How to Care for Houseplants



Tropical plants add color, life, and humidity to indoor settings and have beneficial air purifying qualities. There are plants that will grow and flourish in almost all locations and light conditions in your home.


  LOCATION: Most success with houseplants depends not on a magical green thumb, but on picking the right plant for the right spot. The majority of houseplants prefer bright indirect light, with perhaps a couple hours of direct sunlight especially in the morning. Flowering plants, and those with brightly colored leaves, often need 3-4 hours of direct sunlight daily. Ferns, and those plants with soft, delicate leaves, need protection from hot afternoon sun.


  WATERING: For most houseplants, good drainage is essential to plant health. If you are transplanting into another container, those with drain holes work best. If your pot does not have drain holes, consider placing the plant in the decorative container without actually transplanting it. If you over water, you can remove the plant and pour the water off. More plants die from over watering than under watering. When you first bring your plant home, check the soil each day to see how long it takes to dry out. Then you can establish a routine. Most plants like to be moderately dry in between thorough waterings. There are exceptions, though, so check the plant tag, or ask one of our staff for specific plant care recommendations.


  TEMPERATURES: Houseplants usually enjoy daytime temperatures between 70-75 degrees and 60-65 degrees at night. Some plants, ferns for example, will go into a rest period in lower temperatures. During dormant periods water less.


  HUMIDITY: Humidity levels vary from one house to another. Insulation, heating systems, and other factors make inside humidity levels desert-like. Plants with thick, waxy or hard leaves are not as susceptible to low humidity problems as delicate plants or ferns. If the humidity level is a problem in your home, select plants that do not require high humidity levels (Ponytail Palm or Chinese Evergreen). If you want to grow more delicate plants, use pebble trays under them to help humidify the air.


  SOIL MIX: Most houseplants need a soil mix that holds moisture, drains well, holds nutrients, and provides enough support to hold the plant upright. A peat-based blend of soil or composted bark, peat moss, and perlite for drainage will serve the needs of many plant types. There are groups of plants like orchids and cacti that have special soil requirements.


  FERTILIZERS: There are many satisfactory fertilizers for houseplants. For foliage plants, a fertilizer with a balanced formula of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash, like 20-20-20 is sufficient. For blooming plants, use a balanced fertilizer or one that has less nitrogen (the first number in the analysis) and more phosphorus and potash. You may prefer to mix a powdered fertilizer in the water, or use a slow release pellet or spike. The important thing is to fertilize consistently during periods of active growth and bloom, and to fertilize less when plants are dormant or resting. Most green foliage plants do not need fertilizer from late November until early March if they have been fed regularly throughout the growing time.


INSECTS: It seems that all plants inevitably get an insect infestation much the same way we get a cold or flu. Insects often come into the house on our clothes in the summer, and or through open doors and windows. Low humidity attracts spider mites. Check the undersides of your plant leaves often for infestation. For tougher problems like scale, there are many good insecticides formulated just for indoor houseplants. The important thing is to stop the insects before they get firmly established.