How Too Keep Houseplants Alive - 3 Ways Absolutely Anyone Can Do It

Alivia Whitaker | September 19, 2018 @ 12:00 AM

If you're a houseplant serial killer, never worry - we have 3 surefire tips that will help anyone know how to keep houseplants alive.

How To Keep Houseplants Alive - Lower Your Standards

The first "how to" in how to keep your houseplants alive is to lower your plant standards!  If you have trouble keeping houseplants alive then you need to start with easy to manage houseplants. If you gravitate toward a houseplant that is more high maintenance or requires more expertise, you're just setting yourself up for failure. Pick houseplants that don't have complicated watering needs such as succulents.  Another good tip is to avoid houseplants that require different types of light at different times.  Find a low light plant or plant that is not high-maintenance with light. wrote an article on forgiving houseplants.  Two of the plants they highlighted were:


Why you want it: First of all, this indoor plant has an air-purifying quality that can absorb and strip toxins (like formaldehyde) from materials in the home (like carpet). How neat is that? It has trailing stems and works well in a hanging basket or as a climbing plant with some training onto a trellis or whatever object that will support it

How to care for it: This indoor houseplant can produce stems that trail 8 feet or longer, so just cut them back when they get too long and your plant will continue to look full, and healthy. It can thrive in an array of lighting conditions, but low light may diminish the leaves' variegation. Allow soil to dry somewhat between watering. Pothos does well in an array of normal room temperatures.


Why you want it: This succulent with long, pointed leaves have medicinal properties, as you probably well know. It can also grow 3-feet high to make a big impact indoors. Smaller varieties, like the popular aloe vera, work great in small, sunny indoor spaces.

How to care for it: Aloe likes room temperatures around 70 degrees and a lot of sunlight. As you might expect for a succulent, this indoor houseplant prefers dry soil, so avoid frequent watering for the best results."

How To Keep Houseplants Alive - Don't Overwater

A common amateur mistake when it comes to how to keep houseplants alive is in overwatering.  When a plant isn't doing well, often the gut reaction is to water the plant more.  It makes sense on a certain level - when humans are dehydrated, the best thing you can do is to drink more water!  However, that isn't always a great answer for houseplants.  Often, plants will suffocate or flounder due to overwatering.  In the end, too much water could be the thing that turns you into a plant serial killer.

Better Homes and Gardens wrote a houseplant watering guide that is very useful.  They said,

  • "Rainwater, well water, and bottled water generally agree best with houseplants. Collect rainwater in a barrel or plastic garbage can at the base of a downspout. Keep in mind, though, that in some parts of the country, the air sometimes pollutes rainwater. Similarly, well water sometimes can be too alkaline for acid-loving houseplants. Bottled water is excellent but expensive. Chlorinated water will not damage houseplants.
  • Tap water is OK if not too hard but avoid softened water. Softened water contains salt, which builds up in soil over a period of months.
  • Avoid spotting the leaves of fuzzy-leaved plants by using tepid water. Fill your watering can after each watering session and let it sit until next time. That way, the water will reach the right temperature for watering these plants.
  • Water in the morning if possible. This gives any moistened foliage a chance to dry out during the day. Plants with dry foliage have less chance of contracting disease in the cool evening hours.
  • Water less during a houseplant's dormant period. Most plants grow rapidly in spring and summer and require lots of water at this time. During late fall and winter, however, they stop growing and require far less water. The opposite is true for a few houseplants, which may need little watering in spring and summer, and quite a bit of water during their active period in fall and winter."

How To Keep Houseplants Alive - Choose The Correct Container and Placement

Lastly, the last tip in how to keep houseplants alive is to choose the right container and put your plants in the right place.  Using a container with no drainage or other problems, for example, will kill a houseplant right away.  Secondly, you need to place the plant where it can thrive.  Although a particular plant might look nice in a particular spot - that area might not be suitable in light or other aspects for that type of plant.  Too much light or too little can potentially kill a plant right away.

Containers and placement are everything. Better Homes and Gardens also outlined the difference in natural and artificial light when it comes to houseplants. About this topic they said,

"Natural Light

To determine the intensity of the light on a given spot in your home, place an object there and check the shadow. The more intense the light, the more defined the shadow. Generally, a south exposure is the brightest. East and west windows can be bright, but usually not as bright as south windows. North windows generally are the dimmest. Light varies considerably by the time of year. Light also varies by what's nearby. It can reflect off light-colored buildings or snow, or be blocked by trees, shades, and awnings. Light intensity drops dramatically as you move from the source. Plants near a window receive far more light than ones several feet away, even though the room may be flooded with light. Click here for more tips on taking care of your houseplants.

High light is found in a greenhouse or by a window with a southern or southwestern exposure. This is intense light, as strong as can be found indoors. It is also called full sun. Medium-light refers to direct exposure from an east or west window. Also receiving medium (or what's often called bright indirect) light are spots near a filtered southern or southwestern exposure (or some distance from a similar exposure that's unfiltered). Low light is found near north windows. The light several feet from an east or west window or far from a southern or southwestern exposure (in both cases, often called indirect light) also qualifies as low light. Low light is common in corners and bathrooms. It is not total darkness. Your plants will let you know when the light is not right. Insufficient light causes spindly stems, yellow foliage, and leaf drop. Too much light causes leaf burn or pale foliage. Download our list of houseplants that do best in high light.

Artificial Light

Many houseplants thrive in artificial light. The most effective and inexpensive light source for houseplants is a fluorescent tube. Carefully position plants under the light source (between 6 and 15 inches away). Keep lights on for as many as 16 hours a day, depending on the houseplant.

Flowering plants fail to bud or bloom in poor artificial light. Foliage plants needing more light get tall and spindly. Foliage plants exposed to too much light look ghostly or faded. To increase the light intensity, use more powerful lights, use more tubes, place the tubes closer together, use white reflectors, move plants closer to tubes, or run lights longer.

Match the length of exposure to the needs of the plant. When growing plants under fluorescent tubes, rotate the plants regularly since the light at the end of the tubes is often weaker than in the middle. Experiment with lights from different makers and a combination of fluorescent and incandescent bulbs for a broader color spectrum. But be wary of heat generated by incandescent bulbs; it can burn plants if they are placed too close. Learn more about plant grow lights. Learn more about plant lights."

We hope this guide on how to keep houseplants alive will help you avoid becoming a plant serial killer and keep your houseplants healthy and thriving!

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