House Plant Care Tips

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House plants can enhance the look of your home. Explore pictures of different types of house plants.

House plants can add color, freshness, and vitality to your indoor space. This article provides tips on how to care for house plants, including lighting, watering, humidity, temperature, fertilizing, potting, grooming, propagating, decorating, pest and disease prevention, and vacation care. Scientific studies indicate that having live plants around us can improve our physical and mental health. House plants are readily available in nurseries, supermarkets, and department stores, and growing them can be simple with some basic techniques.

Want to learn about house plants by type? Try these:

  • House Plants
  • Full Sun House Plants
  • Bright Light House Plants
  • Filtered Light House Plants
  • Light Shade House Plants
  • Hanging Basket House Plants
  • Floor Plant House Plants
  • Table Plant House Plants
  • Terrarium Plant House Plants
  • Very Easy House Plants
  • Easy House Plants
  • Demanding House Plants
  • Temporary House Plants
  • Flowering House Plants
  • Climbing or Trailing House Plants
  • House Plants with Colorful Foliage
  • Fragrant House Plants
  • Gardening

Lighting House Plants

Plants need light to grow and survive just as animals need food. Without adequate light, plants can’t thrive. Pale growth, stretching towards light sources, weak or absent flowering, and rotting due to inadequate water supply are signs that your house plants need more light. Different house plants have varying light needs, but some can thrive even in dark corners as long as there’s enough light to read by.


Southern exposures get full sun from late morning to mid-afternoon.

Differences in Light Throughout the Seasons

The intensity of light changes with the seasons. A south-facing window, which may be too bright for many indoor plants in the summer, is ideal for most of them during the winter. During the summer, move plants away from hot south or west-facing windows or place a sheer curtain between them and the sun’s glare. On the other hand, a north-facing window may not receive enough light for flowering plants in the winter, but nearly every house plant will thrive in its cool brightness during the summer months. Don’t hesitate to move your plants from one location to another depending on the season.

Enhancing Natural Light

If your indoor plants show signs of insufficient light, you can increase the intensity of light they receive by removing any obstructions that block the path of light, such as curtains, blinds, and outdoor foliage. Regularly cleaning the windows can also help. Another simple way to improve light is to paint nearby walls and furniture in light shades, so they reflect light rather than absorb it.

Artificial Light

Indoor plants can adapt well to growing under artificial light. However, incandescent lamps, even those marketed for plants, produce poor-quality light that causes weak, unhealthy growth. They are only suitable for plants that receive some natural light. Fluorescent and halogen lamps, on the other hand, produce light that is so similar in quality to sunlight that indoor plants thrive under them. For optimal results, use artificial light on timers set to provide 12- to 14-hour days and ensure that the lamp is far enough from the plants so they don’t overheat.

Window by Window

The light exposure varies among the windows in your home.

  • South Window: This exposure receives the most sunlight, with full sun from late morning to mid-afternoon and bright light for the remainder of the day. This location is especially suitable for flowering house plants and those from arid climates, such as cacti and succulents. Plants can often be placed far back from a south-facing window and still receive excellent light.
  • East Window:
    This location is often considered the best for growing indoor plants. It receives full sun for a brief period in the morning and bright light for the rest of the day. Cooler than a west-facing window, it allows indoor plants to receive the bright light they need without the risk of overheating. Both foliage and flowering plants thrive here.
  • West Window:
    Like an east-facing window, the west-facing window receives full sun for part of the day and bright light for the rest. Its primary disadvantage is that many indoor plants find such a spot too hot for their liking. However, both foliage and flowering plants can thrive here.
  • North Window: Indoor plants in north-facing windows receive no direct sunlight, but depending on the season, they can receive bright light throughout the day. Generally, only foliage plants thrive here, and even then, they must be grown close to the glass.

In the next section, we will discuss how to water indoor plants.

Would you like to learn about indoor plants by type? Check out these resources:

The list includes different types of house plants such as hanging basket, floor plant, table plant, terrarium plant, and more. There are also categories based on the amount of light needed, including full sun, bright light, filtered light, light shade, and demanding. Additionally, there are categories based on the plant’s ease of care, such as easy, very easy, and temporary. Other categories include flowering, fragrant, climbing or trailing, and plants with colorful foliage.

When it comes to watering house plants, it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. Some plants prefer the soil to dry out entirely between waterings, but it is essential to water thoroughly and wait until the plant needs more water before watering again. You can use tepid water or let it stand overnight before watering. If the water is hard or artificially softened, using rainwater is a better option.

It is best not to wait until a plant dramatically collapses to tell if it needs water. Instead, check the plant every two or three days and judge its needs by sticking a finger into the soil. If it feels dry one inch down, it is time to water. There are also moisture meters available to test for water needs. Watering from above is the preferred method, but if the soil is too dry, watering from below is another option. In that case, fill the saucer with water and wait for 20 minutes before pouring out any excess water.

To keep soil moist for house plants, wicking and capillary mats can be used. Wicking involves using a water reservoir and a piece of yarn to absorb water, while capillary mats are made from old blankets or carpeting and are placed under the plant. Humidity is also important for plant health, as most plants need humid air to thrive. Symptoms of dry air include curled leaves and dry leaf tips. Spraying plants with water can increase humidity levels, which should ideally be between 50-60%.

Dry air can be a persistent issue in certain regions of the country, particularly in the arid Southwest. When it gets extremely hot, air conditioning can have a drying effect on the air, which may necessitate the year-round use of a humidifier in such areas. During the heating season in areas with cold winters, humidity levels decrease indoors as the relative humidity of cold outdoor air decreases when warmed up. Some heating systems, such as electric heat, exacerbate the situation by further reducing humidity from the air. In such cases, it may be necessary to have some sort of system to compensate for low humidity during the winter months.

Air circulation is crucial for indoor plants, as it helps to remove waste gases, excess heat, and prevent the development of diseases in enclosed spaces. Although there is often adequate air circulation near large windows due to temperature differences between day and night, small fans are recommended in other areas, especially under plant lights, to keep the air moving.

Various methods can be used to increase humidity indoors. Spraying houseplants with warm water is the most well-known technique, but it is not especially efficient since the humidity produced dissipates quickly. To effectively increase humidity by spraying, the process should be repeated several times a day. Room humidifiers are highly effective in increasing air humidity, but they must be refilled regularly. Some newer homes have built-in humidifiers that can be adjusted to the desired level. A plant humidifier can be easily constructed by filling a waterproof tray with stones, gravel, or perlite and pouring water over them so that the bottom ones are submerged while the upper ones are dry. Set the plants on one of these pebble trays, and they will benefit from the additional humidity given off as the water evaporates. By maintaining the tray half-filled with water at all times, a pleasantly humid microclimate can be created. Clustering houseplants together during the heating season is a simple solution for those with moderate humidity requirements. Each plant releases humidity via transpiration, and clusters of plants create excellent humidity in the surrounding air.

For delicate, thin-leaved houseplants that require a humidity level of over 70%, which can be difficult to achieve in a large room, a terrarium can be the best solution. An old aquarium fitted with a glass lid creates a microclimate in which humidity levels rise to nearly 100%. If water droplets form, simply open it slightly for ventilation.

In the next section, we will discuss temperature requirements for houseplants.

The article provides a comprehensive list of different types of house plants, including those that thrive in full sun, bright light, filtered light, light shade, hanging baskets, floors, tables, terrariums, and those that are very easy, easy, demanding, temporary, flowering, climbing or trailing, colorful, and fragrant. The article also discusses the ideal temperature range for house plants, which is typically between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day and 5°F to 10°F (3°C to 5°C) cooler at night. While indoor temperatures that are comfortable for humans are generally suitable for house plants, extreme heat can be harmful, and measures such as ventilation and air conditioning should be taken to maintain an optimal temperature. Additionally, subtropical plants that are forced into winter bloom require cooler temperatures and can be placed near a cool window or in a slightly heated room. The article concludes by providing links to learn about different types of house plants.

Caring for House Plants with Fertilizer

It’s important to understand that fertilizer isn’t the same as food for your plants. Plants get their energy from light, not from fertilizers. Fertilizers can actually do more harm than good if your plants aren’t getting enough light or aren’t growing well. If you’ve just bought or repotted a house plant, it’s best to give it a few months without fertilizer so it can use up the nutrients already in its soil.


Fertilizing is especially important for plants growing in soilless potting mixes.

For healthy growth, plants need three main elements: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). You’ll always see these listed on fertilizer labels in the form of ratios. For example, a label that says “6-12-4” means that the fertilizer has 6 percent nitrogen, 12 percent phosphorus, and 4 percent potassium. Most fertilizers also have minor elements like magnesium, boron, and iron that plants need.

Generally, fertilizers with a lot of nitrogen (the first number) will help foliage grow strong and healthy, while those with more phosphorus (the second number) will help roots develop and improve flowering. Those with more potassium (the third number) will help build up reserves for plants that go dormant.

If you’re caring for foliage house plants, a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content like 30-20-20 is best. For flowering house plants, a fertilizer with more phosphorus like 15-30-15 is recommended. Most foliage plants do well with an all-purpose or high-nitrogen fertilizer, while flowering plants need more phosphorus.

Consistent Feeding

Most house plants today are grown in soilless potting mixes that don’t have many nutrients, so it’s important to fertilize them regularly. One way to make sure your plants get enough fertilizer is to use a constant feed method.

Take a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer that’s meant for monthly use and reduce the dosage by four. For example, if the label says to use one teaspoon per gallon of water once a month, use ¼ teaspoon per gallon of water every time you water your plant. Once a month, take your plant to the sink and flush it with clear water to prevent buildup.

Choosing Fertilizers for Your House Plants

Ready-to-use liquid fertilizers are easy to use but expensive since you’re paying for the water they contain. Water-soluble fertilizers in powder or crystal form are just as effective but more economical since you add the water yourself.

Slow-release fertilizers are also an option. They come in granule form to mix with soil or in spikes and tablets that you push into the soil. You only need to apply them once every few months. The label will suggest how often to use them.

Organic vs Chemical Fertilizers

You can choose from both organic and chemical fertilizers in various concentrations. Since chemical fertilizers don’t leach out into the environment like outdoor fertilizers, even gardeners who prefer organic fertilizers for outdoor plants often use chemical ones for indoor plants.

Liquid seaweed is a well-known organic fertilizer that is applied as a foliar spray and absorbed by the leaves of plants. Tools for taking care of house plants do not have to be expensive gardening equipment, as most indoor gardeners find that simple kitchen utensils suffice. A spoon can be used for repotting, scissors to cut off yellowing leaves, a sharp knife for taking cuttings, and a recycled window spray bottle for applying pesticides. The most important tool for proper plant care is a good watering can with a long but narrow spout. Potting house plants should be done at least once a year, preferably in the spring. Fast-growing house plants may need to be repotted two or more times a year. Signs that a house plant needs repotting include wilting only a few days after watering, the plant threatening to tip over, and a white or yellowish crust building up on the plant’s stem and pot rim. House plants that are difficult to repot should be top-dressed annually, which involves scraping off the top inch of potting mix and replacing it with new mix. When repotting, choose a clean pot no more than one or two sizes larger than the previous one, and pour enough potting mix into the bottom of the new pot to bring the plant up to its original height. The plant should be centered well and the empty space filled with growing mix. A thorough watering will help the plant adjust to its new home.

Newly potted indoor plants should be kept in low light for a couple of weeks. Hydroculture is a soil-free method of planting that involves using water and an inert material like clay pellets or pebbles as an anchor. A water level indicator indicates when to add water, and nutrients are provided in the form of slow-release pellets or tablets. Plastic pots are ideal for plants that prefer moist soil, while clay pots are better for those that need drier soil. All pots should have drainage holes to remove excess water. Most indoor plants thrive in ready-made all-purpose potting mixes made of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. However, certain plants like cacti and succulents prefer soil-based mixes. Cattleya orchids and Venus flytraps require well-aerated mixes like sphagnum moss, bark chips, or special epiphyte mixes. Grooming indoor plants is essential to maintain their beauty and attractiveness. Removing dead leaves is one way to improve their appearance.

Plants have a natural tendency to grow towards the light, which can cause them to become lopsided or fall over. To prevent this, rotate the plant a quarter turn every time it’s watered so that it receives light from all sides and grows symmetrically. It’s also important to remove dead or yellowing parts of the plant to prevent the spread of insects and diseases. Clean the leaves with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water or give them a gentle shower or rain rinse once or twice a year to prevent dust buildup. Pruning can also help a plant look fuller and healthier. If a stem becomes too heavy, use a stake to prop it up. To propagate house plants, try stem cuttings or other methods that work for each specific plant type.

Stem cuttings are a popular way to propagate plants, and can be used on any plant with prominent stems. To begin, choose a healthy section of stem with at least three nodes and cut it cleanly just below the lowest node, removing any flowers or leaves from the bottom node. A rooting hormone can be applied to the cut section to encourage faster rooting. It’s best to root cuttings in a pasteurized rooting mix such as soilless growing media, vermiculite, sand, or perlite. Insert the cutting into the mix, cover it with plastic to maintain high humidity, and place it in bright light. Once the plant has rooted, remove the plastic and treat it like an adult plant.

Succulent and cactus cuttings should be allowed to heal before being potted, and leaf cuttings can be used on a few select plants by breaking off a whole leaf and inserting the stalk into rooting medium. Layering is another method of propagation.

This article discusses various methods for propagating house plants. Some plants with trailing stems or those that produce baby plants on stolons can be propagated by placing a pot filled with moist growing mix under a stem section and pinning it down with a hairpin or twist tie. The air layering method is used for trees or shrub-like plants with thick or woody stems that are hard to root from cuttings. This involves making a cut halfway through the main stem, applying rooting compound, covering it with moist sphagnum moss and plastic, and checking regularly. Plants that grow in clumps are best propagated by division, while some plants produce offsets that can be cut free from the mother plant when they reach a certain size. Almost all house plants can be grown from seed, although it is easiest to buy them from seed companies. Plantlets should be gradually hardened off and potted individually in small pots.

The list includes various types of house plants, such as those that thrive in full sun, bright light, filtered light, light shade, hanging baskets, on the floor, on tables, in terrariums, and those that are easy, demanding, temporary, flowering, climbing or trailing, and have colorful foliage or fragrance. Additionally, there is a section on gardening.

The article emphasizes the decorative value of house plants in creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere in any home or office. The author suggests using house plants as movable objects to ensure they are placed in the best spot for decoration and growth. Flowering plants require more light but can be used as decor while in bloom and moved back to a brighter spot once the blooms have faded. The article also recommends creating dish gardens and terrariums with a mix of foliage and flowering plants for an attractive and easy-to-maintain miniature garden. The article concludes with a mention of preventing pests and diseases in house plants and offers links to learn about house plants by type.

The list includes various types of house plants, such as hanging basket plants and floor plants, as well as plants that require different levels of light and care, such as easy or demanding house plants. Additionally, there are categories of plants with colorful foliage, fragrant plants, and climbing/trailing plants. The article then discusses how to prevent pests and diseases in house plants, including identifying symptoms caused by cultural practices and using appropriate pesticides. The article also includes a chart to help identify and treat plant conditions caused by pests.

The article discusses various pests and insects that can affect house plants. A table is provided listing symptoms, causes and treatments for each of the pests mentioned. Spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, whiteflies, thrips, cyclamen mites, springtails, fungus gnats and sand flies are some of the pests discussed. The article also mentions that plant conditions could be caused by diseases and provides a chart to help identify symptoms and treatments for various plant diseases.

The article discusses common diseases that affect house plants and their symptoms, causes, and treatments. White mold, gray mold, leaf spots, and root or stem rot are some of the most common diseases that can harm house plants. Adequate air circulation, avoiding damp foliage during watering, and using appropriate fungicides can help prevent and treat these diseases. The use of pasteurized potting mixes and isolating new plants after purchase can also help avoid insect and disease problems. The article also provides tips for vacation care for house plants, including using watering systems, flood watering, and leaving plants in sealed terrariums. In case of a prolonged absence, there are last-minute tricks to keep plants alive. The article also provides links to learn about different types of house plants.

To care for your plants when you’re away, start by placing them in a shaded area and removing any flowers or buds to reduce their water needs. Although plants generally don’t like waterlogged soil, they can tolerate it occasionally. Put them in a deep tray and flood them with water. After this treatment, most plants can survive for at least three weeks without additional care.

For more delicate plants, cover them with plastic to prevent evaporation, allowing them to go up to a month without care. Alternatively, you can ask a knowledgeable neighbor to water them once or twice a week.

If you want to learn about specific types of house plants, try checking out the different categories provided, such as Full Sun House Plants, Fragrant House Plants, and House Plants with Colorful Foliage.

The author of this article, Larry Hodgson, is a garden writer from Quebec City who has authored multiple books on gardening, including Houseplants for Dummies and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants. He has also won the Perennial Plant Association’s 2006 Garden Media Award.

FAQ

1. How often should I water my house plants?

Watering frequency depends on the type of plant, the size of the pot, and the environment. As a general rule, most house plants prefer evenly moist soil, so wait until the top inch of soil feels dry before watering. Be careful not to overwater, as this can cause root rot. Plants in smaller pots will need more frequent watering, while plants in larger pots can go longer between watering. Pay attention to the humidity in your home, as dry air can cause soil to dry out faster. In general, it’s better to underwater than overwater, as most house plants can tolerate a little bit of drought.

2. How much light do house plants need?

Again, this depends on the plant. Some house plants, like succulents and cacti, prefer bright, direct sunlight, while others, like ferns and snake plants, prefer indirect or low light. Most house plants will do well in a bright room with plenty of natural light, but be careful not to expose them to direct sunlight for too long, as this can scorch their leaves. Rotate your plants occasionally to ensure they receive even light exposure. If your home doesn’t receive much natural light, consider using artificial lights specifically designed for growing plants.

3. How do I know if my house plant needs to be repotted?

If your plant is outgrowing its pot or the soil is drying out too quickly after watering, it’s probably time to repot. Look for roots growing out of the drainage holes or circling around the inside of the pot. Choose a pot that’s slightly larger than the current one and use fresh potting soil. Be gentle when removing the plant from its old pot and try to keep the root ball intact. Water the plant thoroughly after repotting and avoid fertilizing for a few weeks to allow the plant to adjust.

4. Can I use regular soil from my garden for my house plants?

No, it’s not recommended to use soil from your garden for house plants. Garden soil can contain insects, weed seeds, and harmful bacteria that can harm your plants. Instead, use a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for indoor plants. These mixes are usually lighter and more porous than garden soil, allowing for better drainage and aeration. Some potting mixes may also contain added nutrients to promote healthy growth. Look for mixes that are labeled for indoor use and avoid those with added fertilizers or moisture-retaining crystals.

5. How often should I fertilize my house plants?

Most house plants benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season, which is typically spring and summer. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-4 weeks, following the instructions on the package for the correct dosage. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can cause salt buildup in the soil and damage the plant’s roots. During the winter months, when many plants are dormant, reduce or stop fertilizing altogether. Some plants, like succulents, may require less frequent fertilization than others, so check the care instructions for your specific plant.

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