Do you have houseplants in your home? These indoor plant care tips will help you keep them looking healthy and happy!
You may love the idea of having lots of indoor plants, but sometimes those plants struggle to thrive despite your best efforts. You’re not alone here.
In this post I’m going to take a look at the most common houseplant problems, and give you lots of indoor plant care tips to help solve them.
The benefits of indoor plants
If you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle with your indoor plants, here’s some motivation to keep you going.
Indoor plants are a fantastic way to bring the outdoors into your home – and interacting with nature can have powerful psychological benefits.
Houseplants are also great for adding colour, texture and a focal point to a room – the recent ‘jungalow’ interiors trend really capitalised on this. And because you can move them around, they’re an easy way to switch up your room’s look when you feel like a change.
Houseplants can also improve the air quality in your home. They absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, and have the ability to absorb toxins from the air.
Finally, indoor plants don’t have to cost a fortune. So you can take advantage of all these benefits at very low cost!
Indoor plant care tips for common problems
If your houseplant is looking a bit sorry for itself, there are a few things that could be causing the problem. These indoor plant care tips tackle the most common houseplant problems, and how to solve them.
The leaves of a plant are a great visual indicator of the plant’s health. If you know why they’re looking less than healthy, you’re a long way towards solving the problem. Here are some common leaf problems, and what they are usually caused by.
- Distorted, spotted or curling leaves – insect infestation or disease
- Yellow leaves – overwatering or lack of light
- Brown tipped leaves – watering inconsistently or lack of humidity
- Pale leaves – too much light
- Falling leaves – lack of light
We’ll deal with all of these causes, and how to avoid them, in this post.
Location of your indoor plants
Get the location of your houseplants right, and you’ll avoid a lot of issues.
If you’ve seen any gardening programmes or magazine articles recently, you’ve probably come across the phrase ‘Right plant, right place’. This is a simple but powerful approach to helping your plants do well, and it’s just as relevant to houseplants as it is to your garden.
All plants have their own specific conditions that they will thrive in, so if you put a plant in a place that provides those conditions, you’re well on the way to making it healthy and happy.
If your houseplant has a care label, check this for details of the type of conditions it likes. If there’s no label, you can look this up online instead. Some plants will enjoy full sun, while others need a shady spot. Some demand high levels of humidity, while others love baking dry heat or a cool room. Here’s a list of popular houseplants that enjoy typical indoor conditions.
Bright light: Cacti, Succulents, English Ivy, Philodendron, Spider plant, Rubber plant, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Schleffera (Umbrella Tree), Weeping Fig, Yucca, Bromeliad.
Low light: Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), Peace Lily, English Ivy, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Calathea (Prayer Plant), Aloe, Dracaena (Dragon Tree), Maidenhead Fern, Arum Fern (ZZ Plant).
Humidity: Orchid, Peperomia, Spider Plant, Monstera, Aloe Vera, Philodendron, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Ferns, Bamboo, Bromeliad, Chinese Evergreen, Croton.
Warm rooms: Succulents, Cacti, Aloe Vera, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Dracaena (Dragon Tree), Croton, Schleffera (Umbrella Tree), Spider Plant, Arum Fern (ZZ Plant).
Cool rooms: Dracaena Marginata, Cast Iron Plant, Lady Palm, Arum Fern (ZZ Plant), Maidenhead Fern, Chinese Evergreen, Jade Plant, Philodendron, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue).
Once you know what the ideal conditions for your plant are, try to put it somewhere in your home that provides these conditions. Get the location right, and you won’t be constantly fighting to keep your plants alive.
Watering indoor plants
Getting the watering right is absolutely crucial to the health of your indoor plants. Too much or too little water can cause a range of problems, including yellow, brown or wilting leaves, plant disease, and death of the plant.
The time of year, the temperature of your room, and the variety and size of your plant will have a big impact on how often you need to water it. You should aim to keep the soil moist, but not too soggy.
Try to get into a routine of checking the soil in your indoor plants regularly. If it feels dry, water the plant – and check it more frequently. If it feels damp, water sparingly or not at all. Watering little and often will keep moisture levels more constant; putting your plants through periods of drought followed by periods of heavy water will just make it harder for them to thrive.
Some plants, like Peace Lilies, get really floppy when they need water. This is a great visual reminder to get the watering can out, so keep an eye on those leaves!
While we’re on the subject of watering, let’s deal with humidity. Some plants, like orchids, love a really humid environment, which is part of their preferred method of obtaining water. To recreate this environment in your home, you will need to mist the plant regularly using a spray bottle with a mist nozzle. An easier solution is to keep the plant in a naturally humid room such as the bathroom – again, right plant, right place!
Feeding indoor plants
If your houseplants are looking a little tired, and not really growing, they could be hungry.
Any plant that is grown in a container will quickly exhaust the nutrients in the soil, so to help them thrive, you need to feed them.
Use a plant food that’s specifically designed for indoor plants – I use *Baby Bio, but there are lots of varieties to choose from. You can go for a concentrated liquid which you dilute with water before using, or for minimum effort choose a *drip feeder, which you simply snap open and poke into the soil for a steady release of nutrients.
Cleaning indoor plants
This is probably a less obvious cause of houseplant problems, but dirt and dust can really hamper your plant’s health.
As well as making your plant look less than lovely, dust blocks out light from the leaves. Plants need light for the process of photosynthesis, which is their way of feeding themselves. So a dusty plant can’t support itself properly.
Dust can quickly build up on houseplant leaves. This is particularly true of large-leaved plants such as Monstera, Calathea and Rubber Plants. To deal with it, gently wipe each leaf with a damp cloth. Do this regularly – maybe get into the habit of cleaning your plants every time you clean the room – and you’ll have shinier leaves and happier plants.
Dealing with indoor plant pests and diseases
Just because your plant is indoors, doesn’t mean it’s immune to pests and diseases.
Insects can cause damage to leaves; this can be in the form of nibbled holes, curling or distorted leaves, and sticky residue.
If your indoor plant has an insect infestation, chances are this originated before you bought it. Always inspect your plant carefully before you buy it! Infested plants can of course pass on their pests to your other houseplants too, so if you spot a problem on one plant, check all other plants in the room and treat them if necessary.
Indoor plants can also develop fungal and bacterial diseases. Black or fuzzy white spots on leaves are a tell-tale sign of plant disease. To help avoid the problem, get into the habit of regularly removing any dead leaves, flowers or stems from your plants. Dead material is an ideal home for diseases and pests.
If you’ve got plant pests or diseases to deal with, the most common approach is to use a *chemical spray designed for the specific insect or disease. Some insecticides are applied to the compost instead, these are usually in liquid or stick form. Follow the instructions on the product carefully.
Remember also that healthy plants stand a much better chance of fighting off infestation or disease – another good reason to keep on top of the indoor plant care.
Repotting indoor plants
Is your plant looking a bit too big for it’s pot these days? If so give yourself a pat on the back, because all that growth means you’ve been taking good care of it!
Having said that, leaving your plant in a pot that’s too small will hamper it’s growth. If your plant has been in this situation for a while, chances are it’s starting to look pale and tired. So it’s time to move it to a bigger home and give it a new lease of life.
To re-pot your plant, you will need a larger pot and some general purpose compost.
Start by taking the plant out of it’s pot – be careful here, ideally you don’t want to damage any roots. You might find that the roots have grown out of the base of the pot, in which case it will be difficult to avoid breaking them. If this is the case, try to break as few as you can.
Next, add a little bit of compost to the bottom of your larger pot, then pop your plant in. Add more compost around the sides and top to fill any gaps, firming the plant in gently as you go.
Now all you need to do is give your plant a drink, and put it back in it’s home.
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about common indoor plant problems, and how to deal with them!
More indoor plant care resources
For more advice and inspiration on indoor plants, you might like to take a look at these resources.
I’ve written a post specifically on orchid care, as these beauties are so popular and can be tricky to look after.
If you’re heading off on holiday, this post on holiday houseplant care will help you avoid coming home to dead plants!
If YouTube is your thing, Planterina is a great channel that focuses on houseplants.