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House Plant Basics

June 3, 2013



Do you love plants but consider yourself a ‘not-so green thumb’ The secret to healthy beautiful plants is not some innate gift for gardening, but rather just acquiring knowledge of your plant’s specific needs and acting accordingly. Here are some ‘golden rules’ of plant selection and care that are important to consider when researching your plant.


Choose wisely


When selecting a plant for a particular area in your home, the plant must be able to live in the environmental conditions of that area. Not all plants have the same needs, and placing a plant in the wrong spot will often lead to a steady decline and eventual death. Some things to consider when choosing a plant are:


  • Light requirements – is the area by a big sunny window, or placed far away from one? Is there artificial lighting?

  • Temperature requirements – many indoor plants get cold damage below 55 degrees. Will the plant be by a drafty door or window? Is the area excessively hot in the summer?

  • Humidity requirements – Some plants, such as certain ferns and orchids, require high humidity to do well.

  • Size – what is the growth habit of the plant? Will it stay small or quickly outgrow its location?


Water correctly


While watering a plant seems like a simple thing to do, improper watering is the number one reason why house plants die. It is very important to research your plant and its moisture needs. Some plants want to stay very moist, while others prefer to dry out completely before getting another drink. Many plants fall somewhere in between, and prefer to dry out a little bit, but not all the way, before being watered again.


Keep it clean


A clean plant is a healthy plant! One millimeter of dust on a leaf can reduce its light intake by 10%.  Dust and dirt can also clog the pores of the plant and impede many of its biological functions. Dust is also highly attractive to pests like spider mites and thrips.


Understand fertilizer and when to use it


Many people have the misconception that fertilizer is food for a plant, and as a result they over fertilize and cause damage to the roots. Fertilizer is more like vitamins for a plant, and sunlight is the actual food. Indoor plants only need fertilizer when they are actively growing, so the best time to apply is in spring and summer. Most plants do not need fertilizer in winter unless they are growing under artificial lights.


Rarely repot


It is a very common misconception that houseplants need to be potted up in size once per year. In actuality most house plants prefer to stay a little tight in their pots, and only need to go up in size once every few years, if at all. Many plants do enjoy the yearly addition of a couple inches of fresh soil on the top or bottom of the container.


Prune and trim


Many types of plants will look better and last longer if pruned regularly. While pruning can be daunting at first, the benefits make the effort and extra research needed worthwhile.


Watch for pests


There are six pests we see commonly on indoor houseplants:

  • Mealy bug

  • Scale

  • Spider mites

  • Aphids

  • Thrips

  • Fungus gnats


Most of these pests can be dealt with easily if detected early when there are only a few of them. The larger the population, however, the more difficult it is to eradicate them.




Rotating your plant ¼ turn every week or two towards the light source will keep it full and symmetrical.


Accept the loss of temporary plants


Not all plants are able to last for a long time inside. Plants like mums, gerbera daisies, poinsettias, and cyclamen are beautiful for a few weeks, but will eventually fade or even die indoors. They should be thought of more as flower arrangements than as long term houseplants.


Now that you know the very basics of house plant care you can start looking for the perfect plant! Be sure to look up prospective plants online, in books, or ask for more information about them here at Green Connection. We’re always happy to help you find the perfect plant for any location, and provide you with detailed care information so you know how to keep your new plants looking their best.


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