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Indoor Plant Care

Growing houseplants successfully means providing the best care possible. Here's how.

Growing HouseplantsIndoor plants add color, texture and warmth to the home. They allow year-round access to gardening and can even improve air quality. Many houseplants are easy to grow, but they must be given appropriate care in order to thrive. Since your plants were probably started in a greenhouse — grown under ideal conditions — moving them into your home takes a bit of adjustment on their part.

Proper watering and lighting are the most important components of indoor plant care, but humidity and temperatures also play a role. The trick is to try to mimic the climate of the place that plant came from.

Tropical plants thrive in warm, humid environments, while cacti and succulents prefer hot, dry climes. Of course, your home can’t be everything to every plant, but you can take plant needs into consideration when choosing plants. And, with a few tricks, you can convince your green friends that they are living in their ideal environment.

Plant Selection

The first thing to consider when  is where you want to put it. Then match the space and lighting with the plant’s requirements. Do you have a big spot by a sunny window or a small space with moderate light?

With the right equipment, growing beautiful house plants is easy! At Planet Natural we have everything you need: potssoils and fertilizers to get started, plus grow lights to bring the green-giving magic of the sun indoors. Now, let’s grow!

Next ask yourself if you are looking for a plant with beautiful green leaves or would prefer a flowering plant. Some flowering houseplants are seasonal while others will bloom year after year (see ).

A third consideration is how much time you can devote to a particular plant. A spider plant will take almost any amount of care (or neglect), while an orchid requires significant tender, loving care.

Indoor Plant Care

Water

Potting soil should be kept moist, but not wet. Of course, there are always exceptions — , and other thick-leafed plants do best when the soil dries out between watering. If the soil is kept too dry or too damp the plant’s roots will begin to die, which can lead to inadequate growth or even death of the plant.

There are several methods to determine when a plant needs water. If the potting soil becomes lighter in color or cracked, it’s probably time to water. Pick up your plant and gauge the weight after watering. After a few practice lifts, you’ll be able to tell if the plant needs water just by picking it up. Of course, you can always stick a finger in the soil to determine how moist it is below the surface. For large plants, a hand-held moisture meter may be your best bet to determine how much water is present around the plant’s root mass.

Dehydration

Do NOT let plants get to the point where they are wilting or the soil is pulling away from the edge of the container. These symptoms indicate dehydration and at this point the plant is already seriously stressed and the roots may be damaged.

Signs of underwatering include:

  • Slow leaf growth
  • Translucent leaves
  • Premature dropping of flowers or leaves
  • Brown, yellow or curled leaf edges

You and your plants are gonna’ love the Scheurich Sprayman — it’s a watering can and spray bottle in one! Made out of high quality, transparent plastic, the award-winning design of this super-chic watering tool makes plant maintenance easy and fun.

Overwatering

Too much water is just as detrimental as too little. Frequent watering forces air from the soil and opens the door for root-killing bacteria and fungus to move in. Overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants.

  • Signs of overwatering include:
  • Fungus or mold on the soil surface
  • Mushy brown (maybe stinky) roots at the bottom of the pot
  • Standing water in the bottom of the container
  • Young and old leaves falling off at the same time
  • Leaves with brown rotten patches

Watering on Demand

Plants requiring more water Plants requiring less water
– Flowering plants
– Plants potted in clay pots
– Plants grown in small pots
– Actively growing plants
– Plants located in direct sunlight
– Large-leaved or thin-leaved plants
– Plants that are native to wet areas.
– Resting or dormant plants
– Recently repotted plant
– Plants grown in high humidity
– A plant located in a cool room
– Plants potted in non-porous containers
– Plants with thick or rubbery leaves
– Plants grown in a water retentive mix

For those who are too busy to keep up with a regular watering schedule, which requires checking individual plants every 3-4 days, there are several self-watering devices available. A moisture wick draws water from a dish of water into the root ball of your plant. Capillary mats and moisture tents also keep plants watered. You can always make your own .

Water Quality

Room temperature tap water should be fine for most indoor plants, even if there is chlorine or fluoride added to your city’s water. Plants especially love rainwater or melted snow (unless you live in a region with acid rain). Avoid continuous use of softened water, which may contain sodium.

How to Water

Plants can be watered from the top down or bottom up. When watering from the top, try not to wet the foliage, while ensuring the entire soil mass is moistened. Water should be coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

The Rapitest® Digital Moisture Meter includes a handy plant care booklet and watering guide for over 150 plants. Use to prevent over and under watering by measuring moisture at the root level.

If you prefer to let your plants do the work, set the plant in a dish of water and the roots (and capillary action in the soil) will pull up whatever they need. This method, known as bottom-watering, is a more thorough, if time-consuming, way to water plants.

Tip: Be sure to dump any standing water from the saucer one hour after watering.

Drainage

Good drainage is essential to healthy houseplants. Start with a good, organic potting soil (not regular soil) that has been mixed specifically for indoor gardening.

Choose a container with drainage holes, or put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a container without holes. The point is to not let the plant stand in water. From time to time, check that the drainage holes have not been clogged. And always empty standing water (don’t run it back through the plant’s soil).

Light

As with watering, every plant has different light requirements. Many plants prefer direct sunlight, but this may be hard to get inside a house. Placing a plant in a window might offer enough light, but some houseplants will need supplementing from a grow light (see ).

Flowering Plants

Flowering plants generally do best in moderately bright light and for this reason windows located on the south, east or west side of the house are best for potted flowering plants. (African violets prefer north-facing windows.)

Garden indoors all year long with a Compact Fluorescent Grow Light. Low profile design provides more concentrated light than standard fluorescents. Plus, NO heat means that the lamp can be placed closer to your plants for more light energy and improved productivity.

Foliage Plants

Foliage plants can be divided into three categories: those requiring low light, moderate light and high light.

A dimly lit room should suffice for those few plants willing to survive in low light areas. Moderate light-needing plants will prefer a north-facing window, light diffused through a thin curtain or daylight without direct sun. Indoor plants that prefer high light will need to be in a south-facing window or under a grow light.

Some plants will benefit from being moved outside in the summer to get a little extra light. Read about  here.

Temperature

Many houseplants thrive in temperatures between 65-75° during the day and 55-60° at night. Of course, temperature preferences vary from plant to plant with tropical plants liking temperatures around 90° (or higher) and other plants growing better in cooler temperatures.

Humidity

Most plants thrive in high humidity — around 80%. Unfortunately, most homes are much drier, especially in the winter when forced heat can even further drop the humidity.

Using a humidifier can help, but there are other ways to increase the moisture in the air near your plants. A small tray containing pebbles and water can boost local humidity as can grouping plants more closely together. Daily misting of the plant’s leaves can help as well. For some plants, such as gardenias and orchids, keeping them in a bathroom or the kitchen (both usually have a higher humidity) can help.

Fertilizer

Every time a plant is watered nutrients leach out of the soil. Even if that didn’t happen, plants would quickly deplete the nutrients in their soil. Unlike plants living outside, houseplants don’t have a regular source of nutrient replenishment unless you fertilize them regularly. (Newly purchased plants have been heavily fertilized in the greenhouse and can wait a few weeks before getting started on a fertilizing regime.)

Fertilize once a month when plants are flowering or growing. During the winter, when plants are dormant or generally not growing much, fertilizer can be withheld.

Made in the USA! Neptune’s Harvest is a top-selling Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer that gets AMAZING results. This gentle, complete blend is a simple way to give your plants the optimal nutrition they need.

If a plant is dropping its lower leaves, showing weak growth or an overall yellow-green color, it may need more fertilizer. It might also need more light or less water, so take the time to analyze all conditions before pouring on more plant food. Adding fertilizer when a plant does not need it can be worse than doing nothing at all.

Tip: If a plant is wilted, water well first then apply a fertilizer later — after it has recovered.

Fertilizer Types

Choose an organic fertilizer specific to houseplants and read the instructions carefully. While natural fertilizers are less likely to burn or harm your plants than a synthetic fertilizer, it is important to apply the correct amount. In general, plants grown in low light will not require as much fertilizer as plants grown outside or in bright light.

To start, use about 1/4 the amount of fertilizer recommended on the label once a month. Then, if overall plant color becomes lighter, increase fertilizer applications to every 2 weeks. On the other hand, if the new growth is dark green, but the leaves are small and the space between the leaves seems longer than on the older growth, fertilize less often.

Tip: Soluble salts from synthetic fertilizers can build up over time and create a crusty layer of salt deposits on the soil surface. Remove this layer and leach the soil every 4-6 weeks with generous amounts of water to help avoid toxic salt build up. Excessive salts can damage roots and make the plant more susceptible to disease and insect attack.

Repotting

If your plants are thriving and growing the way you want them to, eventually they will need a bigger pot — or some fresh potting mix. Repot plants in the spring when they are just starting to grow. Vigorous root growth will allow the plant to adjust to its new container quickly.

When it comes time to repot, choose an organic soilless medium made specifically for potting houseplants (maybe even specific to your species of houseplant). There are many to chose from, or you can make your own (see ).

Choose a pot that is bigger than the current container, but not huge. A pot that is too-big can encourage root rot and other problems because the soil will remain wet for days, or even weeks before it can be used by the plant.

Take care with the root system when repotting to avoid damage. Carefully firm the soil around the root ball without compacting the soil. Leave enough space at the top of the new container for water and water thoroughly. (Click on  for step-by-step instructions.)

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17 Responses to “Indoor Plant Care”

  1. Marj on May 13th, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    This is an amazing website. I am a plant person, live in a small two bedroom duplex with 400 plants. I am going to try to figure out PayPal. Your prices are very reasonable for natural products. I have not read whether you have information on how to protect plants during the winter. My son helped me build two pergulas, I wrap them in plastic during the winter, I still lost plants.

    • Ricky on April 30th, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

      Paypal is simple and free. My advice do not use their prepaid card. Use their debit or connect with a bank you can trust so you have quality insurance of your money. I have a bank account I only use with Paypal. Also 400 plants 2 bedroom wow amazing…

    • Anonymous on November 15th, 2017 at 2:45 am #

      I NEED TO KNOW HOW AND WHERE YOU FIT ALL OF YOUR PLANTS PICTURES PLEASE? :)

  2. Christina Ryan on March 17th, 2015 at 3:50 am #

    Selection of correct pot/s for your indoor as well as outdoor gardening is essential to grow your strains or plants with proper care.

    # Aeration in pot soil
    # Water level in your pot/s
    # Proper water distribution with an order in your multiple pots
    These are the basic needs for your strain/s. Irrigation system with eco grow pots can be a good choice for your gardening.

    The irrigation system can semi-automate your system with its accessories like,
    # Dipstick
    # Eco Expension Irrigation Kits
    to measure the water level as well as proper water distribution in your pots respectively.

    • RK on February 14th, 2016 at 10:43 am #

      Thank you for helpful tips appreciated your input.

  3. Sylvia I.JOHNSON on October 23rd, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    I am so grateful for plant lovers that take out time to share their knowledge. I got a clipping from a lady, I have no soil so it’s been in water, with a little lamp close by, but indirect. It loves it. Now I’m afraid to plant it in dirt, since it’s been in water two yrs. I’ve since gotten 4 plants in water by pinching. My mom got one too. Well, anyway, I thank you.

  4. anelisa on November 14th, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    This is real amazing i learn new things about plants everyday. But this just wraps up my knowledge and undstanding in a more easy way.

  5. Jay on April 23rd, 2016 at 4:37 am #

    Hello, I have a 6 foot Corn plant in my small apt. that is about 4inches away from the ceiling. It is a beautiful plant and I got a very small cutting from a friend 3 years ago. I put that cutting in water until the roots formed and then transferred to a potting soil. I need help with proliferating my plant the easiest way possible without destroying it. I love the height, but know that it should be reduced, hopefully by 1 to 2 feet only. Looking forward to your response. Thank you.

    Jay

  6. Karen on June 3rd, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    I have great light in my new house, the house plants are thriving. thriving a little too much. I have a corn plant that is almost to the ceiling – its busting out of its pot and I don’t really want a bigger plant in here – how do I keep it the size it is?

  7. shanon on June 4th, 2016 at 3:44 am #

    huh…can i use home made compost instead of fertilizers and salts???

    • E. Vinje on June 4th, 2016 at 5:01 am #

      Hi Shanon –

      Though most people think that compost is a fertilizer, it is actually a soil amendment. Fertilizers add nutrients to soil; amendments improve the soil so that plants can make use of those nutrients. Compost does contain low levels of plant nutrients, but its primary role is not to feed plants but to improve the soil so that plants can feed themselves.

  8. Lorraine lawton on June 17th, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    I have little black fly’s coming from my plants. What are they?

  9. John McKee on July 11th, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    How does one encourage plants to grow new stems on lower limbs?

    I am acquainted with “grafting”, but is there method of aiding existing nodnels to put out a new limb.

    Thank you…”Learning” John

  10. Lauren on September 15th, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

    Thank you for the information. I appreciate and enjoy your site.
    However, the video offers advice that non-plant folks should not follow: layering the bottom of a pot with rocks is not a good idea. It contributes to water retention through perched water and impedes proper drainage and root growth.
    I do hope that you will correct this in future informational videos.

  11. Dennis Nyongesa on October 3rd, 2017 at 11:13 am #

    This is the best gardening site I have met so for and I think it will help me solve my house issues. Points are nailed and very clear on directions which motives even those who don’t like reading.

  12. Cheryl on November 1st, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

    I have 2 Ficus Alli that until a few days ago seemed to be doing great. Now I notice extreme leaf loss, center branches drying up and are both covered in white spot. I used my flashlight to check for spider mites and scales but didn’t see any. Can someone help me?

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