How to keep your houseplants happy: simple, effective plant care tips

Most of you complement me generously on how I keep my houseplants happy and healthy, but I have to admit this is not some super power or ancient secret from the Far East. Not even a green thumb. I am just able to research plants in advance and pay attention to them once we share the same address.

I take care of them and they take care of me. In so many ways.

Of course, we still have disagreements, but I try to minimize them with these tips below. You could give them a try and experience the uplift that comes with keeping healthy and happy plants at home, too.

That, or maybe I am just trying to convert you into becoming my new plant friend.

1. Know the light conditions in your house.

Most plants thrive if we give them bright, indirect light. Orchids, fiddle leaf fig, rubber tree, crotons, monsterra adansonii, hoyas, succulents, and herbs are good choices.

However, most of us have medium to low light at home so we must pick plants that respond to these growing conditions like aglaonemas, peace lilies, pothos, scindapsis, philodendrons, snake plants, and calatheas.

Observe the plant in the first few days on its new spot, too. Move it if there are signs of decline like leaf burn, brown or yellow spots, and drooping. It may take some time to find the perfect spot but it is worth it because our plant will stay alive!

2. Read up on plants before buying them.

Ideally, we only pick up houseplants that will thrive in our home environment. However, the common scenario is: see a plant on Instagram or YouTube, pay too much for it, and get upset when it goes to the compost bin within the same month.

Alternatively, we receive plants as gifts, and have no clue what to do with them. This is a welcome problem though. I experience it a lot because wonderful people often send me plants. Some days, they just arrive in bundles at home!

A quick antidote to heartbreak is research. If we read up or watch videos on how to care for the new plant, we will be more confident in taking care of it.

Oh, and start with a healthy plant, please!

3. Get a lifestyle fit.

This can be interpreted in two ways. First, it is overwhelming for a beginner to have 10 plants. Better to focus on one or two and add more with experience. 20 on the first two months is a lot.

Second, we tend to overwater or underwater, depending on our natural tendencies and lifestyle. For busy people, invest in drought-tolerant house plants while the watering can-happy can go for water-loving plants.

In general, it is better to underwater than to overwater. When a plant is thirsty, it usually comes back to life after watering. An overwatered plant will likely have root rot or fungus and die.

How do you know if you are overwatering or underwatering? Million dollar question.

My tip: The moment you see signs of decline, touch the soil. Stick your finger an inch or two under. If the soil is wet, you are probably overwatering. If it is dry, you may be underwatering.

4. Let plants acclimate.

Do not be in a hurry to repot and give the plants time to adjust to their new home. Why add another stressor?

5. Spray with neem oil.

Neem oil keeps common pests away, like aphids and spider mites. It also gives the leaves a nice shine. I make an effort to wipe every single leaf with neem oil twice a month to remove dust and catch any problems. Does it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

6. Fertilize.

Sunlight is the key, of course, but we can support the healthy growth of our houseplants by feeding them. As long as there are signs of growth, I fertilize once a week.

7. Have plant insurance.

I do not mean buy two plants, but to propagate them, especially those that you like. It is an awesome way to get more free plants! It also lowers anxiety, when you are in love with a plant, and you just know you would be crushed if anything bad happened to it. Propagate it fast and now your happiness is secured, at least one would hope.

8. Not all plants are The One.

There are just some plants we cannot keep. Maybe the light in our house is not enough or we are just plain confused with its plant care. And that is okay. The best plant to keep is the one who will be happy, healthy, and growing with the care that we can provide.

Do you have plants at home or in your garden? I would love to hear your favorites and how you give them care, and also if you have had problems, some plant care tips, or deaths. Looking forward to reading your thoughts or questions!

71 thoughts on “How to keep your houseplants happy: simple, effective plant care tips

  1. Oh, #3 is quite timely! This is what my friends and I talk about all the time these days, how newbies (with money) overwhelm themselves with plants to care for. I mean, you’ve got money, we get it.. but it is HARD to juggle so many things (kids, career, pets, + 50 plants)

    We see them source plants everywhere!!! Like they’ve got all the time in the world… when in reality, they don’t have time to even go for long holidays.

    We tell them, “buying your plantita title is like bribing the judges to crown you Miss Universe” –it just doesn’t work that way.

    They ended up with tons of dead plants because they didn’t even research well…

    We’re talking to them in retrospect. They’ve now learned their lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a very interesting social phenomenon, I agree. Wonder what they are thinking? My sister is lucky, I guess, because she likes buying plants but have zero time to care for them, so I get all the plants. Win-win, no?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. YES! As long as someone gets to take care of them… that’s a win-win for the hobbyist and for the shopaholic 😀

        I believe there was a similar trend back then – PUPPIES!- people bought pets instead of adopting them from shelters… and they spent so much money on them (accessories, food + the pet itself), some successfully thrived on being a pet parent, but some were not… unfortunately, that’s how we’ve come to adopt Chiqui… we’re like animal an shelter, everyone who feels like they couldn’t care for them anymore, they call us to adopt theirs, but we had to stop at some point, our flat is too small, we’ve got 4 already…

        In as much as we’d like to take more, we couldn’t sustain it anymore…

        I think the concept is the same.

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        1. Wow, I feel it may be more challenging with pets. At least plants do not move. I admire you for getting rescues and for recognizing your limits. My mother does not and our house is like Noah’s Arc. It drives my youngest sister insane. My biggest worry about the current plant craze is sellers who move plants like products. Those who have no clue how to care for them or just acquire them and pass it on to beginners. Even worse are those who sell cuttings and the price gougers. Sigh.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. True! My friends spend thousands for a plant. I feel that it’s too much because seeing their posts, they’re not too rare after all! Sellers just boosted the price because of the FAD.

            I admire your mom! I think it’s hard to put a limit on caring for pets especially if you have an open space. Judging from what I see from your yard photos, I mean if your mom lives nearby, that’s one great place to care for animals! LOL @ Noah reference!

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            1. Thousands on one plant? Wow. Yes, I agree, my sister was showing me some photos of calatheas that the seller said was rare but I told her those were regular calatheas. I do not know how long this fad will last. I mean, I like it that people enjoy plants but the selling has become ridiculous. My mother does not have a huge yard but a big house and it is ruled by pets. She has over 20 cats and six dogs, I think.

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              1. Wow that’s a lot to take! Whew, 26 pets all together in one roof! She’s amazing!

                Yes, even Gretchen Fullido posts sellers before (and they sell like 6k above) but she refrained from doing so because “napapagalitan na raw sya”

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                1. I think my mother needs to neuter all the pets because the population will only grow and it is a lot of work for her. Wow, crazy price tags. I think some mature plants should be expensive but the small ones or a few leaves should have reasonable prices.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yes, they definitely need to be neutered… not only because of the population but also because when they are in heat, they are more than a handful 😅

                    True! As a plant parent, I feel that buying matured grown plants isn’t recommended. It’s like adopting a 20 year old kid…

                    Whereas if you take a baby, you get to care for them, rear them and see them grow…

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                    1. I feel both is good. Mature plants can be fun to look at, sometimes you really need those for design. But like you said, something has to be said about growing plants. It is more rewarding. New leaves are infinitely exciting. And it does not take long, too!

                      Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, ficus and ferns are lovely! What kind of ficus do you have? I only have two: benjamina and altissima. I have been trying to water propagate the altissima but they always rot. I only had one success and that is the small plant I have now, which makes me nervous because I like having insurance.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. And it died because you watered it or kept it in the dark or it was not humid enough? I am just curious. My sister is also beginning with succulents and is seeing some successes and failures. She tries to give me the suffering ones for rehab and but sometimes it is too late. I think her problem is not enough humidity. Now I also got into succulents and I like lithops a lot. They are the cutest things in the world.

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          1. succulents are the cutest things ever! About the cactus, I have no idea what I did or didn’t: I remember I was following the indications of a website for the water, but unfortunately I couldn’t do much for the sunshine, in here it is sunny very rarely!

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            1. Oh, sorry to hear about that. Maybe succulents is not ideal. Fern would have been better, if you enjoy watering, or some snake plants, since they survive anything. There are some lovely varieties, too. Any gardens or green houses near you?

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                1. Maybe it is time to visit one of these greenhouses and see what they have to offer. I also wish I could go into one but we are still infested and it is best to stay home. I am sure I would be realy excited once I get the chance!

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  2. great tips! thank you!
    owning a plant certainly comes with a lot of responsibilities. i smile at #2 because i actually know people who jumped at buying what they see in social media just because it is the ‘in’ thing. 🙂

    Like

    1. Crazy, right? There are ‘It’ plants! I understand it though, I find inspiration from social media, too. But I like learning about plants first. Also, I guess it helps that what is available here is limited. I cannot just grab them all. Then again, I am not the plant collector type, which I actually find a little odd. What do you think of it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know the scientific names of our orchids 😒 Which is an epic fail on my end considering I have a science background! We have 3 orchids: 1 snow white with fuschia center, 1 white with purple stripes, and 1 burgundy speckled. You can see all 3 on my Instagram 😀 Thank you for the neem oil suggestion! I definitely want to try it out on my other houseplants.

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        1. Oh, it does not matter, it is okay. Your descriptions were enough for me to picture them out. They sound lovely. Now we have lime, white, and purple blooming ones. I think they like the extra bloom booster mixed with normal feed. So much growth really. I will look them up on your Ig. And yes, the neem oil makes such a big difference. Also I like wiping leaves, even if we have hundreds of plants. It is therapeutic and meditative for me. I know even the plant people on YouTube do not enjoy it normally.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an excellent article. I don’t have any houseplants inside right now, but you have inspired me to get at least one. I do have some succulents which are outside, but I will need to bring in soon. Thanks for your post, and enjoy your day!

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  4. My fav are my plumeria (even the big one that has never had flowers) and the honeysuckle outside my bedroom window, which attracts hummingbirds. And the “pregnant onion” that reproduces like crazy!!

    Care? I water them when I remember and give them fertilizer a couple times a year.

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    1. Plumerias are lovely! Plenty in Bali. I always think of Bali whenever I see these. What is a pregnant onion? And I envy your honeysuckle! We actually looked for one but have yet to be successful!

      Like

      1. Stupid app…
        Both my honeysuckles died after being flooded during heavy rains. I never bothered to empty or move the pits and a couple years later they started growing again. One died this past spring but I’m fully expecting it to resurrect one day.

        I saw purple plumeria with blue edges in the documentary about F2M transgender peeps in Samoa and now I’m obsessed with seeing them in real life!

        Scroll down to “description” to see preg onion images. The little “babies” on the side fall offand become more big “pregnant” onions (not edible). I only recently learned that they also send up long flower stalks, as my billion plants sent up stalks.

        SUPER easy to grow. They were common “starter plants” for kids when I was young. I don’t really see them anymore.

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        1. I agree, you cannot trust plants to be really dead. I have so many that came back to life, too. Wish we really have honeysuckle though. Wait, which website am I checking for the pregnant onions? Not sure I saw it on yours. They really sound interesting!

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          1. Yes, I have the pregger onions. I linked to a wiki entry.

            There’s a type of orchid that dies off every year, likes to be ignored, then magically starts growing again. I can’t remember the variety and am certain I’ve never had one, but I still leave the dead plants alone for a year… just in case! lol.

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            1. Oh, I did not find a link? I think I have heard of these plants that go dormant. It is really interesting. Not sure if I would want that kind of excitement though. We pretty much leave the plants alone until they disintegrate on their own. It rarely happens. We have a variegated hibiscus cutting that was dead for over half a year and it is now doing well!

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              1. Oh.. I’d love to see pics of the hibiscus!! I used to hate them (no idea why) but have recently considered planting some.

                Go to wiki, search “pregnant onion”, and scroll down to description for pics.

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                1. Wow, they are really called pregnant onions! I thought you just called them that. Haha. They look crazy! Like a pokemon. And yes, we will share the hibiscus. We actually have a lot, big and small, because we lined our tiny house with it. I was very surprised the cuttings lived because I have no experience growing them honestly. Many died but some made it.

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                    1. The local name is gumamela. I adore their variety. We have several different kinds, which I can only tell based on the appearance of the flowers. I find that they attract pests like crazy though.

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                    2. Bugs… bleh!! I despise cannula flowers because they attract flies, and some bush because it attracts bees and is IMHO ugly (honeysuckle also attracts bees but they’re up higher and the plant is pretty)@

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                    3. Flowers that attract flies? Yikes. I only know of the rafflesia that does that. I have not seen one but heard it stinks to hell. I would like to have a venus fly trap actually, then I would not mind the flies. Bees are fine, really important pollinators. We actually thought about beekeeping.

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                    4. I thought about beekeeping too! Was going to keep hives on my roof but realized it wouldn’t work out.

                      Several places out here have corpse plants (titan arum?) and it makes the nees when they bloom but I’ve never gone to see/smell one.

                      I can’t think of, or find, the right name of the flower I’m thinking of… it’s not cannula or can nb a lily. Now i’m on a google quest.

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                    5. It gets obscenely hot on my roof, my cats like to go on the roof, and I don’t trust myself climbing a ladder or not falling through the roof.

                      I put out one of those little mason bee houses by the honeysuckle but nothing moved in.

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                    6. I suspect mine might have bern from some hives about 1.5 miles away. The property was a mismanaged community plot farm which had to close. I don’t know where the bees were taken. But the timing lines up.

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  5. I can’t believe I never thought of researching about what plans would be ideal from our space before buying them. We have a gardener to help us with our choices but we do end up losing some plants despite loving and taking care of them. These are really helpful tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Yes, it makes a big difference when a plant is suited to our home environment. If you have a bright room, most plants will do well there. If it is medium to low, then you must bring specific plants in so they do not suffer. Also, I find that some plants have a hard time because we over-care for them! What kind of plants do you have?

      Liked by 1 person

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