In a new book, the founder of Ohio Tropics celebrates houseplants and unravels the mysteries of their care.
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Yellow leaves. Brown tips. Lopsided growth. Raffaele Di Lallo hears about it all. Through Ohio Tropics—a blog, Instagram and YouTube channel—the Cleveland pro answers questions and offers an upbeat approach to houseplant care. Since launching five years ago, he has amassed millions of visitors and followers. They tune in to watch him repot root-bound peace lilies, shower a giant monstera or start a host of baby snake plants in water. "Plant care is a lot easier than you think," Di Lallo says, "once you understand the basics."

raffaele di lallo surrounded by plants
Credit: Raffaele Di Lallo

Di Lallo is an engineer. He encourages people to embrace learning (even failures) as part of the scientific process of growing plants. This year he published Houseplant Warrior, a primer in thinking like he does—methodically diagnosing and solving plant woes. "My goal is to help people be confident indoor gardeners," says Di Lallo. "No one is born with a green thumb. It comes from trial and error."

How to Revive a Dying Houseplant

Di Lallo fields hundreds of questions from followers about ailing plants—and often traces issues to these common errors.

Limited Light

Far too many people place plants in dim corners and wonder why they struggle. "Indoors there's not as much light as we think," says Di Lallo. Even a plant tagged as Low Light needs some sun to photosynthesize. Try moving plants closer to windows. (East-facing works well for many plants.)

Not Enough Water

Many people are so fearful of overwatering that they dehydrate their plants. "Don't let calendars dictate when to water," Di Lallo says. Develop a habit of regularly checking every pot with a finger or chopstick. If the soil is dry and crumbly, water. Over time, if the soil is perpetually damp, consider moving down a pot size. (And always use one with a drainage hole.) Drying out too fast? Size up.

Tight Quarters

If roots are growing out the bottom of your pot or it's hard to keep the soil moist, move your plant into a pot that's one size (usually 2 inches in diameter) larger. Make sure to tease out the roots or make cuts in tightly bound roots before replanting to spur new root growth.

Easy-Care Houseplants to Try Next

Elevate your indoor collection beyond go-tos like pothos and monstera with these picks. Raffaele Di Lallo says all are relatively easy to care for and widely available at plant stores or online.

jewel orchid plant
Credit: Raffaele Di Lallo

Jewel Orchid

"There's a lot more to orchids than moth orchids," says Di Lallo. In fact, scientists have identified more than 25,000 species and more than 100,000 hybrids. Ludisia discolor has dark pin-striped leaves and grows happily in regular potting soil.

Related: How and When to Move Houseplants Outdoors, According to a Pro

hoya obovata flowers
Credit: Raffaele Di Lallo

Hoya Obovata

Di Lallo recommends 'Splash', which has rounded, silver-striped leaves and grows long vines over time. If kept root-bound in a tight pot with plenty of sunlight, the plant produces aromatic pink blooms.

homalomena emerald gem plant
Credit: Raffaele Di Lallo

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem'

The heart-shape leaves of homalomena are fairly easy to keep lush, Di Lallo says. He likes the variety 'Emerald Gem' and recommends treating them like peace lilies—placing them in an environment with warmth, humidity and bright indirect light.

philodendron silver sword
Credit: Raffaele Di Lallo

Philodendron 'Silver Sword'

"Philodendrons come in a shocking array of colors," Di Lallo says. 'Silver Sword' has large leaves that fade from green to gray. Provide a moss pole or rough wood for climbing and place in an east- or west-facing window. Water when the top of the soil is dry.

Houseplant Warrior: 7 Keys to Unlocking the Mysteries of Houseplant Care is loaded with reassuring lessons and includes a lengthy guide to Di Lallo's favorite houseplants.