Today’s post is actually one that has been on my ‘blogposts to write‘ lists for longer than I care to admit! It’s something I speak about in ‘real life’ quite a bit, but I figured it would make sense to compile a top 10 list of the things I recommend to new houseplant lovers — a ‘houseplant starter kit’ if you will.
The bits + bobs I use for planty tasks is one of the most commonly asked questions here at H P H, so you’ll be able to see what I use in more detail, but also why I recommend them. These items also make for good ideas for gifts if you are looking for inspiration for what to buy a houseplant lover. I’ve flagged up potential thrifted alternatives where possible because I don’t think plant care has to cost the earth. I hope you enjoy!
1. Watering Can
An obvious one to start, but if you’ve only recently got into plants, you might have taken to watering them with anything you have hanging around the house… a cup, a juice bottle, I’ve even seen someone trying to water their plants with a vase…! I’m not here to judge, but I will say that getting a good watering can for your houseplants can make the process of watering an infinitely more enjoyable experience + makes much less mess than some of the potential alternatives (+ keep the wide topped vase for a bunch of flowers!).
I have a few vintage cans which I love, but also vessels that look like watering cans (turns out one of them was a tea pot!) + some newer acquisitions too. Last Christmas my friend Brad got me a lovely HAWS ‘Fazeley flow’ one pint zinc can which is very lightweight + has a really good spout! It also comes in copper + a larger two pint version that I have lined up as a present for someone who has a quite a few houseplants that a larger one would suit better. I have two ‘classic‘ H P H watering cans which you will recognise from my photos if you have read my blog for a while , a yellow one + a green one. These are also by HAWS + are called the Langley Sprinkler (not sponsored, I’m just a loyal, paying customer) + are recyclable. I like that they have a removable rose if you want a more direct flow. My yellow watering can is quite old + battered now but I still love it, even though I lost the rose last year in very windy conditions because it rolled off the balcony when I was watering, never to be seen again. I’m pretty sure my neighbours had a chuckle at me on my hands + knees in the car park trying to peer under cars to find it (the apartment block was a bit like Hitchcock’s Rear Window!).
These watering cans might be more diminutive in size, but I personally prefer using them for my houseplants because it allows me to monitor my watering more easily (great if you are an over waterer!). I have a lot of hanging plants which I can reach by standing on a chair + these cans are not cumbersome or heavy. In terms of re-filling them during the watering process, a few days before watering, I will fill up a couple of large bottles of water + leave them sit for a day or two to bring them up to room temperature (the water is freezing straight from the tap here!). I’ll have these to hand in the room I am watering in so that I’m not traipsing back + fore to the sink. Easy.
If you are looking for vintage watering cans, keep an eye out for rusting inside + check to see if there is a rose attached — many don’t come with one as they have likely been lost over the years + don’t feel bad about asking to test how it pours. Whilst they might look nice, leaky, drippy watering cans are a waste of time if you are wanting to do more than display them. For this reason, I prefer buying these in person + not online. Don’t be surprised to pay upwards of £25 for an old metal one in good condition — they aren’t the cheapest bit of kit, but SO much nicer than those big green plastic ones from garden centres… plus they will last forever. Keep a look out for smaller styles which are more suited to indoor gardening.
2. Humidity monitor
This is a piece of kit that I have had for years. I originally got it to monitor the humidity + temperature fluctuations in my old apartment because of a damp problem… but turns out it’s great to gain a better understanding about how your home behaves for your houseplants too. I’ve got two so that I can keep a check on a room that gets very cold here at night + also the room where most of my plants are. It records the highest + lowest temperatures + the humidity too. I wouldn’t be without this.
If you struggle with getting houseplant watering right, I’d really recommend getting a hygrometer to check the moisture of your pots to ensure you aren’t overwatering, here’s the one I use. I’ve had mine for a quite a few years, but I’m noticing that these have become more widely available recently. This is a good one to give as a present to sporadic waterers or new plant lovers! Yes, you can stick your finger in the soil, but for beginners, it can take a while to know what the right sort of moisture-levels are, so doing this in combination with a moisture meter means you will be able to teach yourself! With practice, you’ll become more confident in gauging what’s ‘normal’ for your plants at different times of year (this is particularly important during seasonal shifts) + really knowing when to pick up (or put down) the watering can.
4. Pressure Sprayer
Cleaning the leaves of your plants is a part of plant care that I actually quite enjoy! Moving to an area where the water is hard has encouraged me to slow down with this part of my plant care routine because the leaves really do need a good wipe down to avoid those unattractive water marks. I find a pressure sprayer (linked here) on my larger plants is just as effective when I can’t carry them upstairs to the bath!
I’ve spoken about this in some of my other posts, but it’s really important to keep your foliage plants free from dust. There are some leaf cleaning tips detailed in my Instagram post below, click through to see a video of how I clean my big monstera:
5. Drip Trays
I am always looking for drip trays here at H P H + I am definitely guilty of popping them underneath some pots to water from below, then forgetting where I’ve put them! Drip trays are a hardworking part of a houseplant starter kit + something that I reach for all the time. I have a range of sizes + they last forever — I have some of my grandpa’s trays that I remember him using when I was younger. In winter, I will water from below + leave these trays on the kitchen table while the plants soak up what they need. I like ones with a lip as I find them more robust (I’ll link an example here).
If you have any cache pots the your nursery pot sits a bit low in, adding a drip tray can help raise it up a little. Also, for planters made from natural materials like rattan, lining the base with a drip tray will help to keep the planter completely dry. This is a good idea because these sorts of pots can get really brittle + weakened from repeatedly getting damp then drying out.
A quick note here to say that if you are an outdoor gardener too, it’s a good idea to keep your indoor trays separate from the ones you might use for your pots outside. This is to prevent any potential contamination or pest problems from your outdoor plants coming inside. Keep the trays clean + dry between use to keep them at their best.
An alternative option here is to use old plates. You might not get large enough sizes if you have more mature plants, but for small + medium sized pots, they are a great option + can be more affordable than drip trays. I’ve shown my thrifted plates on here before, but as a thrifting obsessive, I will often pick up those large platter plates as watering trays, or if any of my kitchenware gets a chip in it, I’ll re-cycle them into watering plates or drip trays. If you are into second hand shopping, here’s a post I put together you might like to read: An ode to thrifting — my collection of vintage homewares for houseplants.
6. Plant supports
Having a few plant supports in your ‘plant care stash‘ is a good idea (along with a couple of spare pots) because lets face it, shopping for these types of supplies is nowhere near as fun as shopping for plants! Every few months, I like to make a dedicated list of any specific sizes of planters or supports that I need so that when I am shopping, I don’t get completely overwhelmed by the choice + end up buying the wrong thing. Also, when ‘out of season’, a good choice of stakes can be hard to find, so if you see a style you like come Spring, stock up on a few that are versatile for the type of plants you have. For U shaped supports, have a look here, + here are two options for coco coir poles: here’s the link to one and there’s another here. I can never find these in my nursery when I need them! Keep a look out in salvage yards + junk shops for interesting things that could be repurposed as plant supports. You can sometimes find a unique trellis or interesting wrought iron stake if you are lucky!
If you want to see these plant supports ‘in action’ I’ve got a blogpost here: How to train your monstera around a support.
7. Freestanding shelves
As your plant collection grows, you might find you are running out of space to display them! In my previous apartment, I had lovely old sash windows but no windowsills. I also wasn’t allowed to drill any holes into the walls, so when I inevitably ran out of room for plants on my furniture + my desk basically began to resemble a potting bench, I knew I needed a better solution. Enter the IKEA HYLLIS shelf (alternative link here with more shipping options).
Since moving, I must say I am missing this shelf a lot! It seemed to swallow up plants + also look good. There was enough space between the shelves to accommodate a range of plants with ease…my mum has since adopted + put to good use in her greenhouse for bulb planting / seed sowing prep. In the last plant count before moving, I think I had around 25 plants on this seemingly small shelving unit, so if your plant collection has grown a bit over the last few months, I’d recommend parting with £10 + getting a HYLLIS in your life! (*not an AD, just my opinion!).
For a thrifted option, keep a look out for old bookshelves which can be super affordable + those ever-popular retro bent cane freestanding shelves are a great alternative. Instagram has made this type of furniture especially popular over the last few years, so if you find one in a second hand store at a good price + are deliberating it, I’d snap it up before someone else does!
8. Grow lights
Grow lights are a piece of houseplant kit I get asked about all the time. If you are blessed with large windows + plenty of year-round sunshine, that’s great. But most homes could do with a helping hand when it comes to the winter months + ensuring there is sufficient light for your growing houseplant collection is an aspect to seriously consider. Good lighting can really help to reduce some of the stresses of cold-season plant care, when temperatures drop + light levels decrease. Things have moved on a lot in terms of technology + with the increase in popularity of houseplants, supplementary lighting options can be as straightforward or as complicated as you like. I’ve been using grow lights for a little over two years + by switching out a few bulbs + investing in a few affordable task lamps, my plants have really been appreciating it (this winter in particular) in this very dark cottage.
I’ve got a blogpost on grow lights for happy houseplants here, where I’ve linked what I use + some alternatives too.
9. DIY Plant stands
Another of my favourite topics is houseplant styling + display. As well as building up a nice collection of plants, choosing how to show them off + knowing what makes them their look their best is an enjoyable part of keeping plants. I really don’t think plants should be thought of as ‘decor items’ at all (they are living breathing things + not ‘props’) but you can still have fun playing around with how they are displayed. ‘Plant styling’ can be deemed an expensive aspect of this hobby, but this doesn’t have to be the case. I’ve always found you can spend as much or as little as your budget allows but something I would always suggest is thrifting for things that can be turned into DIY plant stands.
Here are some of my favourites to give you some ideas + inspiration:
- Look for side tables, or ‘nests of tables’ in charity shops that could be transformed into plant stands. They are generally good sizes for plant stands.
- OLD CHAIRS are perhaps my signature ‘H P H plant display’ style. Quite a few of you have sent me photos of your finds after being inspired by my stacked ercol chairs or mini school chairs that you’ve scored second hand. Smaller chairs can have the effect of turned leg planters when you just want to raise your plant up a little bit. The good thing about chairs is that they are easily moveable. I love industrial style stools + you can often adjust the height of these too.
- Of course there are actual old plant stands that sometimes crop up, but I don’t see them as often. Those beautiful mid-century teak planters are always something I look out for but can be pricey. There’s also that wrought iron outdoor staging that can be cleaned up (+ painted?) to look quite spectacular in the right space!
- Rattan baskets (post here) make for great planters that looks extra fancy when elevated on a side table + keep a look in thrift stores or online for wastepaper baskets which you can generally pick up for a few pounds.
In short, get creative + think about how you could re-purpose these sorts of items for plant display. They will cost a fraction of the price of shop bought designs + I think they can add personality to a space. There are more ideas over on my thrifting post.
10. Plant ties
Lastly, if you like plants with an upright growth habit, plant ties will be your friend. They keep things tidy + can help to stop your monstera sprawling out all over the place! There are loads of types that work for different plants but out of them all, these are my favourite type. These rolls can be cut to size + are a great all rounder + they are very gentle for your stems.
For a homemade approach, you can also cut up old tights/ hosiery! I have a fondness for this method because my nan used to cut up her laddered ‘pop socks’ (natural coloured knee high hosiery she’d wear underneath a skirt) for grandpa to use in the greenhouse. They’d be kept in a container ready for runner bean season!
*In my plant care kit I have a few options here depending on the plant: soft ties are thicker with a wire core for flexibility, regular (thin) plant wire is always useful (especially for more delicate stems), I sometimes use these elasticated bands with ‘arrows’ on I got at a stationers + these are the velcro ones I mentioned earlier.
So there we have it, my top 10 picks for a houseplant starter kit. I hope you enjoyed this post + please feel free to save it, or share with anyone who might enjoy it.
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*Affiliate links are used in the post which means I can receive a (very) small amount of commission if you make a purchase — thank you for supporting my blog. I often get asked where I get specific items from so have linked these here. I have bought all these products with my own money.