Do you love plants but just can't keep them alive? Maybe you admire the green thumbs of your neighbours, friends, and relatives or cringe every time someone hands you a healthy plant, perhaps a tropical split-leaf, Kalanchoë or a fuzzy, and tell them you're "sure to kill it within a week?"
(Sheepishly raises hand.)
If so, don't give up on your green thumb yet. You may simply be making some classic mistakes that can easily be fixed. Here are common reasons that house plants die and how to keep them alive.
Buy house plants that are easy to care for and keep alive.
- If you're an absolute newbie, start with easy-to-care-for house plants. They're the best way to get started!
- The best indoor house plants for beginners are those that are very forgiving. We like to say there's no such thing as a "black thumb" because anyone can learn how to grow a healthy plant.
How To Keep Your House Plants Alive
1. Use Good Potting Soil.
Yes, the soil is a big deal. If you're using too-moist soil, it'll be hard to tell when your plant needs watering because the soil will feel very wet. Soil that drains OK—like a potting mix with plenty of perlite and vermiculite mixed in—will allow you to check moisture levels more easily by eye (or touch). It's also crucial for avoiding root rot, which is one of the major killers of houseplants!
2. Choose the Correct Planter.
Everyone can benefit from sprucing up your home with a variety of indoor plant pots, no matter how small your indoor space is. The best thing about plant hangers or pots is that they're adaptable and can be moved around or replanted whenever you fancy a new look. However, you'll need to consider the pot size. Most plants do better when they have room for their roots to grow. If a plant looks happy but needs a larger home, moving it into the biggest pot possible right away can be tempting.
Don't do this! Many indoor plants need to be slightly underpotted than over-potted because they don't like sitting in damp soil long after being last watered. A too-large container means more work for you (and potentially overwatering your plant)!
For most plants, we recommend choosing a unique indoor planter that's one and a half times larger than its root ball (the bundle of roots attached at its base) when you first buy it. As your plant grows and its roots fill up the space in its container over time, you can carefully choose the next size!
3. Give them adequate sunlight.
You need to focus on lighting. Plants can't survive without it. Most plants will grow in a sunny window, though not all plants need the same amount of light. If you keep plants in direct sunlight, they will get burned, and if you keep them in the dark, they will die. A little bit of light goes a long way, so don't stick your plant in a windowless closet. Somewhere between direct and indirect sunlight is a happy medium that most plants like.
4. Water on a regular schedule.
How often you should water your plants depends on the type of plant, the size of the pot, and how much light it gets. So, I can't give you a specific schedule to follow. Water only when they need it—check by sticking your finger into the soil up to your first knuckle and feeling for dampness; if it's damp, don't water! I'm not saying that water doesn't play an essential role in caring for plants because it does. But too much of a good thing can be a death sentence.
5. Repot plants at the right time.
But how do you know when it's the right time? Most often, plants show signs of being root-bound in one of two ways: Overgrowing their pots or exhibiting stunted growth. Check for roots growing through the drainage holes to determine whether your plant is outgrowing its pot. If there are a few stragglers, you're probably alright to keep the plant where it is. But if those roots appear frequently and in abundance, your plant needs more room to grow.
To avoid stressing your plants, re-pot them at the right time—which usually falls between early spring and late summer—and provide plenty of care afterwards. A quick way to judge whether a plant needs repotting is by looking at its roots. If they're visible through the drainage holes (usually on the bottom), it's time for an upgrade! If not... you're good!
6. Provide your plants with adequate humidity.
There are a variety of ways that you can make sure your plants get the right amount of humidity. One of the easiest ways to do this is using a spray bottle. Try spraying water mist every few days for plants that prefer humid environments. This will work wonders for promoting healthier growth and preventing yellowing or brittle leaves. Once or twice a week, plants that do not need an overly humid environment should be delicate.
Another great way to provide adequate humidity is to place your potted plant inside a tray of pebbles filled with water. Your plant's pot can then sit on top of these pebbles and will be able to absorb moisture from the surrounding air as well as the water within its pot. This method works exceptionally well for those who have larger indoor house plants, such as ferns, rubber trees, or peace lilies!
7. Use the right fertiliser.
But how many times a week should a person fertilise? Well, depends on the plant. Avoid too much nitrogen in houseplants because it will make them spindly. Also, avoid over-fertilising small plants with too much nitrogen. They can get root rot if you do that. For succulent plants, like cacti and bonsai, use a balanced fertiliser or something like "Hormel complete" (low nitrogen) and water with an Ebb & Flow watering system, which ensures that the water doesn't evaporate before coming back to your plants' roots. In general, though, people should avoid over-fertilising succulents since they naturally dry out easily and tend to suck up water quickly anyway.
8. Clean your house plant regularly.
Clean your house plant regularly. Think of it like washing the dishes—you wouldn't wait until the sink is full before you clean them, would you? Periodically cleaning your plants will ensure they stay pest-free and healthy while also keeping your place looking nice. To clean your plants, use a damp cloth and wipe away any debris collected on their leaves or stems. You can also use a mister to wash down leaves and remove dust. Remove dead or dying leaves as needed—if a leaf is drooping or turning brown at its tip, give it a little tug; if it comes off easily, discard it!