Keep Your Houseplants Alive With These 5 Tips

For the longest time I thought I had a black thumb, especially when it came to houseplants. Every green thing in my life died in short order, but after a while I realized it wasn’t a curse. I just needed to do some plant care research and maybe stick with the low maintenance breeds.

Homes looks better with houseplants. If you want to beautify your home with greenery but you’re tired of replacing dead plants, start with these tips.

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Don’t Over Water

When I lose a houseplant, most of the time it’s due to over watering. The best way to avoid this problem is to use pots with drainage holes and make sure not to water too often.

But with indoor planters, you might not want drainage holes leaking water onto your floors or pooling in bulky drip trays. If you opt for planters without drainage holes, use deep planters and go extra light on the watering so the roots aren’t left to drown.

Christmas cactus houseplant in modern planter

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of planter you’re using. Terra cotta pots evaporate water faster than some other types of pots like plastic. For plants that like to be extra dry, you might want to opt for a breathable terra cotta pot. Smaller pots also dry out faster than larger pots, so they need to be watered lightly but more frequently.

Regardless of the type of pot you use, most indoor plants don’t need a lot of water. It’s best to err on the side of less rather than more. I water my houseplants once every week at the most, and even less in the winter.

Give Them Food

It’s easy to forget that plants need to eat. If you’re an extra attentive plant mom or dad, you might top off your houseplant soil with fresh compost periodically.

If you’re more of a lazy plant parent like I am, you can give them a squirt or two of liquid plant food occasionally before watering. I pump fertilizer onto the soil every few months: one for feeding regular houseplants and one for feeding succulents.

Ripple jade houseplant

Get the Lighting Right

When your plant is getting sufficient food and water but still looks sad, it might need to be moved to a location with different lighting. Many houseplants like bright indirect sunlight.

Houseplants don’t want sunrays burning up their leaves, but they don’t want to be sitting in the closet either. They usually like to sit away from the window in a bright room. Try moving your plant around until you find the sweet spot for it, and rotate it periodically so all the sides can get that good sun.

In the summer you might try moving some of your tropical plants outside, if you have an area with some shade. I move mine under a covered deck so they can get a few warm rays without getting fried up by too much sun exposure.

String of pearls houseplant

Add Humidity

Most leafy houseplants come from tropical locations where they enjoy a lot of humidity. The farther you live from the equator, the harder you will have to work to recreate some of that equatorial goodness. Keep your plant in a warm room and give it a dash of humidity once in a while.

I keep a spray bottle near my houseplants and spray them down every week or two. Leafy houseplants like the humidity, but don’t bother spraying your succulents. They prefer a desert climate.

Choose Low Maintenance Houseplants

Finally, try to choose houseplants that are easy to keep alive. After years of trial and error, I’ve learned these houseplants work well for me.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Snake plant in mid-century house

This is my favorite houseplant because I’ve never killed a single one, and they tolerate low light conditions. Got a room that’s dark all day? No problem. Sansevieria is the only plant that survives in my bathrooms and east-facing home office. And this houseplant barely needs any water. I water mine once a month.

Succulent

Ripple jade succulent

Some succulents are hardier than others, but most will do well if you go light on the watering. Jade and string of pearls both seem to be good survivors. This ripple jade is snuggled up in my new modern ceramic planter.

Split Leaf Philodendron

Split leaf philodendron houseplant

This exotic beauty makes you feel like you’re checking in to a resort. Or is it just me? I love lounging next to this plant with a drink in hand. The split leaf philodendron likes humidity and enjoys a misting periodically, but it’s not picky.

Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Cordatum Neon)

Heart leaf philodendron houseplant

For some reason I will buy any plant in chartreuse; I just can’t resist that sunny green color. This plant cascades over its pot, looking prettier each year. I water it once a month and keep it near a south-facing window but out of direct light. It has never given me any problems.

More: Find modern planters that are actually affordable

Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)

Rattlesnake houseplant

The adorable dotted pattern on this type of calathea looks Scandinavian to me, so I figured it’s a must for a mid-century modern house. I keep it in this white planter. One interesting feature about this houseplant is that the leaves lower during the day and then rise at night to expose the purple foliage underneath. What a showoff.

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8 thoughts on “Keep Your Houseplants Alive With These 5 Tips”

  1. Well I would say your 5 tips are working because your houseplants always look great, healthy-looking and well taken care of. (Wish mine looked as good..I will try the humidity spraying and feeding them more regularly). Also love your new planter from the street of dreams. (And hey Charlie making your appearance by the snake plant. 😉 )

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    • Aww, silly sweet little kitties! I am lucky my cats don’t pay much attention to houseplants. Instead my cat Jane is obsessed with all string and yarn, so that’s what I have to watch out for.

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  2. Great tips for keeping those houseplants alive. We do similar tactics with our house plants and they have almost always thrived. The only plant I can think of that didn’t make it was a purple passion plant that I bought on clearance that was half dead, I tried to save it, but sadly it was too far gone to make it. I have to ask, what’s that plant that looks like peas on a vine? I had one of those as a kid, but can’t recall what it’s called.

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