How to Care for Indoor Plants

Three Parts:Providing Your Plants with Consistent WaterCaring for Your Indoor PlantKnowing Your Plants

Indoor plants are great for creating a more welcoming room in your house. Other than being a colorful decoration, indoor plants can also purify the air, improve your health, and help increase your focus.[1] By providing your plant with a good environment and the correct amount of water and nutrients, you can make sure that your indoor plant stays alive.

Part 1
Providing Your Plants with Consistent Water

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    Keep potting soil moist, but not wet. If you soil is either too dry or over watered, it can damage the plant’s roots and prevent the plant from growing. In some cases under or over watering your plant can also kill it. Plants with lush, thick leaves require more water than plants with waxy or leathery leaves.[2] There is no specific frequency that works for all indoor plants. Instead, what you must do is determine what kind of plant you have, and follow guidelines on how often to water it by doing research on it’s specific type.
    • If mold starts to form on the surface of the soil or there’s standing water at the bottom of the container, you’ve over watered your plant.
    • Water your plant if the soil becomes lighter in color or cracked.[3]
    • Plants in the succulent family require periods of dryness between watering.[4]
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    Stick your finger in the soil to determine how wet it is below the surface. If you poke your finger into the soil up to your knuckle, you can feel if your plant needs more water. If the soil feels damp, then you don’t need to water it. If it feels dry then it’s likely you need to water it. [5]
    • Again, this varies from plant to plant. These conditions will work for most plants but not all of them.
    • Signs of over-hydration include root rot as well as leaves not growing or developing soft rotten patches.
    • Signs of dehydration include slow leaf growth, brown and dried leaf edges, and and lower leaves becoming yellow and curled.[6]
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    Use water that is at room temperature. 68° F or 20° C is the best temperature to keep the water that you’re using to water your plants.[7] You can use a thermometer to determine the temperature of the water, or you can leave the water out, after you pour it, and allow it to become room temperature.
    • If your water is too hot it can cause root damage and plant shock, potentially killing your indoor plant.
    • Water that is too cold causes dormancy in your plant, which will stifle any existing and future vegetation.
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    Use a hand-held moisture meter to ensure hydration levels in your soil. Moisture meters are the most accurate way to determine how hydrated your plants are. The mechanism probes the underlying soil to give you a reading on how hydrated your soil is.[8]
    • You can buy a moisture meter online, in a home and gardening store, and certain department stores.
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    Select a pot that has good drainage. The amount of drainage in the pot you're keeping your plant in is very important because over or under watering your plant can damage or kill it. Make sure that there are drainage holes at the bottom of your pot.
    • Materials like plastic, metal, and glass will absorb much less water than ceramic or clay, so keep this in mind as well. [9]
    • Slip a plastic container with holes in it, called a cachepot, if you don’t have drainage holes at the bottom of your pot.

Part 2
Caring for Your Indoor Plant

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    Select an area in your house that gets adequate sunlight. Plants require sunlight in order to undergo photosynthesis.[10] The quality, duration, and intensity of light all affect a plant's growth.[11]
    • If you can’t get your plants into direct sunlight, fluorescent lights can work as an alternative for some plants.
    • Give flowering plants 12-16 hours of light per day.
    • Give foliage plants 14-16 hours of light per day.[12]
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    Don’t move your plants around a lot. Plants acclimate themselves to their surroundings fairly slowly, so it’s best that you don’t move them around a lot.[13] This also includes putting it in a place where there would be a drastic change in temperature.
    • Moving a plant suddenly from a darker area to a sun rich area will have a negative effect on the plant.[14]
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    Purchase and use a small room humidifier. Dry air may serve certain plants well, like cacti, but most plants require humidity, especially tropic plants. Choose a room humidifier with a cool mist, and make sure it’s close enough to provide moisture in the air to the plant, but not get the foliage or flowers wet.
    • Wilting, browned leaves, and flower buds that develop poorly are signs that your plant is suffering from low humidity.
    • Grouping your plants together helps raise humidity.[15]
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    Fill your pot with a balanced, 10-10-10 fertilizer. Most houseplants thrive in balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. House plants need the nutrients from potting soils and fertilizers in order to survive. If you don’t repot the plant, or add new nutrients to the soil, the plant will eventually die. The first number stands for nitrogen, second number for phosphorus, and the third for potassium.
    • If you have a flowering plant, you can buy a fertilizer that is high in potassium.
    • If you have a foliage plant, you should get a fertilizer or potting soil high in Nitrogen.
    • Plants also require micronutrients that need to be replenished by adding potting soil or fertilizer in order to survive.[16]
    • If you are growing cacti or succulents use potting soil specifically designed for them or they may die.[17]
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    Regularly prune your plant. Certain plants must have their roots pruned at different intervals, so it’s important to read up on how often you should be pruning your plant. A plant that isn't pruned can grow out of control, and the roots from a plant can outgrow their pot or vase. Regularly prune your plant to keep it healthy, and to prevent yourself from having to replant.[18]
    • Cut off dead branches or stems that can attract bugs.
    • Prune above the a leaf node at a 45° angle to promote growth of a fuller more robust plant.[19]
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    Do not tip tea or coffee into your houseplant. Putting coffee or tea into your potted plant will draw flies that can eat away at your indoor plant. Sugars make it a perfect breeding ground for these insects as well.[20]
    • While some people claim that adding coffee grounds is good for plants, doing this to plants that have a low acidic tolerance can actually kill them.[21]

Part 3
Knowing Your Plants

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    Learn your plant's classification. There are a variety of online encyclopedias you can find that will detail how you should care for the specific type of houseplant you own, including recommended humidity levels, sunlight exposure guidelines, and watering guides.[22] Since many houseplants differ, it’s important to find what is ideal for your specific type of houseplant.
    • Most houseplants come with a tag that will have their common and scientific name. If it doesn’t, ask the florist you got it from.
    • If you were given a houseplant and are unsure of what type it is, go through the photos in a flower book or encyclopedia and find the picture that best matches your plant.
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    Determine if your plant is a green foliage plant or a plant that has flowers. Green foliage plants and flowering houseplants are different and require different nutrients as well as different levels of water and sunlight. Angiosperms, or flowering plants, are plants that have seeds that are held within an ovary-usually a fruit, while gymnosperms or foliage plants do not have any flowers or fruits.[23]
    • Certain flowering plants will bloom annually while others will bloom seasonally.[24]
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    Choose a plant that's easy to care for. Certain tropical plants require specific environments in order to thrive, while other plants like Geraniums, Sago Palms, Pothos, and Cast-Iron Plants are low maintenance, durable, and are easy to care for.[25]
    • Other good plants that require low light include the Snake Plant, Dracaena, and Spider Plant.[26]


  • Some plants have chemicals in their leaves that can poison pets and small animals. Some of these include peace lilies, oleander and caladium.[27] Be sure to look up your prospective houseplants on the web and see if there are any concerns about this if you have kids or pets.

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Categories: Indoor and Patio Plants