How To Care For House Plants


The term house plant typically refers to a plant that thrives in the home. Some house plants require more water than others. They cover the spectrum of care needs. Some can survive with almost no water or light; while others need an abundance of bright light and watered regularly. Refer to your plants care tag for proper care information. Typically, they will give you information on how much light and water a particular plant needs.


Watering Your Houseplants

All houseplants have slightly different watering requirements, depending on how they're grown and changes in plant growth through the seasons. It's best to water on an as-needed basis rather than by a set calendar schedule. In general, plants grown in well-drained soil in an appropriate-size container should be watered when the top 1/2 to 1 inch of soil feels dry. Cacti and succulents need less water; flowering plants usually need slightly more. Overwatering is one of the most common causes of houseplant death. If you're not sure how much to water, it's better to err on the dry side than to give your plants too much moisture.


Fertilize Houseplants Periodically

Like watering, there's not an easy rule to know how much to fertilize: It depends on the plant's growth rate and age, and the time of year. Most houseplants put on a growth spurt in spring and summer, so this is the best time to fertilize them. During the short days of fall and winter, most houseplants don't need much, if any, fertilizer. Follow label directions to know how much plant food to use.


Repot Overgrown Houseplants

Not sure if your houseplants need repotting? Check the root systems. If the roots are circling the inside of the container, it may be time to repot the plant. If the plant has outgrown its pot, you can transplant it into a slightly larger container. If you'd like to keep it in the same pot, trim off some of the roots with a sharp knife and replant it into the container using fresh potting soil.


Deadhead Flowers and Remove Dying Leaves

Trim faded flowers from your plants to encourage more blooms and help prevent disease problems. While you're at it, be sure to remove yellow, brown, or withered leaves. Use a narrow-blade hand pruner ($11, The Home Depot) or sharp scissors to make a clean cut without tearing the plant's stem. It's a good idea to wipe off the blades of your pruners with rubbing alcohol before moving on to a different plant to avoid spreading any pests and diseases.


Control Insect Pests

Several insects commonly attack houseplants. Neemology Organic Pest Control is an easy-to-use, effective treatment for most soft-bodied pests such as aphids and spider mites. A forceful spray of water from the hose helps knock down the population of these pests, too. Rubbing alcohol is effective on insects with waxy coatings such as scale and mealybugs; dab it on with a cotton ball.


No matter what treatment you use, be consistent. For fast-reproducing pests such as aphids and spider mites, you may need to treat plants once a week for a month or so to be rid of the pests.


Fungus gnats are tiny black flies that buzz around the soil, and a common houseplant pest, though they're often confused with fruit flies. You typically see fungus gnats in large numbers when plants are overwatered. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings and make sure to clear away any dead leaves on the soil surface. In extreme cases, you may want to try repotting your plant into fresh soil and a clean container.



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