Basic Indoor Plant Care

Indoor plants can change the look and feel of a home, from elevating the mood to adding style and beauty. But a dead or dying plant can have the opposite effect. Take these five steps to ensure your houseplants remain lush, green, and thriving.

Step 1: Select a Location

Most plants have very specific light needs for optimal growth and health. When shopping for an indoor plant, pick a spot inside and then look for a suitable species. You may want to purchase supplemental lighting to keep plants healthy during the winter, as light tends to be dimmer and days are shorter.

Basic Indoor Plant Care

Indoor plants are also at the mercy of heating and cooling systems. Plants too close to a radiator or in the draft of a vent will dry out quickly. Pay attention to how plants respond to seasonal changes and be prepared to move them if needed.

Step 2: Choose a Container
Basic Indoor Plant Care

An indoor plant’s container will have a huge impact on both how it looks and how it thrives. There are many factors involved in selecting a container, but the most important is the plant’s needs. Is it shallow- or deep-rooted? Does it prefer lots of root space or does it like to be a bit cramped?

Step 3: Adjust Watering & Humidity
Basic Indoor Plant Care

Watering is one of the easiest things to get wrong with houseplants. Too much water is almost always worse than not enough. A plant’s watering needs will vary based on location, container, and the season. Most plants need to be watered two to three times a week during the summer and only once a week in winter. Small, shallow containers dry out more quickly than large, deep ones. Containers in full sun need more water than those in part shade, and climate control will affect how frequently plants need to be watered. Heating and air conditioning dry out indoor air.

Most plants will droop slightly when they are thirsty. A finger inserted an inch or so into the soil will also tell you whether a plant needs water. Generally, before watering you should wait until soil has mostly dried out, but it should never be allowed to dry out completely.

Basic Indoor Plant Care
Step 4: Determine Feeding Needs

New plants have usually been pampered inside a greenhouse. If initially healthy, these plants shouldn’t need more than water for several months or longer. When plants first show signs of growth in spring, it is time to fertilize, using a liquid fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. Continue to fertilize through spring and summer, and when in doubt, give less rather than more fertilizer.

Basic Indoor Plant Care
Step 5: Maintain the Plant’s Health
Basic Indoor Plant Care

No matter how healthy a plant is, it still needs a little regular maintenance beyond watering and feeding. Dust leaves with a damp sponge or soft cloth to help them absorb the light they need. Remove fallen flowers or leaves. Plants that have grown too large for their pots should be shaped or transplanted periodically. Pruning and transplanting offer excellent opportunities for propagation.

Basic Indoor Plant Care

Insect pests are the enemy of indoor plants, but early detection can save them. Check the undersides of leaves and the joints where leaves meet the stem. Move infested plants to a separate room to protect the others. Aphids, mealy bugs, and mites are the most common pests and can be treated with horticultural oil or a soft soap solution. Most insect infestations can be eradicated with a little effort if detected early.

Houseplants breathe life and color into the home, and give much more than they take. With a little know-how, you can ensure that your houseplants live long, healthy lives.