Why is Overwatering Houseplants So Common?

Overwatering is one of the most common problems people experience with their houseplant care. Even many people who are aware of the danger can sometimes end up overwatering their houseplants. Troublesome signs of overwatering include pale, waterlogged leaves; soft, mushy stems; a moldy or rotten smell; yellow or brown discoloration; stunted growth or dropped leaves. If you believe overwatering houseplants is keeping one of your plants from living its best life, consider whether one of these common causes may be the culprit.

  • Overwatering vs. Underwatering Houseplants: Because many of the signs of overwatering houseplants may also describe what happens when underwatering plants, it’s important to look at the entire plant and your recent watering schedule to recognize the difference between the two. You should also recognize that if you’ve been neglecting your houseplants to the point that they are underwatered that you can’t fix the problem by overcompensating and overwatering the plant.
  • Amount vs. Frequency: How often and how much water you give a houseplant is not the same thing. Many people give their houseplants a small amount of water at frequent intervals, when the plant would prefer deep watering spaced out over more time. Misting houseplants is not the same as watering. In extreme cases, it’s even possible to overwater a houseplant and create root rot or mold in the topmost layers of soil, while the bottom of the pot and root system is bone dry.
  • Poor Drainage: Often, signs of overwatering houseplants isn’t about the water at all but is rather a consequence of excessive moisture in the soil. This can happen because the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, the soil doesn’t have enough aerators and fast-draining amendments. If you’re seeing clear signs of overwatering despite only infrequently watering the plant, consider whether the underlying cause is insufficient drainage. Repot the plant and/or amend the soil to improve drainage.
  • Summer Loving: When most people think of their houseplants, they imagine the plant as it looks and acts in spring and summer when bright light and warmer temperatures create the highest watering level needs for the whole year. Many people fail to adjust their watering schedule for the season or else they mistakenly reset their watering schedule after being away from home to this higher watering level.

What to Do for an Overwatered Houseplant

First and foremost, you need to accurately recognize the signs of overwatering houseplants. If there is serious discoloration or damage, that part of the plant is unlikely to recover and should be excised and thrown away. Keep any part of the plant that looks green and healthy. If the damage is minimal and the pot already has good drainage, you may be able to let the soil dry out and then resume a watering schedule tailored for that type of plant. In a more severe case, you should remove and repot the least damaged or discolored part of the plant in fresh potting soil with good drainage.


Can Houseplants Think? Do Plants Have Consciousness?

The scientific consensus is that plants do not have the kind of cognitive faculties necessary to support a consciousness that includes things like self-awareness, theory of mind, or complex emotions. That said, plants do have sophisticated mechanisms for sensing, perceiving, and responding to their environment. Plants do not simply sprout out of the ground, grow toward the sun, and hope for the best. If you watch houseplants for long enough and in a wide range of circumstances, it’s not uncommon to get the impression that maybe plants can think, maybe plants are self-conscious. With this in mind, here are some of the most critical and impressive aspects of plant perception that will help you appreciate the complexity of your houseplants, while also recognizing that houseplants cannot think as we do.

Proprioception: This is the plant’s ability to perceive itself in space. The plant knows if it sends off a growth shoot toward another part of its foliage, the two parts of the plant will connect and can be used for mutual support. The plant will also know where it still has room to grow. Proprioception also plays a crucial role in the plant’s ability to balance itself, while maintaining its other physiological processes. Humans also have proprioception, but this cognitive faculty is distinct from self-consciousness.

Geotropism: Also called gravitropism, this is the plant’s ability to sense gravity. Statoliths within specialized statocyte cells are denser than the surrounding cytoplasm and are sensitive to the force of gravity. But more than just knowing which way is up and which way is down, the plant shows a differentiated response. The plant roots are constantly trying to grow down with gravity, while the stems are constantly trying to grow up against gravity. More than just proprioception and geotropism, some plants can sense orientation and gradients to a degree that they have a fully formed sense of balance, or equilibrioception.

Photomorphogenesis: This is the plant’s ability to detect light and modulate its growth pattern. Again, the plant shows a differentiated response in which the roots are programmed to grow away from light, while the stems and foliage and programmed to grow toward light. This process begins as soon as the seed is germinated. A combination of phytochromes, cryptochromes, and phototropins also allow the plant to detect and respond to various duration, strength, and wavelengths of light. The plant has its own Circadian rhythm, internal clock, and seasonal adaptations. A related process, photoperiodism, detects periods of darkness to regulate when the plant produces its flowers.

Response to Other Stimuli: Space, gravity, and light are some of the most important and obvious ways that plants mimic behavior that can create the impression that plants can think. Even still, these are far from the only stimuli that plants can detect and respond to. Plants can also detect moisture, temperature, sound, touch, physical trauma, pests, and a wide range of chemicals in their environment. They can detect chemicals released by other plants and animals and release their own chemicals to repel unwanted pests and warn other plants that pests are in the area. They can communicate in a kind of common plant language.

Final Thoughts on Plant Consciousness

With these complex sensory and perceptual faculties, it’s no wonder that people wonder whether or not houseplants can think, and whether they might have a consciousness similar to our own. Know that scientists have taken the question quite seriously, but the research and best scientific minds believe plants don’t have consciousness as we think of it. Sure, you can attempt to parse certain aspects of plant perception in ways that parallel human consciousness. In many ways, plants can see, hear, smell, and respond to stimulus, but again the consensus is that the evidence is lacking that plants can learn, feel, or think in complex ways.


Popular Myths about Houseplant Care Practices

If you’re just starting to learn about how to care for houseplants, we recommend you check out our general guide that covers all aspects of houseplant care. If you’re trying to fine-tune your knowledge, learn about some of the misconceptions that may be holding you back. Some myths about houseplant care have taken on a life—and a brand—of their own. (Just adding ice is not the best way to water orchids, for example.) Other myths come from misapplying some basic facts about houseplants or else failing to recognize the ways in which houseplant care can be counterintuitive. 

We have a separate page that discusses myths about potting and placing houseplants. In this space, we wanted to focus on dispelling popular myths about houseplant care practices including light exposure, watering, temperature, and soil quality.

Common Myths about Houseplant Care

  • Water can Focus and Burn Plants in Direct Sunlight: This is just as common with watering the lawn and outdoor plants, but we’ve heard it about houseplants, too. The theory goes that the round water droplets can act as a magnifying glass to focus the sunlight and burn the plant. The theory makes a kind of sense, but it doesn’t represent the facts. Water can act as a magnifying leaves but doesn’t have enough space to focus the sunlight. There is something of this effect on plants with strong hairs that can capture water some distance from the leaf, but even then the science suggests that the cooling effect of evaporating water counteracts much of the added heat.
  • Misting is Good for Houseplants: Arguably, misting houseplants can provide a few, isolated benefits. For one thing, it can serve as a de facto cleaning mechanism for leaves that have gotten dusty, for example. Under direct sunlight in summer, misting can provide a cooling blast and lower the humidity, if only for a few minutes. Misting air plants can help you procrastinate on a full watering soak. That’s about it—even then you need to be careful when misting houseplants. Too much and you can encourage mold and pests to get a foothold. If you want to increase humidity, a pebble water tray or air humidifier is a better method.
  • Using Leaf Shine Products to Clean Plants: The popular home remedies for leaf shine include a mixture of water with milk or mayonnaise. There are also leaf shine products that make all kinds of outlandish claims. Yet, there’s no good evidence to think that leaf shine is any better than water. The important thing is to keep dust and other debris off the plant so the leaves can breathe. This can be done with water and a soft, clean cloth. Most leaf shine won’t hurt the plant directly, but some poorly made or poorly applied products may leave a residue on the leaves which can attract dust and make it even harder for the plant to breathe.
  • Chlorinated Water is Harmful to Plants: This goes hand-in-hand with letting a full jug of water sit overnight to let chlorine and other chemicals settle. There is no evidence that the levels of chlorinated water you’ll find in tap water can harm houseplants. There is more of a debate about whether fluoridated water and fluoride exposure can stunt the growth of plants known to have a higher sensitivity to fluoride, like spider plants. Moreover, forever chemicals and systemic failures to municipal water can lead to unhealthy tap water for plants, pets, and humans. That’s why even though we’re not worried about chlorinated water, we use filtered water for some of our cherished houseplants just in case.  
  • Fertilizer will help weak, stunted growth: Fertilizer provides the final ingredients that houseplants need to take advantage of the extra light and warmth that comes with spring and summer. It is not a health remedy, and it’s not a cure-all for weak growth. Worse, if the plant’s growth has stalled as a natural consequence of the winter season, adding fertilizer could do more harm than good as it sits in and degrades the soil rather than getting sucked up into new plant growth.

Why is My Houseplant Turning Red?

Often, the direct cause of a houseplant turning red is the plant releasing protective antioxidants called anthocyanins. Used by many different types of plants, these anthocyanins offer protection against too much light, too little water, and other stressors. Many deciduous trees and shrubs will naturally turn red in the fall season as a way of salvaging the nutrients in the leaves before they fall to the ground. Some plants also have leaves that are red when they are new and actively growing, before turning green when the leaves reach maturity.

Indoor houseplants do not go through these same seasonal growth patterns, but their leaves can still turn red as the result of environmental stressors. If you’re noticing some reddening on the tips of leaves, there’s no reason to panic, but you should take steps to determine the underlying cause in case it does threaten the longevity of your houseplants.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Some houseplants will turn red as a way of coping with too much direct sunlight. Many types of jade plants—which like lots of indirect light and some direct light—are known for turning red in the summer if they start to receive too much direct light. This reddening is usually not the sign of anything serious. In many mild cases, it’s like a summer tan for the plant that will gradually fade back to a lush green throughout the winter. Notably, some people want to know how to make their houseplant turn red. If you like the look of red jades, you can intentionally give your houseplant a sunnier spot and fast-draining potting soil that hasn’t been enriched with extra nutrients.

Water and Temperature Changes

Even in summer, direct light exposure isn’t the only possible cause. If you start reducing watering frequency prematurely, this can prematurely cut off nutrients to the remaining foliage growth and the plant may turn red as a result. Water softeners, hard minerals, and metals can also cause reddening. Similarly, if the plant suffers a temperature shock, especially from warmer to cooler temperatures, the houseplant may turn red. These problems can affect many types of plants but are especially common with jade and jasmine plants.

Soil Imbalance

Soil imbalances can also cause houseplants to turn red. If you’ve added too much fertilizer or if it’s been a long time since you’ve added fertilizer, soil amendments, or fresh potting soil, this could be the culprit. Likewise, if you’ve been tinkering with your soil composition with a new kind of fertilizer or if some kind of contaminant has been introduced to the soil, one of the signs could be leaves that start to turn red.

The key takeaways here are that often a houseplant turning red is nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve been keeping up in general with houseplant care practices. Even still, you should investigate the change in coloration and the circumstances to make sure there aren’t more serious problems that lie ahead.


Myths about Potting and Placing Houseplants

There is no shortage of myths about houseplants in general. It’s easy to take basic facts about how plants live and grow and come to the wrong conclusions about what’s best for choosing, potting and placing houseplants. There are also many popular myths about houseplant care. Here, we wanted to focus on some of the most common myths about potting and placing houseplants in your home or office.

Biggest Myths about Potting and Placing Houseplants

  • Placing Houseplants Will Affect Your Indoor Air Quality: A misunderstood NASA study continues to perpetuate the myth that houseplants can improve indoor air quality. This study looked strictly at the effect of plants on closed environments like you might find on a space station. A different myth suggests the opposite: You should avoid putting houseplants in bedrooms because they will hurt your indoor air quality. The simple facts are that houseplants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day, while releasing carbon dioxide overnight, but there is enough space and ventilation that these emissions do not appreciably change the overall air quality in your home or office space. Houseplants can affect mood and mental health that may improve breathing indirectly, but this has nothing to do with the indoor air quality.
  • Plants Grow Bigger in Bigger Pots: Most people who know their houseplants can tell you that this isn’t true, but it’s a self-perpetuating myth based on people’s intuitions. It’s easy to think that if you want a houseplant to get bigger, it needs room to grow. It’s also easy to think that because repotting puts stress on the plant, it’s better to start with a bigger pot. The facts are houseplants need comparatively little soil to sustain new growth. Instead, they need easily accessible potting soil and less competition. Bigger pots hold more soil which retain more water and can lead to root rot. It also provides more opportunity for mold, bugs, and other houseplant pests to get a foothold. Think of the stress of repotting a houseplant as a positive stressor that stimulates new growth. By knowing what type of houseplant you’re potting, it’s easy to choose the correct size pot and to know the signs for when it’s time to repot.
  • You Should Put Gravel in the Bottom of Pots: There are a lot of people who think that if you’re going to put a houseplant in a pot without drainage holes, it’s best to put small rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot to help drainage and prevent root rot. The truth is a little more complicated. Excess water will sit at the bottom of the pot without hurting the plant, but it won’t be helping, either. You will still need to water enough to get the bottommost part of the root wet. It’s when the soil stays moist for a prolonged period of time near the top of the root that serious root rot can set in. Thus, by putting gravel in the bottom of the pot, you’re shortening the available growing medium and the potential distance between the bottom and top of the root system. By putting dirt through to the bottom of the pot, you won’t need to water as much to give the plant what it needs. An even better plan is to always use pots with drainage holes, except in special circumstances like when growing hydroponic plants.
  • Some Plants can Grow without Light. Full shade plants is not the same as plants that can grow with light. You may have an office or houseplant that has good environmental conditions, is a full-shade plant and is coping with indirect light from across the room. Sunlight likes to bounce around. Even small windows or plants near open doors that may catch sunlight from an adjacent at least have a chance. It doesn’t take much in other words, but if you have houseplants in a basement, media room, or bathroom with no windows at all, plants will not grow or stay alive indefinitely without the aid of special indoor grow lights. These types of lights may cost anywhere from $50-$250 or more.
  • All Houseplants do Best in South-Facing Windows. It’s so common for a houseplant that’s lingered along for several months or even years with a minimal amount of light to brighten up and sprout new growth in a south-facing window that it’s become something of a myth that all houseplants do best in south-facing windows. It’s one of the more versatile windows, and some of the most popular houseplants like lots of indirect and some direct sunlight that it reinforces the myth. However, this is far from universally true. Worse, if you take a cherished houseplant that’s experiencing mild symptoms of overwatering or less than ideal soil conditions but is ill-suited for direct sunlight, you might inadvertently kill the plant in an attempt to brighten up its leaves.

Why is My Houseplant Turning Brown?

Houseplant leaves may turn brown for a variety of reasons. This most often occurs when a houseplant does not have the requisite water and nutrients to support its current foliage, and the leaves start to die back. Often, there’s nothing that can be done to save the withered growth, and it should be pruned from the plant to make room for new growth. By understanding the cause of the browning leaves, you can hopefully ensure the plant can support and maintain green, healthy growth in the future. Much of the time, you can accurately diagnose why your houseplant leaves are turning brown by looking at the timing and circumstances of the discoloration.

Most Common Reasons Houseplants Turn Brown

Too Much Sunlight: Direct solar rays can burn many types of houseplants. Dried leaves naturally turn brown. If your houseplant is turning brown in the summer and especially if it’s a houseplant in a south- or west-facing window, then it’s likely sun damage. This type of browning almost always starts with the tips of leaves or other parts of the plant that are closest to the window. As a remedy, prune back the damaged part of the plant. Next, consider moving the plant to an east- or north-facing window, or moving it further back from the window if possible. You should also closely monitor the soil moisture level to make sure this isn’t contributing to the sun damage.

Underwatering: Plants that don’t receive enough will also dry out and turn brown. Underwatering is often connected with summer and sunlight, especially if you first started caring for the plant in colder weather. Most houseplants need more water in summer as evaporation increases. At the same time, browning plant leaves will occur due to underwatering regardless of the season. The winter season brings dry air for houseplants, especially in homes with forced air heating. Along with holiday travel, it’s easy to forget your houseplant watering. The solution here is to increase the amount of water you give the houseplant—albeit gradually. First, you need to be sure the problem is underwatering, but you also don’t want to overcorrect. Too much water can lead to root rot.

Pests: Yellow is a more common discoloration with houseplant pests which tend to steal nutrients from the plant. Once the pest damage hits a critical point, leaves may begin to die back and it’s more common for them to turn brown. Any unusual discoloration—but especially yellow, brown, white and black—may be a symptom of a pest infestation. The initial discoloration may be spotted and/or clustered based on where the insects are attacking the plant. If you see bugs on your plant or other signs of houseplant pests, then you should begin insecticide treatment as soon as possible.

Root Rot: Here, too, houseplants that turn yellow are more common with root rot—at least with the leaves. Root rot occurs when the soil is oversaturated and the roots become waterlogged. The leaves are more likely to turn yellow, but the roots will turn brown. If you expose a portion of the roots and they look brown and feel soft to the touch, then there’s a good chance that the discoloration you’re seeing is root rot. The solution here is to remove the affected roots, and the discolored leaves, and repot the healthy portion of the plant. Closely monitor the watering schedule going forward.

Water and Soil Quality: If leaves continue to turn brown, but don’t seem to be seriously harming the plant, it could have something to do with the water quality. If our tap water has high levels of fluoride or hard alkaline minerals, it can affect the soil quality and health of the roots. Adding a water softener is NOT the solution. These salts will interfere with houseplant roots even more. Another common reason for houseplants turning brown is adding too much fertilizer which will also disrupt the roots ability to deliver water and nutrients to the plant.

Houseplant Turning Brown: Why It’s Important to Know the Type

A lot of times, you can tell from the situation why a houseplant is turning brown. Other times, it’s not as obvious. Knowing the type of houseplant can help you diagnose the discoloration. For example, a drought-resistant plant that loves sunlight is less likely to be seriously harmed by the summer sun. However, in late summer and fall, houseplant pests are also more likely to find their way inside your home and may be the hidden cause of houseplants turning brown. Finally, there may be multiple, contributing causes. The summer sun may start to burn houseplants, or maybe you overcompensate and overwater a plant slightly. This weakens the plant just enough for a common houseplant pest to get a foothold.

Once you recognize why a houseplant is turning brown, you’ll know how to treat and care for the houseplant to help it recover. Sometimes, a houseplant simply can’t be saved—or else the best chance to save the plant is to isolate the healthiest growth and put this part of the plant in a new pot.  


Why is My Houseplant Turning Yellow?

A houseplant may turn yellow for all kinds of reasons. This typically happens when the leaves have lost their nutrients and photosynthesis capabilities. Mild yellowing in isolated parts of the plant may be something that’s easily remedied and unlikely to kill the houseplant. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t ignore the problem when a houseplant is turning yellow, as it may be a symptom of more serious trouble ahead.

Much of the time, you can confidently figure out the problem by looking at the timing and circumstances of the discoloration. Take a look at the following reasons why a houseplant is turn yellow, and consider what’s changed recently in your houseplant care or seasonal conditions.

Most Common Reasons Houseplants Turn Yellow

Not Enough Light: The chlorophyll that makes plant leaves green will catch sunlight and use it for photosynthesis, but the sunlight also stimulates the production of new chlorophyll pigments in the plant. In other words, if a houseplant isn’t getting enough light, the chlorophyll can’t do its job and stops give the leaves their natural green color. The nutrient loss and stunted growth often cause the houseplant leaves to turn yellow. If the plant is already in a window with lots of light, consider whether it’s a dried brownish yellow that’s the result of burning under the sun. Again, looking at the plant’s general living conditions will often reveal the source of the discoloration.

Overwatering/Root Rot: Leaves that are bloated with water may turn a translucent yellow. Overwatering may have also caused root rot which is cutting off nutrients to the growth that depend on this part of the root system. If you have entire areas of the plant, from stem to leaf turning yellow, this is likely the cause. To be sure, expose a portion of the roots under the yellowing houseplant. The roots should be white and firm. If they are soft and brown, this is root rot. You should reduce the watering schedule, but you will also need to remove the affected part of the plant, which is unlikely to recover. Underwatering plants may also cause yellow discoloration, though a brown color is more likely with soil that’s too dry.

Water and Soil Quality: Leaves that turn yellow especially at the tips may have something to do with the type of water you’re using on houseplants. Some tap water has higher levels of fluoride or alkaline minerals that rarely kill a houseplant but can interfere with the roots ability to absorb water and deliver nutrients to all areas of new plant growth. Think about switching to filtered water, or let the watering can sit for 24 hours to reduce the chemicals and minerals in the water. Too much and poorly timed fertilizer will also cause disruptions to water and nutrient absorption and is another common reason houseplants turn yellow.

Pests: Whether it’s some type of scale or plant mite, houseplant pests have a knack for boring their way into your plants and stealing the nutrients stored in their leaves, stems and/or roots. This nutrient loss may eventually cause the plant to die back in a major way, but often the first sign is houseplant leaves turning yellow. Be sure to check for tiny spots and other signs that your houseplant has pests. Take immediate action to remove as many of the pests as possible and begin a regimen of insecticidal treatments.

Temperature: Most indoor plants can tolerate modest swings in temperature between summer and winter. However, it’s not a good idea to leave tropical plants near vents where air conditioning will periodically blast the plant with cold, dry air. If it gets cold enough for long enough, the plant can turn brown and die back altogether. Periodic drafts are more likely to turn houseplant leaves yellow.  

Houseplant Turning Yellow: Look at the Type of Plant

As part of diagnosing why your plant is turning yellow, it’s often helpful to know what type of plant you’re dealing with. Full shade plants are less likely to suffer from insufficient light unless they are far away from windows. Bromeliads are more pest-resistant than most types of houseplants. Azaleas, begonias, and African violets all tend to prefer acidic soil and are more likely to be affected by alkaline soil from tap water.

Yellowing leaves is one of the most common signs of distress in a houseplant. In some cases, it can be helpful to review why houseplants turn brown. Once you understand the underlying cause of the discoloration, it’s usually easy to find out what treatment and recovery steps may be taken to return the houseplant to full health.


Popular Names for Houseplants

A lot of people have names for their houseplants. It increases the fun and the sense of connection that comes with caring for a houseplant. If you like to talk to your plants or think you may want to give it a try, naming the plant helps a lot. It’s also easier to show off your plants and your creative side to friends and family when you can refer to the plants by a clever name rather than, say, the jade on the corner of the windowsill.  

Naming a houseplant is also a great way to enhance the mental health benefits that come with owning and caring for plants. Some people already pick houseplants for their symbolism and aroma. Without a doubt, they can influence mood. The lavender plant is calming, for example, while the eucalyptus plant is known for rejuvenation and focus. Houseplants can enhance your work and living space, but they are also an excuse to take a moment out of your day for self-care. Naming your plants goes hand-in-hand with these benefits. Find something that speaks to you and will reinforce your reasons for owning and caring for the plant in the first place.  

Find Popular Names for Houseplants 

Any name, common or uncommon, that speaks to you is great. There are no wrong answers. Name it after your favorite (or least favorite) celebrity. Make a pop culture reference. Here are some of our favorite names for houseplants we’ve collected over the years.  

  • Bamboozle 
  • Aloe Vera Wang 
  • Aunt Begonia 
  • ZZ Top 
  • Eddie Money Tree 
  • Sigmund Freud 
  • The Kraken 
  • Jayden Potts (jade) 
  • Jake (the snake plant) 
  • Moses (wandering Jew) 
  • Sonny and Cher 
  • Matzo 
  • Dr. Rooth 

Plain or odd, the houseplant name doesn’t have to come to you right away. Maybe you’d prefer to wait a few weeks or even a couple months to see what growth and personality your new plant shows. Some of our favorite plants took a while to grow on us. Looking for even more ideas? Check out this list of names from Mashable.  

Plant-Themed Baby Names 

Interestingly, there has been a noticeable uptick in plant-themed baby names over the last couple years, especially in the UK but in the US as well. It’s not just Lily and Violet, either. Coral, Jade and Fern are viable choices as well, while staying within the mainstream of baby names.   


Do You Need a Soil Moisture Sensor for Houseplants?

The simple answer is that if you’re having trouble knowing when to water your houseplants, then it’s time to buy a soil moisture sensor. These devices can be helpful to beginners and experts alike. Likewise, some houseplants have higher tolerances than others for underwatering and overwatering. If you stick to plants that are hard to kill and follow the basic care guidelines, you may never need one of these devices. If you’re trying to cultivate a houseplant that needs just the right soil moisture level, then a soil moisture sensor may be indispensable.

How to Use a Soil Moisture Sensor

In addition to knowing what type of plant you’re dealing with and watching for telltale signs, the surest way to follow the best watering practices is to measure the moisture level beneath the surface of the potting soil. The manufacturer will include their own instructions and tips. Most of today’s devices are digital and easy enough to insert in the plant’s potting soil. As a general rule, drought-resistant and low-water houseplants may wait until the soil is dry up to 2 inches or more below the surface. Moderate-water plants may be ready for more water when the soil is dry an inch into the surface. You can dial in these moisture readings, soil depths, and watering schedule even more by learning more about that specific type of houseplant. The bottom line is that soil moisture sensors can tell you how wet or dry the soil is underneath the surface, something that isn’t always possible just by looking, and this helps tell you when and how much to water the houseplant.

How Much Do Soil Moisture Sensors Cost?

You can buy a basic sensor with reasonable accuracy for as little as $10-$20. If it’s got a digital display and a few bells and whistles, it might cost $20-$35. You will also find soil moisture sensors for hundreds of dollars. These systems are designs for outdoor plants and soil monitoring, often with some type of wireless/Bluetooth technology as part of remote and automated control of the irrigation system.

There is a huge range of technologies and products to choose from. You can find modular components for self-engineered solutions. You can find automated plant watering systems with drip irrigation that you can pair with a soil moisture sensor. Arguably, the next generation of soil moisture meters is built-in sensors for smart houseplants pots. In fact, some of these smart pots and built-in plant sensors are already available as recently featured on Smart Home Scout.

Better Houseplant Care

Some people take a carefree attitude about their houseplants at first and then discover a passion that leads them to more nuanced plant care. Some people use moisture meters to get a sense of how often to water the plant before letting habit and experience serve as their guide in the future. Yet, because these devices aren’t very expensive, it’s not a bad idea to have a soil moisture sensor just in case you need it.


Why and What You Should Keep in a Houseplant Journal

If you really want to take your houseplant game to the next level, we recommend keeping a houseplant journal. This journal can create a record of houseplants, environments, care practices, and growth patterns. A different type of journal, you can also keep a personal journal inspired by sitting in front of your favorite houseplant. Maybe describe the qualities and changes you observe in your houseplants over time as a kind of meditative practice. You can include or not include any type of information you want, but for a fulsome record of your houseplant history, here is a full list of information you might include. 

Name and Plant Type: Feel free to add any other basic identifying information. 

Start Date: So you know when you first placed your houseplant.  

Start Size: Basic dimensions will help you track long-term growth. 

Source: Where the plant came from. This may help remind you to show someone how successful their gift plant became, or else track which local home and gardening stores tend to have the strongest plants. 

Soil: This includes notes about the type of soil that was used and amendments that have been added to the soil over time. It may also include notes about things to watch out for or soil additives that are scheduled for the future. 

Repotting and Repositioning: You probably don’t need documentation of a plant’s current pot and position in your home, but if you ever repot or reposition your houseplant, it’s a good idea to make a note of the original pot and position. This can help diagnose what’s different if your plant suddenly takes off or else starts to wither. 

Watering Schedule: If you have numerous plants, creating tips about watering each plant can help ensure you stick to the right watering schedule. A houseplant journal can be a great resource if you travel a lot and plan to have someone else look after your plants. Rather than trying to communicate the entire plant care schedule at once, you can simply leave your plant journal for the person to use as a reference.  

New Growth and Flowering: This includes notations about when and how the plant flowered, created new shoots, or increased notably in size. This type of information can be useful in determining when to repot and when to modify the plant’s watering schedule to maximize health and new growth.  

If creating a full plant journal sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, you can still track some of your most basic plant care needs on a notepad. Check out this Pinterest board of plant care notepads.