Houseplant Care: How to Grow Healthy Indoor Plants


Houseplants are a great way to add color and life to your home. But what if you’re totally new plant parent or one of the houseplants isn’t looking so healthy? This article will show you how to grow healthy indoor plants with some simple tips for houseplant care that anyone can follow!

If you’re having problems with your house plants, it’s usually down to one of the 8 factors listed below:

  • Light
  • Watering and humidity
  • Temperature
  • Soil/Compost
  • Repotting
  • Pruning
  • Pests
  • Diseases

We’re look at each of the common issues below – the good news is each of these problems can be overcome by the right care.

Light

Providing your plant with the correct lighting conditions is crucial for its growth.

The sun provides your plant with its energy, but the key aspect is to match your plant’s requirements to where you place it. Too little sun could inhibit growth and prevent flowering, whereas too much sun can scorch the leaves and cause wilting.

South facing windows are great spot for sun loving plants like cacti, succulents and pitcher plants, where they will receive direct sun for large parts of the day.

For many foliage plants such as Pothos and ferns, this amount of direct sun may be too strong. In this case you can place them a few feet away from window. Doing this will allow them to receive more filtered light.

If you have sheer curtains at the window, these will also effectively provide a filtering effect.

North facing windows receive no direct sun and are suited to plants that will thrive in light shade such as Cast iron plant and Snake plant.

Watering and humidity

Watering houseplants should be straightforward but it’s one of the most common problems that people face. Often, it’s a case of overwatering that is the death of a plant rather than not watering enough.

Here are some simple tips to help you out:

– Identify the type of moisture and humidity requirements for your particular plant. Ferns prefer moist soil and regular misting whereas palms typically prefer the top of the soil to dry out before watering.

– Follow general guidelines for watering frequency. For example, some plants like cacti and succulents should only be watered once a month as they are used to water being scarce in their natural environments.

– In winter, reduce the frequency of watering. For many plants this is a resting period, and they will only need about half the water required in the summer when they are actively growing.

Few plants like to be in constantly wet soil. Use a pot with drainage holes and allow them to dry out a little between waterings. Overwatering can lead to diseases such as root rot occurring and is one of the most common ways to kill your houseplant.

Temperature

Every house plant has its own temperature preference, but some plants are more sensitive than others. Some might become stressed by a change in the average room temperature or even start wilting  if they’re exposed to high temperatures for too long.

It’s always worth checking the temperature preferences of the plant that you have just bought or are thinking of purchasing. Potential problems to look out for include:

Windowsills – These can suffer from extreme temperature fluctuation…hot during the day and cold at night, especially in winter. Reserve this place for temperature tolerant plants.

Heaters and radiators – Some people think they’ll put their tropical plants near a heat source, but let me tell you it’s often a bad idea! Radiators tend to dry the air out (and tropical plants generally like humidity). They also create large variations in temperature.

Draughty areas such as hallways – some plants, such as tropical orchids, do not like the sudden change in temperature. This area could be more suited to an umbrella plant or Pothos.

Soil / compost

The growing medium you choose is particularly important. Most houseplants do well in the soil that you buy them in, but you should always make sure to check your plant’s needs before repotting into a new pot, topping up the soil or propagating.

There’s a wide variety of soils available for houseplants from garden centers. If you can’t find the exact mix you need, you can always buy a bag of compost and mix it with some additives such as sand, grit or perlite to improve drainage and give you the ideal plant substrate.

Some plants require special blends that you can buy ready mixed such as cacti & succulent compost and orchid compost.

If you spend a lot of time planting seeds and cuttings, you may want a specialist fine texture compost that is free draining, especially for this purpose.

Repotting

To maintain the health of you plant, it’s likely to need repotting every 2-3 years into a pot that is one size bigger. This prevents its roots from become congested and ‘rootbound’.

Choosing the right pot is more than just picking something pretty. Make sure that it has drainage holes so that excess water doesn’t accumulate in the bottom, which could lead to disease.

If your pot doesn’t match your room decor, you can always place your potted plant in a decorative ‘cover’ pot to enhance its appearance.

Signs that your plant needs to be repotted include: roots growing through the drainage holes, roots appearing on the surface, wilting of the leaves, yellowing or pale coloured leaves.

Pruning

Pruning is not just for the outdoors. If you have a houseplant that is getting too large and unwieldy, then pruning may be necessary.

Prune at any time of year but late winter or early spring are best since this will help them re-grow better in time for summer.

Pruning can help the plant grow bushier and help redirect its energy to produce more flowers.

To prune, simply cut off any leaves or stems that are dead or broken. Overly long or lopsided stems can also be cut to maintain a desirable shape. To encourage bushy growth, cut the tips of long stems which will cause side shoots to grow.

Pests

When you’re watering your plants, it’s good practice to monitor your plants for signs of pest infestation.

Pests such as red spider mites and scale insects are typically easy to spot as adults. But also be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs of insect damage.  These include holes in leaves and mottled appearance to leaves where the plant juices have been sucked out.

If there are just a few insects, you may be able to remove them by hand and then closely monitor to see if any further eggs hatch out. If it’s more of a serious infestation, you can look at using an insecticidal soap or pesticide.

Another common pest of houseplants is the so-called fungus gnat (also called sciarid flies). These small flies are attracted to over-watered houseplants and fly around the soil without attacking the plant itself.

To avoid fungus gnats, you need to make sure your plants never get too moist and that there is good air circulation around the plant pot. You can also try spraying or drenching with a nematode worm solution or using sticky traps.

Diseases of houseplants

It’s worth getting to know your plants well, so you can spot the early signs of problems. If you do suspect they may be suffering from disease, you should first isolate them from other plants.

One of the most common houseplant diseases is leaf fungus, which can cause dark brown patches or a fuzzy grey mould on leaves. If you do find an infected plant in the early stages, then you need to remove affected leaves and provide more ventilation around the plant. For persistent problems, you could use a fungicide.

Prevention is often better then cure. One of the most common reasons for problems is overwatering, which can lead to root rot. Also ensure that your plants have adequate space around them for ventilation, which can help prevent fungal diseases.

Common sense houseplant care

The good news is you don’t have to be a botanist or gardening expert in order to grow and nurture houseplants. With just a little research and common sense, anyone can take care of their plants with minimal effort!

What are your favorite plants? Have you ever had trouble keeping them alive? Share any questions on houseplant care below, so we can help out!

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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Just getting started? Make sure you see our guide to the 'Best Houseplants for Beginners'