As with every task, there’s tools for the job. Some are essential, while others simply serve the purpose of making life a bit easier (that’s always a plus!).
The tools you’ll need for indoor gardening will vary depending on the types of plants you’re growing. Some may need soil, others just a misting of water. Others you could be growing in water, or soil, or air plants attached to bark wood.
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Tools to Help You Care for Your House Plants
1 – Hand fork
You won’t need anything super strong for loosening, lifting and turning soil in houseplants, so forged steel tines aren’t a necessity. A small hard fork with strong enough tines will be good enough.
A nicety to have is comfortable grip handles since obviously, the comfier the grip, the more you’ll enjoy using it.
2 – Pruners
This is an essential tool you don’t want to skimp on because done with poor quality and weak bladed pruners, you’d find when you snip off the foliage, the stems get crushed and torn. Tears leave the plants open to bug infestations and various types of plant diseases. Whatever pruners you use, don’t let the blades get blunt.
A trusted go-to brand for long-lasting pruners are Fiskars (link goes to Amazon).
3 – Label Maker
This one’s optional, depending on how many plants you’re growing. Label makers are handy for keeping your plants organized, but another use for them is to label any spray bottles you have pre-made with insecticidal spray solutions, or other chemicals you may use on occasion so you know what’s what and the date it was mixed.
Someone who’s very keen on plant labeling is Matthew Schwartz of AnotherWorldTerraria.com.
One of the easier to use models is the Brother Label Manager 160 and even has clipart images for those who’d prefer to add symbols to the labels.
4 – Indoor Watering Can
Unless you’ve turned your spare room or garage into an indoor nursery for growing various types of plants, you won’t need a watering can with a three-gallon capacity.
Small novelty watering cans will do the trick and you can even use these to decorate your plant display with designs like a garden gnome watering can or an elephant watering can where the trunk’s the spout.
Want a tip to make sure your plants are watered right?
Get one with a long spout because that will help you get the water fed delicately right into the center of the plants, avoiding the water splashing off the leaves, which would only waste water.
5 – Wi-Fi Plant Sensor
This is not a must-have tool, unless you have a tendency to kill plants. In that case, this will be a super helper.
It’s one of those handy-to-have gadgets because a decent plant sensor can give you key facts about your plant type, monitor the temperatures, humidity and send alerts to your phone to keep you in check with the proper amount of light and the right temperature to keep the room at, as well as give you feeding guidelines.
If you have a knack for caring for plants, you don’t need this. If, on the other hand, you just can’t seem to keep plants alive, then you’ll probably find the sensors, alerts and growing guidance helpful, especially with those pricey plants that make your eyes water when they’re ill.
6 – Grow Tent
Use one of these to give your plants the best start to their new life as you possibly can. Small and compact, easy to erect and with a quality grow tent, you’ll get sturdy bars along the top suitable for attaching grow lights to, helping to give your plants plenty of light and the warmth they need to flourish.
7 – Fertilizers
For most plants, fertilizers work to help the plant grow. Now, unless you’re growing under grow lights to give your plant 12-hours of light daily, there’s a time to stop using fertilizer. That’s when the winter season rolls around because plants tend to stop growing naturally. They go into a hibernation period.
When they do…
Growth will be slow and it’s best to let the plants take that rest because the foliage that grows in the winter won’t be as colorful or healthy looking anyway.
When the plant starts to show signs of growth around early spring time, then encourage it by applying fertilizer. The type you use will be dependent on the plants you’re growing.
Take, for example, any plant grown indoors in soil. The plant can only get phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen from the soil and fertilizer. The other three things they need to grow are hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, which they get through air and water.
They need all six to be able to live and grow and fertilizer is the only way to make sure they do (in soil plants anyway). Air plants don’t need fertilizer, but it can be used once monthly to spur on propagation.
8 – Dehumidifier
Indoor grow areas aren’t necessarily going to be needing a dehumidifier. They’re particularly handy at controlling the moisture content in the air, but so too is ventilation and air conditioning.
If you have good ventilation and air conditioning, yet still struggle with high humidity, such as seeing mold grow on your plants, water-rot, or moisture related plant diseases becoming a nightmare to control, then you’ll likely want to get more control over the humidity in the room to bring the moisture content under control.
That’s when a dehumidifier helps indoor gardeners.
9 – Humidity Tray
Humidity trays are similar to using a plant stand, with one difference. You can line the tray with an inch to two inches of pebbles, water those and sit the plant pot on top of it. This way the plant isn’t sitting on the water, but resting on the pebbles.
This is what happens…
As the water evaporates from the pebbles, humidity levels increase. These are ideal for plants that need a medium to high level of humidity for ideal growth conditions.
The other thing these can be used for is arranging air plants. You’d just use the pebble base as a support for your air plants to attach to.
10 – Neem Oil
This is among the most impressive oils to get rid of plant pests and repel them. You can either put a few drops in the water when misting, or keep it stored to use if you ever do get a bug problem on any of your plants.
It’s an organic way to control plant pests and it’s among the best ways because it doesn’t harm your plants, repels bugs away from them and if you do have to treat a plant pest problem, it won’t kill any beneficial insects. I can be used it indoors and outdoors.
Best of all, Neem oil’s a multi-functional oil as you can use it on your skin to treat small cuts. It’s priced affordably too.
It’s always a good idea to keep a small supply of Neem oil on hand in case you need it for any of the reasons listed above.
11 – Heat Mats
All indoor plants are going to need heat to grow. The same applies to outdoor plants being brought in during the colder periods to keep them healthy.
The winter months in areas where the temperatures plummet during the night is when you need to guard against the dramatic temperature drops.
Two ways to do this is to use a grow light with sufficient heat beaming down on the plant. The other way that’s more obscure is to use a heat mat to heat the plant from below.
12 – Cotton Swabs and Rubbing Alcohol
This is a be-prepared supply and one that you probably already have on hand. The time to use this is if you come up against a mealybug infestation. On a plant, these look like teeny bits of cotton and can be found on the stems, leaves and the roots of plants.
The cotton like balls are actually bugs, just really slow-moving ones. To treat them, it’s best to dab cotton swabs that’s been dipped in a rubbing alcohol solution directly onto the insects to get rid of the ones you can see.
The ones that aren’t visible can be treated with a solution of one-part rubbing alcohol with seven-parts water in a spray bottle to mist the entire plant.
13 – Pot Base
For soil-based plants, there’s going to be a hole in the bottom of the plant pot to allow for excess water to drain preventing the plant from water-logging.
Using a pot base, you can catch the excess water and any soil that leaks through the hole in the base. You’ll be able to remove that as you need to for getting rid of the water, or reuse it as well as clean any escaped soil more easily.
These are ideal to keep your plant display aesthetically pleasing. Not a dirty mess.
If you have a lot of plants, it’ll be cheaper to buy a multi-pack of pot bases/pot saucers, but if you have a rather heavy house plant that sits on the floor, it may make things easier to use a rolling caddy with a drip tray instead.
14 – Plant Stand
There’s a wide range of plant stands available for the indoor gardener. Some are designed for single plant displays, with others suited to a collection of plants.
This is something you don’t need to shop in specialty plant stores for because you can get sturdy and quality stands from just about anywhere online.
These are the ideal option for rented accommodations as you don’t need to be installing shelving systems or hanging hooks around the home. With a plant stand, it’s just a case of set it up and use it.
No damage to the interiors, which means no holes in the walls and less worry about getting your deposit back.
15 – Moisture Sensor Meter
These take the guesswork out of watering your plants. What tends to happen is you’d judge the watering frequency based on how the top-soil feels to the touch.
This part can feel dry enough that it feels like the plant needs to be watered, but you can’t tell what the moisture is like deeper into the soil. The top-soil might be dry but the water content deeper into the rooting system can actually be fairly moist, so the plant won’t need to be watered.
It’s a cause of over-watering. Not knowing what the real moisture content is within the soil instead of just the top layer.
Instead, with a moisture sensor meter, you just pop that into the soil as deep as it’ll go and it will give a reading to indicate whether the plant needs to be watered or has sufficient moisture already.
Two tools let you do this. A sensor meter or a hygrometer. A hygrometer will only give you a moisture level reading, whereas this 3-in1 sensor meter lets you know your moisture level, amount of sunlight the plant is getting and the pH level.
16 – Gravel or Pebbles
For indoor plants, there should always be a drainage hole at the bottom of plant pots. The problem with these is the soil leakages rather than just the excess moisture.
A way around it is to use a broken piece of clay from another plant pot to place over the hole making sure it’s only the water escaping and not the soil. If you’re the careful type and haven’t smashed a plant pot, an alternative is to coat the base of a plant pot with a layer of gravel or pebbles to keep the soil contained.
An additional benefit to using gravel or pebbles is as the water evaporates from them, it’ll cause an increase in humidity levels helping to keep the temperature and relative humidity at good levels to encourage plant growth.
17 – Potting Soil
The type of soil to use will depend on the type of plants you’re growing. General all-purpose soil tends to work well with most indoor plants, with the exception of Orchids that need a more robust potting soil due to the higher level of moisture.
When first potting plants, a soil with a starter charge has enough fertilizer already in the mix to support the first few times of watering the plant, helping to spur on the initial growth. The other type of soil with fertilizer is slow release and will not need fertilizer added for about a month after potting.
Initially, potting soils have some fertilizer added to them, but they won’t last long, depending on whether it’s a starter charge type or slow release. In either case, a fertilizer is best added to soil plants – eventually.
As far as how often changing the soil goes, a good time to do that is when you’re repotting the plant. That will need to be done when the root system is compacted in the pot it’s in. To check, turn the plant on its side, place your hand over the top-soil and gently knock the base of the plant pot to loosen it and then get it out of the container.
If it’s compact and hardened, there’s a good chance it’s outgrown the pot it’s in. You don’t want to keep it there as the more compacted the root system is, the less oxygen there is circulating.
When that happens, increase the size of the plant pot. You can go as small as an inch wider, or around 4-inches larger. What not to do is go from a small pot to a massive one as that’s going to affect how much nutrients the plant gets.
Gradually increase the pot sizes based on the health of the root system so it can acclimatize through the growth stages without any drastic changes to the feeding and nourishment it’s used to.
18 – Soil Test Kit
For plants to grow strong and healthy, the soil needs to be just right. The only way to know it is balanced and good for nourishing your plants is to test it.
A good soil test kit will give you accurate readings of the pH levels, phosphorus content and the levels of potash within the soil.
19 – Spray Bottle/Mister
Not all plants need a good dowse of watering. Plenty are going to do just fine misted on occasion, with other types favoring a daily misting. It’s much easier just to have a dedicated mister for your plants.
For dedicated use, a trio of misters would let you have one for daily use, another only for using with fertilized water and the other on standby for any water you need to add any chemicals to, such as insecticides.
20 – Oscillating Fan
Indoor plants always do better with plenty of air circulation. An oscillating fan is just the thing to increase air flow around a room. Just don’t use one to direct the air right on the plants.
21 – Grow Lights
Depending on your grow climate, you may or may not have a need for grow lights. If your plants need a lot of sunlight and your home doesn’t have enough, it’s grow lights you’ll need to keep the plants healthy and growing.
Some plants need the grow lights for 12-hours daily so you’ll want to look for the cheapest running costs for these. Fluorescent lights or LED grow lights have the cheapest running costs.
When you’re buying grow lights, the description will have either a number of lumens or foot candles. The higher the number, the brighter the light. However, the brighter the light, the warmer the temperature and that’s where problems set in – The heat generated from lights can cause leaf burn and other problems for plants.
22 – A Trug
These are handy for storing all the tools you have to care for your plants, making it less of a hassle to find what you’re looking for.
Tools for Water Plants/Aqua Plants
To grow any type of water plant (aka aqua plants), there’s three essentials you’ll need.
- A water tank
- A pipe system
- An air pump
23 – Fertilizer (water-soluble)
Water plants will only get the nutrients they need through the fertilizer you use to feed it, so quality is important. It only needs to be used once every four to six weeks when you’re changing the water. In hotter climates, that may increase if some of the water in your water gardening system has evaporated.
All you need is a decent quality water-soluble fertilizer.
24 – Water Test Kit
All water test kits are going to let you know the pH levels of the water. It should be 7.0, although up to 7.8 can work for some plants. Generally though, the water should be neutral. Not too much acid nor alkaline.
In addition to the pH levels, certain kits will tell you more, such as the calcium levels, amounts of magnesium, chloride, sodium, or perhaps if boron is present in the water.
By using a good quality water testing kit, you’ll know when to change the water so there’s never any negative chemicals present to affect your plant’s health.
This is also important if you’re going to be growing plants in an aquarium with fish.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.