How to Care for Houseplants | Midwest Living

How to Care for Houseplants

How often should you water your houseplants? What temperature do houseplants like? Where should you put a low-light plant? Check out our answers to these and other common houseplant questions.

Houseplants can live for 20 years or more with proper care. Below are the basics for taking care of your plants:

Group of plants

Hardy houseplants in our photo include tall ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), a large-leafed fiddle-leaf fig, a flowering begonia, silvery agave and an African violet. 

Water well.

• Plants need thorough watering, even if it's delivered irregularly. Use tepid (room-temperature) water until it flows out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the container.

• How often your plant needs watering depends on many factors, including the type of plant, the size and type of pot, the season and the humidity. Read about your plant’s general watering needs when you purchase it. Then keep an eye out for signs you might be overwatering (mold, old and new leaves begin to fall off, leaf tips turn brown) or underwatering (leaves are limp or wilted, oldest leaves begin to fall off, leaf edges turn brown and dry.)

Bump up humidity.

• Place plants in the kitchen or bathroom where humidity is normally higher.

• Group plants to grab extra humidity from the air.

• Try the saucer-and-marble method. Put a layer of marbles in the bottom of a saucer and partially fill the saucer with water. Place the plant container on top of the marbles. Don't let the pot sit in the water. The idea is to capture evaporating moisture, not wick it into the root system and cause root rot.

Keep temperatures comfortable.

• In general, temperatures between 65°F and 75°F during the daytime are best.

• Temperatures about 10 degrees cooler at night are best.

• Place plants away from ventilation outlets and drafty areas; heating and air conditioning systems can wreak havoc on houseplants.

• Use blinds or curtains to regulate direct light from windows. (See more about light preferences below.)

Fertilize regularly.

• Use a diluted houseplant fertilizer. Follow the product instructions and precautions.

Groom regularly.

• Wipe dusty leaves both to clean them and to allow them to breathe. Grooming also lets you watch for pests and diseases.

Know your plant’s light needs.

• Low-light—Plants prefer or can tolerate minimum light. North- and east-facing windows are a good place for these plants, as are interior locations of the house (such as coffee tables) as long as they do receive some light.

• Medium / Indirect—Bright light but no direct sun is the rule for these. West- or south-facing windows work well. Just keep plants one to two feet from the window itself.

• Bright / Direct—These are the sun worshippers. Put them on a windowsill facing south or west.

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