Long, trailing vines and big, lush leaves are the goals of any plant parent, but helping your pothos or philodendron flourish can sometimes feel like a bit of a challenge. A nutrient-rich soil and the occasional dose of fertilizer can work wonders—and you don’t even need to buy anything to give your greens that boost.
Danuelle Doswell and Mignon Hemsley, founders of plant subscription service Grounded, are big proponents of using what they have on hand to invigorate their plants, and they recently shared a tip on the brand’s Instagram feed that garnered lots of interest: Steep a banana peel in water, then pour that potassium-rich liquid into your houseplants to make your plants stronger and more resistant to pests.
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Hemsley first learned that bananas were a natural fertilizer from her grandmother and mom, who would put cut-up peels in their gardens. Eventually she started making banana water for her indoor plants. “I feel more comfortable putting things into my plants that I know are organic,” she says. “Plus I’m able to reuse and compost things that I’d otherwise throw away.”
But bananas aren’t the only thing that Doswell and Hemsley recommend using to help your plants grow stronger and faster. Here, they share a few more of their favorite DIY fertilizers, which can be used on any plant that you might water and fertilize regularly.
After brewing a cup of tea—a simple green or something herbal like mint or red raspberry—Doswell rinses off her tea bag and sets it on top of a plant’s soil to let in its nutrients (like nitrogen and phosphorus, which are found in many plant foods). She leaves the tea bag there and lets it dry out for about three days before composting it. “Plants like other plants—that’s what tea is,” she says. “As long as you avoid preservatives and artificial additives, you’ll be set.”
Hemsley also recommends using water from boiling potatoes—instead of draining it into the sink—as it is a great source of starch for houseplants and fosters healthy bacteria growth in their roots. Allow it to cool before pouring it in your planters, and avoid using water that’s been salted. And remember to give your plants a regular dose of hydration, too: “It’s not a substitute for water but an extra nutrient boost,” says Hemsley.
Calcium is a crucial nutrient for plants both indoor and out when it comes to both growth and chemical balance in soil. To make sure your greenery gets enough, Hemsley recommends crushing up eggshells and raking them smoothly through the soil before using it to repot an indoor plant or adding it to your outdoor garden. You can also use the water from hard-boiled eggs (as long as it’s not salted) the same way you would potato water. Soon enough, that pothos or basil plant will grow big and strong.
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