Introducing my full guide on how to take care of houseplants, their health benefits, and what I do to keep my 100+ plants alive and thrive.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my love for plants runs deep. It’s been a long time since I counted, but the last time I checked, I had over 100 plants, and it’s a growing collection. After my fur babies, my plant babies bring me so much joy and I just find such comfort in taking care of them and watching them grow.
While having this many plants might seem overwhelming and daunting for many, my collection grew slowly over the years and yours can too! I received many questions about how to take care of houseplants to keep them alive and healthy, and I’ll share my tips and tricks, as well as some advice my friend from quantum ai gave me, with you guys today.
Benefits of Houseplants
First, I just want to go over the benefits of having houseplants, because they are a form of therapy for me. This is why I don’t mind investing in my houseplants, because they are 100% worth it!
- They purify the air. With so many toxins and chemicals in everyday products, indoor pollution is real. According to NASA, plants remove up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours!
- Best air purifying plants: snake plants, devil’s ivy, money tree, spider plant, dracaenas, golden pothos, areca palms, rubber plants
- Introducing greenery indoors helps to lower your cortisol level. We all feel more calm and less stressed when we go hiking or listen to nature sounds. We can recreate this feeling at home with plants.
- Plants actually reduce background noise if you live in a city or a noisy street! The leaves create a soft wall for sound to absorb, deflect, or refract on. How cool is that?
- Best noise blocking plants: rubber plants, weeping figs, peace lilies, tall cacti, fiddle leaf fig, money trees
- They remove carbon dioxide from the air so there’s more oxygen and we feel less tired and fatigued.
Where I Purchase My Plants
This is one of the most common questions I get because I have such a variety of plants. The answer is all over! Here are some of the places I’ve purchased my plants from:
- Local nurseries: This is where most of my plants come from. I try not to shop at Home Depot or big brands, because I find that they are usually overpriced there, and it’s so much better to support local businesses! I’m really lucky in that I live in California and there are plant nurseries everywhere. Local nurseries are usually cheaper and you can usually negotiate prices! I make sure to be extra friendly when I buy plants for a possible discount.
- Nextdoor, OfferUp, or Letgo: All of these sites and apps are where people can sell anything they want get rid of. I actually have an alert set up for plants, so I can jump on them when they are posted. You can usually negotiate prices on these apps, because people are usually moving and they just want to get rid of things.
- Etsy: I’ve never bought a full plant on Etsy (although they are available), but it’s a great place to find clippings of plants that aren’t rooted, especially if you are looking for a specific plant that’s hard to find locally. It’s not the cheapest option and it can be risky, because clippings are delicate and they can easily die. However, I have had really great luck with them and my pilea, prayer plant, and philodendron have all rooted and thrived beautifully from this shop.
The Basics of How to Take Care of Houseplants
While care instructions differ from plant to plant, MOST plants require similar care and I treat most of my plants the following way:
- Lighting: While plants love light, bright, indirect light is the best with the exception of desert plants. That means near a well-lit window, within sunlight or in the shade next to it (for medium-low light plants). If there’s direct HOT sunlight on plants, especially in the summer, put a sheer curtain on the window so the plants receive diffused, filtered light without getting burnt. One exception is succulents and cacti. They love bright, direct light!
- Water: While there is such a thing as under-watering, I find that many make the mistake of overwatering which can quickly kill the plants. I only water my plants once a week, and even less in the winter. Before watering, stick an inch of your finger in the soil. Only water if the soil has no moisture. Make sure to only use pots that have drainage holes!
- Wipe the leaves: For leafy plants, dust can settle on them easily, just like furniture. This dust layer actually blocks the plants ability to photosynthesize, and makes the leaves look dull and the plant weaker while attracting pests. When you see dust settle, take a damp microfiber cloth and gently wipe off the individual leaves. You may be shocked at how much dirt comes off on the cloth. I’m really bad at remembering to clean my plant leaves, but try to do this every 2-3 months!
- Fertilize during growing season: This is usually during the spring/summer for most plants. I use organic fertilizer (I love this one!) and add it to the watering can every 2-3 months between April and September. It really makes a huge difference!
- Repot as the plants grow: Always research the plant to see how much soil space it needs, but once it outgrows its pot, it needs more space to grow to stay healthy. This is also a great chance to replace the soil in the pot, which I highly recommend.
Why Your Plant Might Be Dying
So you’ve followed all the tips, but your plant still looks brown or yellow, and seems to be shriveling up. Here are some common reasons why your plant may not be looking so healthy:
- Overwatering or under-watering. Check my watering tip above.
- Too much sunlight or too little. Also see above.
- Bacteria in the soil. If you really can’t figure out what the heck is wrong with the plant, it might be worth replacing the soil and repotting. There could be bacteria in the soil inhibiting the plant from growing properly.
- Dry leaves. Tropical plants like ferns and split leaf philodendrons require a lot of moisture in the air and are more high maintenance. Make sure to spray the leaves with water every few days so they don’t dry out, even with consistent watering. If you aren’t good at remembering or you are lazy, you can get a humidifier instead.
- Gnats and bugs that infest the plant and/or the soil. This doesn’t happen to me that much, because I live in a dry climate in SoCal. However, if your environment is more humid, it’s a common problem. The best solution this, I found, is getting a plant insect killer. This one does the job and I found that I only have to use it once for the problem to go away completely.
Salvaging Almost Dead Plants
You can actually save most plants that are on their last leg by snipping off the healthy looking leaves and propagating them. I’ve done this many times with success, and it’s so exciting to have a plant come back to life after you thought you lost it.
Place the bottom of the snipped leaves in water and let it sit in bright light. Change water every 3-4 days. After a week or two, the clippings will grow roots. When the roots and the leaves look healthy, plant them again in a pot with new soil. They’ll grow into a full, lush plant in no time with proper care!
Other Notable Plant Tips
- Research: I don’t usually trust the instructions on the label that the plant comes with, because they are usually so simple and basic. Make sure to Google the plant once you are home so you know how to take care of it in the best way.
- Watering can: While watering cans with sprinkler heads are popular, I find that it’s easy to accidentally spray water all over the floor when using them, especially for indoor plants. I really like long spouted cans (I have this one) and they are also great for accuracy in aiming if you have hanging plants like me!
- Soil: There are various types of soil for different plants but this soil for succulents and cacti has worked for all my plants. I really like well-draining soil because holding on to moisture can cause bacteria, and even my humidity loving plants do really well with this soil.
- Considerations if you have pets: Some plants are poisonous to pets so make sure you check this if you have fur babies. I’m lucky and my dogs have zero interest in my plants so I don’t pay attention to this, but if yours are a bit more curious, I would take this into consideration when you purchase a new plant.
- Know before you buy: If you are shopping for a plant for a specific room, make sure to assess the lighting in that room and where you are planning to put the plant. You can then figure out what plant is right for that environment. I always check with the person working at the nursery how much lighting and water a specific plant requires before buying.
Easy Beginner Friendly Plants
If you are just starting out with houseplants, you may be nervous about what plants to purchase at first. These are some of my favorite, low maintenance plants that are easy and will thrive in most conditions.
- Pothos: Does well with low and bright light and also flexible with watering. And really leafy and pretty!
- Snake plants: Also does well in various light and watering conditions.
- Succulents and cacti: I was hesitant to add this one because I’ve heard many people having trouble with these. Just make sure to keep them in bright, direct sunlight. And while many say do not water them too much, I find that succulents thrive when I water them once a week as I normally do with other plants.
- Spider plants: Not picky about water or sunlight and will grow well in various conditions.
- Dracaena or money tree. I treat both of these plants similarly and they grow very easily. They like bright, indirect light and weekly watering. However, they didn’t mind when I forgot to water them for a 2-3 weeks or left them in direct sunlight for too long.
My Personal Favorite Plants
Of course, my favorite plants are the prettiest ones to look at, in my opinion. I’m a very visual person. However, they are not always low maintenance. It doesn’t matter. I love them so much that I make sure to give them extra loving and care if I see them looking a little sad.
- Fiddleleaf fig tree
- Birds of paradise
- Rubber tree
- Prayer plant (maranta)
- All forms of calathea – they are the most fickle plant ever so they frustrate the heck out of me, but so gorgeous!
That’s it, guys! I hope you found this guide on how to take care of houseplants helpful. I tried to answer all the questions you asked me over on Instagram, but if didn’t answer some of them or if you have any more, just leave me a comment below and I’ll try to get to it as as soon as I can.
Lastly, don’t be intimidated by plants! I used to have a black thumb myself, and you can only get better at being a plant mom or dad by actually growing them yourself and making mistakes on the way. I actually do kill houseplants sometimes, even though it happens less and less now, and that’s okay. I just think of it as a learning experience and move on. You can only get better by adding more plants to your collection!
Happy growing, friends.
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