Houseplants make lovely additions to every home. Besides looking good, science says plants may improve air quality, can increase home humidity, and make us feel good. To have success with your houseplants, learn how they grow in their natural environment, then mimic that environment for them in your home. Most houseplants are tropical or subtropical, requiring temps of 55 degrees or above, some light, and humidity.
Plants require different light conditions. For instance, the Fiddle leaf Fig Ficus needs bright light and periodic turning as it leans towards the sunshine coming in through the window. Ferns do well near a window that receives morning or late afternoon sun, as this imitates the dappled light of the woodlands.
Most indoor plants do well with indirect, bright light. This can be achieved with a sheer curtain by a sunny window or filtered light with slatted shades. Sanseveria, Coffee Plant, Dracaena, Rubber Tree, and Pilea all enjoy indirect, bright light. Scorched or pale leaves are signs of too much light. If a variegated plant begins losing its variegation, this is also a sign of too much direct light.
Plants such as ZZ plant, Pothos, and Philodendron are tough enough to thrive in low light conditions. Flowering plants will not flower in low light conditions.
If you are planning on moving some of your houseplants outdoors for the summer, it is important to transition them out gradually. Giving them more time outside each day in a spot that is semi-sheltered from the sun. You don’t want to give them a sunburn! Philodendron easily adapt without much stress if you want to transition it outdoors. Most houseplants will appreciate part sun.
Overwatering can be more of an issue for houseplant parents than underwatering. A gardening rule of thumb is to water when the soil is dry to the touch just under the surface. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. No houseplant likes waterlogged roots so make sure your containers have drainage holes with saucers for overflow. Water the entire soil surface, moving foliage out of the way so you can avoid getting water on the leaves. You can bring the water to your plants in a watering can but if you have the ability to move your plant, we recommend bringing your plants to the water — either your sink or tub. This way you can give your plants a nice thorough watering, letting the water drain out the bottom.
Overwatering signs include wilting and yellow/brown leaves. The same signs can be from underwatering, only the soil is too dry versus too wet.
Ferns thrive with evenly moistened soil, without letting it dry out between watering. Low maintenance succulents like completely dry soil between drinks.
Houseplants on a bookshelf
Sanseveria and Spider plant raise away from a heat vent.
Calathea and Marantha are two plants that require higher humidity. Placing the pots on saucers full of pebbles filled with water or grouping them together increases humidity. Misting with tepid, distilled water will keep ferns content. Some plants enjoy a terrarium environment. Notice if your plant is too close to a vent or window. A plant may need more watering at one time of year versus another. Dropping leaves are a sign of stress from temperature extremes, drafts, and air flow.
Since houseplants are kept in containers, using a soilless blend specifically made for plants kept in containers is optimal. Soil in this area is dense and clay-like, retaining too much moisture for potted plants, not allowing enough oxygen for the roots in a contained space. Our Growing Place Choice Potting Mix is the same lightweight mix we use to grow our plants. It includes pine fines, coir, sphagnum peat moss, and perlite.
Before bringing a new houseplant into your home, or moving outdoor tropicals indoors for the winter, check the plant’s leaves, stem, and soil for pests. Bugs like to hitchhike and lay eggs in the soil. A forceful spray of water on the less delicate plants can help get them off the plant in a natural way. Once inside, you can keep new plants separated for a bit before grouping with others to avoid an indoor infestation. An insecticide like Espoma Organic Insect Control may be used for a long term solution. Always follow label instructions for use.
Monstera transplanted well into a larger pot.
Mini ZZ plant, Spider plant & Pothos lean towards the sunlight.
Trial and error is key when your houseplants are not thriving. The first thing to troubleshoot is water. Yellow leaves? Check to see if the soil is wet or dry. If it’s too wet, make sure there’s drainage. If your decorative pots don’t have drainage, try leaving your houseplant in its plastic pot so you can remove it to water.
If you think your plant needs more or less light most times you can move it to a different location. Keep in mind that some plants like Fiddle Leaf Figs are quite sensitive to being moved around a lot and will drop leaves when you do.
Even the best of us have some failures. Many of the staged photos you see on social media and print ads are not realistic, and most houseplants do not last forever. Here’s some currently residing in my collection.
Echeveria stretch and loose their cute florets where there isn’t enough light.
Traumatized Fiddle Leaf Fig promptly died after bringing it home.
The roots rotted away on this overwatered Aloe in a pot without drainage.
Let Plants Liven Up Your Indoor Space
With a little education and care knowledge, you can take your own insta-worthy houseplant photos. Spruce up a corner of your desktop with three mini plants. Frame your kitchen window or backdrop view on video calls with hanging houseplants.
We’re here to help! Did we miss a plant family? Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to give you some more detailed information.