The Ultimate Guide to Houseplant Care

August 22, 2019

By Matt

If your decor is looking a little bland, there is no better way to incorporate color and beauty into your home than by adding houseplants! Like outdoor plants, houseplants require some special care and attention in order to thrive and grow. 

However, with just a little bit of know-how, you can produce gorgeous houseplants that live for years, filtering toxins out of the household air and serving as jaw-dropping statement pieces in your decorative scheme.

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Advantages of Growing Houseplants 

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that growing houseplants is a great way to boost your happiness and overall serenity. They make your home look beautiful, and that’s reason enough to cultivate them. However, houseplants also offer a range of other benefits as well:

  • Help you feel calmer, reducing stress and promoting feelings of well-being
  • Improve air quality, removing toxins such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide
  • Lower background noise, filtering out air pollution from nearby roads
  • Prevent illness as they reduce virus-friendly dryness in the air 
  • Boost healing by reducing symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Make it easier to breathe by increasing oxygen levels 
  • Promote productivity, sharpening your focus and helping you to work better
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Best Houseplants You Can Grow

There is no shortage of houseplants that can easily be cultivated by indoor growers, but there are some that are more common than others. Consider these plants when setting out on your next new adventure.

  • Snake plant – This tropical plant has a striking appearance and comes in a variety of colors. It removes toxins from the air and usually only needs to be watered once a week at most.
  • Peace lily – This dark-leafed plant produces striking white flowers and attractive foliage. It is tolerant of low light and can also help to purify the air.
  • Spider plant – The spider plant is a “classic” houseplant choice that grows well in humid areas, like bathrooms and kitchens. It likes bright light and only needs to be watered once a week (or less, if you are keeping it in the bathroom where it can soak up the humidity). 
  • Rubber plant – As the name implies, this bold-looking houseplant produces rubbery leaves and requires minimal care. Producing burgundy foliage under ideal lighting, it prefers indirect exposure and weekly mistings.
  • Aloe vera – A medicinal plant, aloe is easy to care for and produces sharp-thorned green leaves. It thrives in direct sunlight and needs little water.
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  • Orchids – Many people shy away from orchids, but they are actually quite easy to care for. They produce gorgeous flowers and although you may need to use a special soil formulated for orchids, they prefer little light and minimal watering. 

Ideal Soil For Indoor Growing 

When purchasing or repurposing soil, look for one that is designed for indoor plants. You should use a soil that is light and airy, containing ingredients like peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, and compost. In some cases, you may need to use soils that are specially formulated for certain kinds of plants such as African Violet mix or Catus & Succulent Mix.

Compost is an essential addition to the potting soil for your indoor plants because most houseplant potting soils do not contain any nutrients. Adding compost is a great way to boost the nutrient content of your plants without adding harsh synthetic chemicals. 

You should avoid using topsoil or soil you remove from an outdoor garden for your houseplants. This is because potting soil formulated for houseplants will be free from diseases and pests, and also have the right level of porosity to make growing plants in containers a bit easier. Consider a blend formulated especially for this purpose, such as this one by Espoma.

Ideal Containers for Indoor Growing 

Your options are virtually limitless when it comes to containers for your houseplants. Although most houseplants are sold in generic plastic pots, you can easily replace the pot so that it matches your existing decor. There are pots in just about any size, color, and material.

Remember that your pots should be proportional to the growing size and medium of your plant. Plants that are too large for their containers won’t just look odd, they will also suffer as they become root-bound in their tiny pots. 

The ideal container will also have drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to escape. If water collects in the bottom of a container, it can cause root rot, a fatal condition. 

You may also consider placing a plastic or clay saucer beneath your planter to collect excess water after it exits the hole in the bottom of the pot. This will eliminate damage to your furniture, floor, or carpet. If you choose to use a saucer, try and empty it out so that your plant is not sitting in a pool of water. Most indoor houseplants will resent being in an extended saturated condition and it will cause tip burn and other problems such as rot.

Watering Your Houseplants 

When it comes to houseplants, most people worry that they aren’t watering enough, when in fact the opposite is usually true – they are sometimes watering far too often! Indoor houseplants do not like wet feet! Not only do most houseplants like it on the drier side, it is also physically harder for your plants to dry out inside, as their roots are restricted to a container and they don’t receive as much natural airflow.

Instead of assuming your plant needs to be watered every day, give the soil a quick test to see if it’s actually thirsty. By lightly pressing into the soil, you should be able to determine whether it is damp or bone-dry. While watering requirements will vary depending on the specific type of houseplant you are growing, in most cases you want the soil to dry out completely before you add more water. 

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When you water, make sure to water gently, thoroughly, and infrequently. Pour the water onto the soil at a slow, purposeful pace, and do so until the water begins coming out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. 

In the summertime, when the sun is more intense, you may need to water about once a week or so, but in the wintertime, you will likely reduce this frequency to once every two (or even three!) weeks. 

A quick note on using spray bottles: you can give your plants a light spritz of moisture once or twice a day. This will also help maintain adequate humidity levels for your plants, many of which are tropical and prefer a more humid environment. However, using a spray bottle is not a complete substitute for a good ol’ fashioned watering can for most species because it does not deliver large enough quantities of water. 

Best Location for Your Houseplants 

The most important thing to remember when setting out your houseplants is that they need to be given an environment that most closely imitates that of the outdoors. Many people assume that faulty watering is what offers up the kiss of death to their houseplants, but in reality, an improper location is usually to blame. 

Plants need light and heat to carry out their natural biological processes, like photosynthesis, and it’s important that you remember that each house plant will have unique needs in this regard. Some plants require much less light than others or prefer filtered light to get the job done. 

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Generally speaking, houseplants require one of three lighting conditions:

  • Low light (less than 3 hours a day)
  • Medium light (4-6 hours a day)
  • High light (6 hours or more per day)

Make sure you research how much light (and how intense the light needs to be) is appropriate for your species before you choose a location for your houseplant. Remember that houseplants come from all over the world–from sunny islands to darker tropical forest understories. Each plant you own will have a slightly different requirement.  

If your plant needs direct or high light, consider placing it near a south-facing window. If it prefers indirect or low light, you can still place it near a window, but perhaps consider placing a curtain over the window to filter the incoming rays. In many cases, a houseplant requiring low light can also thrive near a lamp with a strong bulb. 

Temperature is vital for most houseplants. Since many commonly cultivated plants are tropical they naturally prefer higher temperatures. While room temperature is generally adequate, remember that rooms that drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit at any point will not be ideal. While ideal temperature varies depending on the plant you are growing, generally speaking, the warmer, the better. 

Airflow is another commonly overlooked factor in where you choose to place your plants. You want to keep your plants away from cold drafts, but also in a spot where they will receive a consistent breeze. This helps prevent pests and diseases from taking hold. If you need to place your plants in a stuffier room to meet their growing requirements, consider running a ceiling fan overhead so that they have the opportunity to breathe. 

Fertilizing Houseplants 

While most plants can carry out their natural processes by using light and water only, they also need some nutrients in order to thrive. Most houseplant potting soils are devoid of any nutrients, so you will need to fertilize from time to time.

Along with occasionally feeding your houseplants with compost as explained previously, here are two other good options:

Granule: HPP7 Osmocote is a great slow release fertilizer for houseplants. Simple to apply once every few months, the fertilizer slowly breaks down over time with each watering. This eliminates the need for frequent fertilization while giving plants the boost they need.


Liquid: HPP6 Jack’s 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer is one of the best overall fertilizers for houseplants (and even outdoor plants too). Simply mix the powder according to the label into a gallon jug of water. It will turn the water blue so you know it’s not straight water. We suggest using this fertilizer once a month for best results.

Propagating, Pruning, and Repotting 

Propagating house plants is an easy way to get more plants out of the ones you already have. Some plants send out runners with new plants, so all you need to do is separate out those roots to start new plants. Others send out shoots which you can then divide and put into pots. If you notice your plants reproducing in this way, take the opportunity to divide and repot them, as you’ll be rewarded with more plants. If you’re interested in propagation, take some time to research your species of houseplant. Propagation is species specific and can vary greatly in how you create new plants.

You might need to prune your houseplants from time to time, too. If your plants have uneven growth or branches that are too long, cut them back to side shoots. You can also remove any dead or diseased leaves to prevent problems from spreading. If you decide to prune, just make sure you never remove more than a third of the plant at a time. 

In some cases, you may need to repot your houseplants. You will know it’s time to give your plants a new home when the root systems are circling the inside of the container. This is usually apparent when your plant has received a pause in its growth patterns during the growing season. Transplant into a larger container and make sure you water well in the delicate period after it has been transplanted. 

Troubleshooting 

On a weekly basis, you should take a damp cloth to wipe down the leaves of your houseplants. This will prevent any dust build-up and keep your plants healthy and attractive in the long term. 

Although houseplants are generally less prone to diseases and pests than outdoor-dwelling plants, there are still a few you should keep an eye out for. Several insects commonly target houseplants, such as spider mites. You can keep most pests at bay with a forceful spray of water, although rubbing alcohol, pesticide granules, houseplant systemic granules and insecticidal soaps work on insects with waxy exteriors (such as mealybugs). 

Often, pests and diseases can be limited by engaging in good preventative care. Avoid overwatering, which attracts pests like fungus gnats, and allow the surface of the soil to dry completely between waterings. If you notice any signs of disease or fungus, make sure you prune diseased leaves. In some cases, you may need to remove the entire houseplant to prevent the disease from spreading to your other plants.

Ready to start creating a luscious indoor oasis? You can grow a vast collection of houseplants that will have even the most accomplished gardeners brimming with envy. Be sure to email us pictures of your houseplant paradise!

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