What’s the secret to healthy indoor plants?

You can do all of the research in the world on the best indoor plants, but if you don’t practice proper care techniques, then you’re going to have a tough time keeping your leafy friends healthy and strong.

All plants have their own unique quirks. Understanding what those are is key, but just as important is understanding the essentials of basic house plant care, from how often to water your indoor plants to what it means when the tips of their leaves start to turn brown.

As for where to start, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together this quick and handy house plant care guide with plenty of tips and troubleshooting advice to help you be the best plant parent that you can be.  

House Plant Care 101

There are so many benefits to having plants in your home, from better air quality to improvements in your mood, creativity, and ability to focus. They can even help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

If you have dead or dying plants around you, however, then perhaps you’ve found the opposite to be true. Not only is failing to take care of your house plants an aesthetic bummer, it’s also a mood killer—not to mention a big waste of money.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to improve your houseplant care skills. With a quick overview of the basics, you can help your plants survive and thrive, and you might even find that what you thought was a black thumb of doom is anything but.

Here’s what to know.

How Do You Keep Indoor Plants Healthy?

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Botanist Chris Satch shares how to keep plants healthy and thriving.

All plants need a few key things in order to survive: soil, water, and sunlight, in varying levels.

  • Soil: This is the foundational element of any potted plant, allowing a rich environment for roots to prosper and water and nutrients to disperse. What kind of soil you need will depend on the plant itself—for instance, if you’re looking up bromeliad house plant care you’re going to get different advice on the optimal type of soil than if you’re looking up how to care for an orchid plant in-house. Most plants, however, do well in standard indoor potting soil, which is easy to find at any local nursery or home improvement store.
  • Water: Just like humans, plants can’t survive without the right amount of water. So what is that right amount? It depends on your climate and the type of plant, though as a good rule of thumb, it’s always better to err on the side of slightly underwatering your plants than overwatering them.
  • Sunlight: Let there be sun! There are a number of different types of indoor plants that can make it in dimly lit environments, but for the most part, if you want a happy plant, you have to provide it with enough access to sun. This may be direct or indirect sun depending on the preferences of the plant variety, with some plants preferring bright rays for many hours a day and others shuddering at the thought.

As for what else you need to do for optimal houseplant care, these additional tips will help ensure that you and your plants are on the same page—and that you’re not inadvertently doing more harm than good with your plant care techniques.

Choose the Best Indoor Plants for Your Environment

You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, and you can’t force a plant to adapt to an unideal living environment. While a lot of picking out the right plants comes down to personal preference, you also need to consider the conditions that you have to offer, including your sun quality and climate.

We put together another house plant care guide dedicated to matching your houseplants to your climate and light level, which includes a look at some of the most ideal plants for a range of conditions:

  • Low light: ZZ plants and pothos
  • Full sun: Jade and sago palm
  • Hot and humid: Staghorn fern and aloe vera
  • Dry climates: Snake plant and string of pearls

You obviously have many more options than these, but the takeaway is always the same: choose plants that fit your environment, instead of simply picking out plants based on appearance and hoping for the best.

Pro Tip: Have pets? Always make sure a plant is pet-safe before you bring it into your home.

Consider Your Skill Level

If you’re new to plant parenthood, start with easier plants and work your way toward bigger challenges.

Some of the best plants for beginners include:

  • Pilea
  • Spider plants
  • Anthuriums
  • Cast iron plants
  • Peace lilies
  • Cacti
  • Bamboo
  • Herbs
  • Succulents

The more skilled you get at caring for these relatively simple varieties, the better set up you’ll be to tackle higher maintenance plants like orchids and fiddle leaf figs.

Don’t Forget to Fertilize

Fertilizer is a specialized type of plant food that can help fill in the gaps in your plants daily nutritional intake.

Providing your indoor plants with fertilizer is important for keeping them healthy, but you need to hit on the right frequency. Some types of fertilizer need to be added to your soil once every few weeks, while others can be spaced out to once every few months. And in both cases, you only want to give your plants fertilizer during their peak growing seasons, rather than year round.

Find a fertilizer you like and that’s appropriate for the types of houseplants you have, then follow the directions carefully so that you provide each plant with the right amount of added nutrition.

Keep Air Flowing, Leaves Pruned, and Dust in Check

Nobody wants to live in a stuffy environment, and that includes your plants. Make sure that area in your home with house plants has proper air flow, especially for those plants that are keen on bright, direct sunlight. (On the flip side, avoid harsh drafts from things like closely-situated fans and air conditioners, which can be too tough on delicate leaves.)

As for your plants themselves, remove dead leaves to concentrate nutrients in the healthy parts of the plant, and occasionally give each leaf a gentle wipe down with a slightly damp rag to remove any lingering dust.

How Often Should You Water Your Indoor Plants?

Of all the plant care problems that seem to trip people up, how often you need to water plants is probably the most common.

From bamboo house plant care to how to care for a shamrock house plant, you’re always going to struggle if you can’t get your watering technique on point. And as you might expect, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Your standard houseplant is going to need to be watered about once every one to three weeks, with varying requirements on the precise amount of water that’s needed. Instead of watering like clockwork though, do what the houseplant pros do and learn to water your plants just when they need it.

Many beginner plant parents water their plants too often, which, while probably done with good intentions, can have a disastrous effect. A better method is to look for signs that a plant needs to be watered before giving it a drink—such as a bone dry top layer of soil or wilting leaves.

Another helpful tip to know is that the more sunlight a plant gets, the more water it needs. Pay close attention to your high light plants and plan on watering them more frequently than you do your lowlight ones.

Common Indoor Plant Problems (and Solutions!)

If you’re trying your hardest with your indoor plants and still facing issues, you’re definitely not alone. Here are some of the most common houseplant problems—and what you can do about them.

Why Are the Tips of My House Plants Going Brown?

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Source: Instagram
Brown tips? There are four common issues that might be at play.

Brown tips are a sign of one of more of the following problems:

  • Too little light
  • Too little humidity
  • Too much water
  • Too much heat

To figure out what the culprit is, evaluate your plant’s environment and needs, as well as what you’ve been doing to take care of it. Chances are that you’ll be able to discern where the disconnect is happening, and from there alter your care practices.

Why Does My Plant Have Black or White Spots?

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Source: Instagram
Know how to recognize the signs of plant disease. 

Black spots, as well as fuzzy white spots, are signs that you’re dealing with either a fungal or bacterial plant disease. It may also have a pest problem. Head to Google to try to identify exactly what disease is at play, or take your plant to a local nursery for a check up with a pro. In many cases, your plant can recover from the disease or pest that it’s facing, but you’ll need to know what it is in order to put the right remedy into place.

Why is My Plant Dropping Leaves?

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Source: Instagram
A plant that is dropping leaves is a plant that’s trying to tell you something. 

If your plant is shedding its leaves, it’s probably trying to tell you that it would be happier in a different spot. Leaf dropping is a clear sign of stress, which could be caused by a recent move or by being located in an area that isn’t ideal for the plant in question. In particular, regular leaf dropping could be a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough light in their current home.

Make sure you’ve got the right light level for the plant in question, and if your plant simply seems stressed out, keep an eye on it. If all of its care needs are being met, it should bounce back eventually.

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