a rigorous watering schedule, we’d be very impressed if you couldn’t keep it alive. It’s an Air Plant–if you’ve got plenty of air, but don’t have a green thumb just yet, this is the perfect fit for you!


Your plants understand that you have things to do and places to be. While you’re out there, getting back into the groove of normal life, don’t forget to water yourself, too! Our plants may thrive on neglect, but we do not. If you give these tips a shot, your houseplants will surely be there for you when you get home.

Visit Patuxent Nursery today to see our selection of houseplants!