10 Ways to Keep Your Houseplants Healthy and Alive

Updated on April 22, 2019
lindacee profile image

Linda enjoys tending her plants and flowers. She has written a variety of gardening articles for a number of nationally known publications.

When you bring living plants into your home, there’s more to it than using them simply as decorative accessories. Botanical life forms work with your body and mind to boost your quality of life. Houseplants can purify the air by eliminating a large percentage of indoor air toxins within 24 hours. They also improve mental concentration, increase work productivity, relieve stress and improve your disposition.

Houseplants are also a wonderful way to make your home colorful, fresh and cheery. However, it’s only good if you can keep them alive. If you love plants but seem have a brown thumb, don’t fret. Follow our basic plant care tips, and you’ll acquire a green thumb in no time.

1. Choose the Best Soil

Most plants are happy in regular potting soil. The mix typically contains vermiculite, perlite and peat moss plus nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Many indoor gardeners prefer to add organic ingredients to their growing mix.

These custom soil combinations often include finished compost, peat, leaf mold, and super-rich garden soil. A custom medium will help retain moisture better than soilless mixes and also introduces natural nutrients and healthy microorganisms.

Popular plants such as succulents, cactus, and rosemary require coarse soil for proper drainage and quick water absorption. If you like growing plants from seedlings, they root best in lightweight, moist mix.

Lightweight soil is perfect for growing seedlings.
Lightweight soil is perfect for growing seedlings. | Source

2. Determine the Right Light

Houseplants require just the right amount of light to stay healthy. Check with nursery plant experts to find out which ones like direct or diffused light. Some will quickly decline if they don’t get daily sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours. Knowing the requirements for each plant will help you keep them fit and vigorous.

Most flowering plants love to sit in south-facing windows. During the winter months, you might need to move hardy, sun-loving plants closer to a sunny window or supplement with artificial plant lights. Experiment with different locations and relocate your plants as the sun shifts each season.

Finding the right amount of light for each plant will make them very happy.
Finding the right amount of light for each plant will make them very happy. | Source

3. Avoid Heat Sources

Plants placed near a space heater, heat duct, radiator or fireplace can cause wilting, dehydration and burns. These extremely hot locations are bad for all plants. A constant temperate environment is the best for most indoor plants.

It makes sense that most houseplants thrive in the same temperatures that we prefer. The ideal temperature is between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Perching a plant on the windowsill during the hot summer days can create the same effect as winter heat sources.

This is what will happen if you put a plant close to a heat source.
This is what will happen if you put a plant close to a heat source. | Source

4. Give It the Right Amount of Water

The main cause of demise is over or under watering. Research how often you should water each type of plant. If you go on vacation or forget to water them, they will eventually die. Without a consistent watering schedule, your plants will dry up or become over saturated. Check with plant care instructions to find out how often to water and provide the right amount.

If you’re not sure, check the soil to make sure if it’s moist or dry. Some species like the closet plant will let you know when it needs water. It completely droops and looks like it’s dead but will perk right back up once you give it a good watering.

Do some research to find out how much water your plants need.
Do some research to find out how much water your plants need. | Source

5. Get Rid of Pests

Insects will quickly ruin a healthy plant. Look closely to identify a white powdery substance, black specks or brown edges and holes in leaves. You can use an organic pesticide inside that won’t harm animals or humans. One way to keep the pests at bay is to use a sterile soilless potting mix, so there’s no chance of bringing in pests or disease.

The most common insects found on indoor plants are white flies, mealybugs, aphids, gnats, and spider mites. Move affected plants away from healthy ones. Wipe the leaves with a soap and water mixture or use natural remedies such as neem, seaweed mulch, diluted vinegar, and essential oils.

Cactus plants can even be taken over by mealybugs.
Cactus plants can even be taken over by mealybugs. | Source

6. Steer Clear of Cold

If you have an indoor plant such as a palm, orchid or other flowers any little chilly breeze can result can be the same as leaving the plant outside during a cold day. While plants always look lovely sitting near a window, icy drafts can harm them.

Even robust varieties don’t do well in cold locations. If you feel a frosty chill around windows and doors, apply weather stripping to stop the drafts. If you live in an extremely warm climate, your air conditioner can hurt your plants as well.

Delicate indoor plants should be protected from window drafts.
Delicate indoor plants should be protected from window drafts. | Source

7. Repot Overgrown Plants

After several seasons your houseplants need space to maintain a healthy environment. Most plants end up outgrowing their pots within one to two years. When you notice yellowing leaves, a lack of nutrients, fast flowing water through the soil, and roots coming out of the drainage holes, you’ll definitely know when to repot.

A large plant in a small pot can harm the root system and stunt its growth which can lead to health problems. When you move it into the appropriate size container, give it fresh soil and avoid pulling the root ball apart to let it ease into the new home.

Your cramped plants will grow faster when you transfer them into a larger container.
Your cramped plants will grow faster when you transfer them into a larger container. | Source

8. Pinch and Prune

To maintain the health of your indoor plants, it’s best to regularly remove dead leaves and stems. Prune extra foliage at the start of the growing season or right after they've flowered to give it a well-groomed look and encourage growth in bare spots.

Flowering plants also need to be deadheaded to remove spent blooms. As the flowers fade and turn brown, hold the stem with one hand and pinch off the old blooms right above the set of healthy leaves. Sometimes it might be quicker to clip them back rather than pinching off each wilted flower.

Keep your plants trimmed back and deadhead those wilted blooms.
Keep your plants trimmed back and deadhead those wilted blooms. | Source

9. Adjust the Humidity

During the winter and homes located in desert climates are most likely too dry for many indoor plants to flourish. If you can, keep the humidity within 50 to 60 percent. Purchase a hydrometer and humidifier to help maintain proper levels.

Low humidity is bad for your skin and has the same effect on certain plants. Although many like ferns, spider plants and orchids do quite well in high humidity. If you enjoy cultivating indoor succulents and cacti, they prefer drier environments.

Hygrometers display the exact humidity in the room so you can determine how much to water or mist your plants.
Hygrometers display the exact humidity in the room so you can determine how much to water or mist your plants. | Source

10. Keep a Plant in One Spot

Avoid moving delicate plants too often. If you have to reposition them handle it very gently. Specific plants like ficus benjamina are overly sensitive to movement and vibration. Some become established in a certain location and aren’t happy when they are moved too much. In some cases, they’ll completely drop their leaves which might take a year or so to recover. If your plant seems to be content in one spot keep it in its happy place.

Delicate plants like ficus are very wary of any movement. Find the right spot and keep them in one place.
Delicate plants like ficus are very wary of any movement. Find the right spot and keep them in one place. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Chechar

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      • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Chechar 

        9 months ago from Arizona

        Dianna, so glad you liked this helpful article. It does take time to care for indoor plants. Thanks for your comment.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        9 months ago

        I used to keep plants indoors when my schedule was not so busy. They add beauty to a home. I am going to use your diluted vinegar suggestion on my outdoor plants. Your article hits all the points for growing healthy indoor plants.

      • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Chechar 

        10 months ago from Arizona

        Liz, I'm getting better and better taking care of my indoor plants. A few years ago I couldn't keep any of them alive. I stick with these tips and manage to keep them all healthy and happy.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        10 months ago from UK

        I have a hit and miss approach to the survival rate of houseplants. Some make it while others don't. Your guide is very helpful.

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