Adding a bit of greenery to your home can give your decor a natural boost and even help you relax and be more productive. Houseplants are also great at purifying the air in your home so you can breathe clean air … but only if you can keep them alive.
If you’ve had trouble with houseplants calling it quits on you in the past, don’t give up! You can learn to grow lush, healthy plants by learning the basics and understanding what an ailing plant is trying to tell you.
All plants need water, sunlight and nutrients to live and grow. The trick is knowing what proportion of each your particular plant needs. Assess your space and read the labels carefully to choose a plant that will do well in any room of your house.
Most houseplants receive relatively low light because they are almost never in direct sun for more than a few hours. For best results, keep houseplants in a bright rooms with southern exposure for best results. Otherwise, opt for plants that do well in low light.
Pro tip: Some plants like bright light but hate direct sun. For this tricky situation, choose a southern-facing room, but keep plants away from windows.
Most houseplants grow well in steadily warm temperatures of 65-75 degrees. Avoid keeping nearby windows open at night to keep plants from accidentally freezing in spring and fall, and keep plants away from heat registers to avoid baking them to a crisp.
Pro tip: Humidity is also important for many houseplants, so misting them when your furnace or A/C is on can help to keep them from drying out.
Watering can be tricky, because plants have different needs. You can forget about a cactus or aloe plant for months, but other plants need a steadier liquid diet. The label should point you in the right direction, but in general, it’s best to water when the top inch of soil is dry – you can test it by pressing your finger into the dirt up to your first knuckle to see how it feels. When it’s dry, add water until it runs out the drainage hole for a thorough soak.
Pro tip: Daily watering is too much for almost any plant to handle, so resist the temptation to kill your houseplant with kindness!
Potting soil isn’t terribly rich in nutrients, and eventually your plant will absorb all the soil has to give. Fertilizing helps feed your plant, but it’s only necessary when the plant is actively growing during the spring and summer. This is because most plants enter a dormant period as the days shorten after the fall equinox. A balanced fertilizer labeled 10-10-10 will work for just about any plant; follow the directions on the package for proper diluting and feeding schedules.
Pro tip: Too much food is just as bad for plants as it is for people, so don’t overfeed your plant with fertilizer.
Common Houseplant Problems
If your plant looks unwell, it’s trying to tell you something! Learn to read your houseplant’s symptoms to correct common problems:
- Wilting, Drooping or Shriveled Leaves: Your plant probably needs water.
- Yellow or Dropping Leaves: Your plant is getting too much water or the soil isn’t draining well.
- No Flowers: Your plant probably isn’t getting enough sunlight.
- Scorched Leaves: Your plant is getting too much sun, probably due to direct sunlight.
- Weak or Spindly Stems: Your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight.
- Brown Leaf Tips: Your plant has probably had too much fertilizer, or it’s too cold.
Once you know the problem with your plant, you can take steps to make it happy and healthy again. At first houseplants can require a bit of experimentation, but if you pay attention, you should figure out the perfect spot for it to thrive.