Top 10 Tips for Caring for Houseplants
Caring for houseplants doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out the ten things houseplants need to be healthy and happy.
Proper Watering for Houseplants
Water is essential for a plant’s health. However, overwatering and underwatering cause the health of the plant to suffer. Plants have different water needs. Your plant’s behavior indicates a lack of water or a need for water.
If the plant’s leaves droop or lack fullness, this sign points to underwatering. Whereas wilting, yellowing, and dying leaves show overwatering.
Watering plants generally fall under three basic instructions. These instructions include:
- Watering the soil thoroughly, then allowing the soil to dry completely.
- Watering the soil thoroughly, then allowing the soil to dry slightly. The top of the soil is dry but about an inch down remains damp.
- Keep the soil moist. The top of the soil remains damp at all times.
Always research a plant’s watering needs to know how much water they require.
Amount of Light Needed
Light is just as important as water. Too much light burns a plant’s leaves, and too little light stunts a plant’s growth. Luckily, all kinds of indoor light sources, natural light, filtered light, fluorescent, and incandescent, aid in providing enough energy for a plant’s photosynthesis process.
As with water, plants usually fall into one of these three needs for light.
- Full direct natural sunlight
- Parial sunlight (50% direct sunlight)
- Indirect or filtered light (almost no direct sunlight)
When purchasing plants, be aware of what light is available in your home. If you do not have direct sunlight, avoid buying plants that require this kind of light. Flowering plants need more direct light than full foliage plants.
Proper Drainage and Soil for Indoor Plants
Indoor plants require potting soil that is loose and airy. Loose and airy soil allows the roots to spread and exchange gas easily.
The soil also must retain moisture. Retaining moisture allows the plant to maintain appropriate water levels in between waterings.
Commercial potting mixes designed specifically for indoor plants are the best option. Do not use topsoil. The dirt clumps together, preventing roots from spreading and gathering the necessary nutrients.
Plants need adequate drainage. Drainage allows the water not used by the plant to escape. Without this means of escape, the water sits around the roots, causing decay. This decay leads to root rot and plant death.
Always choose pots with drainage holes. Having a drainage hole reduces the chance of overwatering. Some pots have a drainage hole and a saucer, either attached or separate. Once a plant is watered and allowed to drain, empty the saucer to ensure your plant doesn’t sit in standing water.
Ideal Temperatures for Houseplants
Houseplants are sensitive to subtle temperature changes. A plant sitting in front of a window receives warmth in the afternoon but cool temperatures in the evening. Houseplants usually do best in the 50º-85ºF range.
Also, do not place plants in drafty locations or near air vents. These vents blow either warm or cool air onto the plants causing changes in temperatures. They also contribute to plants drying out faster than expected.
Need for Humidity
Humidity is the moisture present in the air. During the summer months, humidity is higher than in other months. However, in the winter months, humidity drops significantly. Here are a few ways to increase humidity for houseplants:
- misting the foliage
- using a humidifier
- placing plants in the bathroom as you shower
Repotting Indoor Plants
As plants grow, they become too big for their current pot. Repotting becomes necessary. If you are unsure a plant needs repotting, check its roots. If the roots look crowded, it’s time to repot.
A good rule of thumb is to place the plant in a pot one size bigger than the current one. Sizing up slightly allows enough room for the roots to grow yet doesn’t give too much space where the roots have to search for water.
Pruning and Deadheading
Pruning houseplants allows them to grow fuller and keeps them healthy. Always snip off dead or dying leaves. Plants put a lot of energy into these damaged areas to heal them. When you cut them off, you allow the plant to divert the energy to the other parts of the plant.
Use pruning as a means to reduce overcrowding of leaves. Leaves that crowd together reduce the airflow creating an unhealthy environment for the plant.
Pruning leggy plants allows them to grow back more compact and produce offshoots. When pruning to reduce the leggy appearance, a good rule of thumb is to leave a couple of nodes (where the leaf and the stem meet) where new leaves form.
Always use sharp scissors or hand pruners when pruning your houseplants. The sharpness ensures minimal damage to the plant.
Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant. Once the flowers die, pinch them off the plant. Deadheading keeps the plant looking pleasant and allows the plant to spend energy on producing more flowers.
Pests and Diseases
Pests are usually not an issue with indoor plants. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some to look out for. The most common pests are aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, mites, and scale. Keep an insecticidal soap on hand in case you spot any of these critters.
As with pests, diseases in houseplants are rare. The most prevalent diseases are associated with excess moisture and poor air circulation. These diseases are downy mildew, powdery mildew, and botrytis.
All plants require nutrients to stay strong and healthy. Fertilizer provides plants with three macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Fertilizer for houseplants comes in several different forms. Slow-release fertilizers are tiny beads and are placed on the soil. These beads dissolve over time.
Liquid fertilizers are applied when watering. These fertilizers are diluted with water and poured into the plant’s soil.
Granular fertilizers are mixed into the potting soil when the plant is potted.
Dusting Your Houseplants
Dusting is the last and an important step in caring for houseplants. Just like furniture, houseplants collect dust on their leaves. This dust creates a coating over the pores in the leaves, making it difficult to get the oxygen needed for optimal health. It also blocks sunlight reducing the ability to photosynthesize.
There are several ways to dust plants. Use a damp cloth to wipe down each leaf. Use a small paintbrush to brush off tiny leaves. Rinse the plants in the shower when it is time to water. In the summertime, let the plants sit in the rain at watering time.
Do not use the plant shine products available in stores. These sprays contain waxes and oils that coat the leaves, creating the same issues that dust causes.
Guide for Houseplants
We created a guide of the needs of various houseplants. Each houseplant is listed with its common name, Latin name, watering and lighting needs, and ease of care.
Printable version here!
Now that you have the top ten tips for caring for your houseplants, we hope you have great success with your indoor garden. Happy growing!
Other Related Articles
Top 10 Tips for Caring for Houseplants
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
I’ve always loved gardening and recently started gardening full-time. I also enjoy tending to our chickens, dogs, and other family pets (a bird, a snake, and rabbits).