Houseplant care starts with knowing what type of plant you’re caring for. The care regimen that allows one plant to thrive may be fatal to another plant. The second part of houseplant care is using this knowledge to create a solid setup, including potting and placement of the plant. You can learn everything this is to know about watering, fertilizing and repotting the plant, but if you put a low-light houseplant in a south- or west-facing window, it likely won’t matter what else you do. In summer, the direct sunlight will cause discoloration or even damage the plant beyond recovery. Likewise, a houseplant may like regular watering but still be susceptible to root rot if placed in a pot without drainage.
With this in mind, we’ve created this topic-by-topic guide so that you can easily learn about and navigate to each aspect of houseplant care.
Watering Tips for Houseplant Care
First off, learn what your type of houseplant likes in general. A lot of succulents and other drought-resistant plants may like water once a month. Some plants may like water every 1-2 weeks. Other plants may need water at least once a week or even more often during the summer. Keep in mind this watering schedule is based on general advice for different types of houseplants. Your local climate, heating/cooling preferences, and home humidity levels will all influence how often a plant should be watered. It’s also important to recognize the difference between water and soil moisture levels. Many houseplants need water to help unlock the nutrients in the potting soil, but they also need air. Waterlogged soil can lead to root rot by cutting off access to air and suffocating the plant. Learn more about How to Water Houseplants.
Houseplant Care by Season
The most common seasonal adjustment is to reduce the amount of water a plant receives during the winter months. Even slightly colder air in the home means that water won’t evaporate as quickly, which means it takes longer for moisture to leave the soil. Moreover, most types of plants go through a dormancy period in winter as it begins to receive less and less light. Other plants, like the Christmas Cactus, will bloom and flower based on light and temperature. In this case, the trick is often to keep the plant in a room where you rarely turn on the lights. This allows the plant to calibrate its growth to natural light cycles that follow the seasons. Learn more about Seasonal Houseplant Care to keep all your plants strong and healthy year-round.
What makes for an easy-care houseplant? It depends who you ask, but there are certain characteristics which most plants that are easy to care for have in common. These plants should give clear signals when they do or do not want water. They should have considerable tolerance for both underwatering or overwatering—or else be extremely resistant to one or the other. Some easy houseplants are described as thriving on neglect or a plant that is hard to drown. Ideally, these plants should be able to thrive on potting soil with few, if any, fertilizers or soil amendments. Many are also slow-growing and/or happy being pot-bound. Use this page to learn more and find Popular Easy-Care Houseplants.
Choosing Pots for Houseplant Care
It’s a simple thing, but one of the most common reasons houseplants don’t make it is a lack of drainage. Most types of houseplants can suffer from root rot when they sit in soil that is retaining too much moisture. If you’re determined to grow a houseplant in a pot without drainage, you need to pick the right plant and have something of a green thumb. Choosing the right size pot is another part of giving your houseplant a solid start. Most houseplants want a little room to grow, but an oversized pot full of dirt can also retain too much water and complicate your houseplant care. Read more about Choosing Houseplant Pots with the right drainage, size, and material.
Soil Types, Fertilizer, and Amendments
There are a few ironclad rules to follow when it comes to choosing soil for your houseplant. First and foremost, make sure to use potting soil and NOT topsoil. Topsoil is a denser mix of dirt, nutrients, and other particulates. This type of soil is designed to prevent nutrient loss through water erosion and to hold water in the ground before it seeps too far below the root line. Houseplants have the opposite danger. The pot or container traps so much water in the soil near the roots that the plant cannot get enough air to extract nutrients from the soil. It may be in very different quantities depending on the type of plant, but most every plant needs both water and air to grow. You can do everything else right, but if you accidentally put topsoil instead of potting soil into the pot, your houseplant may struggle and die. Learn how to choose the Best Potting Soils for your houseplant including specific fertilizers and soil amendments.
Houseplant Pest Control and Prevention
The biggest part of houseplant pest control is good plant care practices. Most strong, healthy plants have natural defenses that it can use to prevent pests from getting a foothold. Pests are not common in most types of houseplants, but they do happen. Some plants are also inherently more vulnerable to pests than others. A mild scale infestation may look like dark spots or discoloration that can sometimes be confused with mold. Many pests, like aphids and white flies, prefer the underside of leaves, but some are more brazen. Often, it’s obvious that something is attacking your houseplant, but it’s harder to tell if the pest is thrips, scale, aphids, mealybugs, white flies, mites, or some other less common pest. Read more about Houseplant Pests and Pest Control.
Repotting and Propagation
As you learn how to care for houseplants, more of them will grow and thrive. Eventually, you will need to decide what to do with new growth. Generally, your options will be some combination of pruning (trimming back new growth), repotting (putting the plant in a larger pot), or propagation (transferring a portion of the houseplant into making a new plant). Taking these steps are often easy enough—assuming you recognize when and what steps to take for that specific plant. When it comes to repotting, it’s important to first be sure the houseplant is actually ready for it. Many plants are quite happy being snug against their pots. When it comes to pruning and/or propagation, the process is often quite as simple as to know what part of the plant, fallen or pruned, can be put back into potting soil and/or a different pot to establish a new houseplant.