Indoor Plant Care Tips

Many home gardeners extend their love of gardening to the indoors as well as the outdoors. Bringing plants inside can enable you to grow flowers that would not normally thrive in climates that are too hot or too cold. In addition, many plants are kept indoors year-round to bright up the home and clean the air, according to B. Rosie Lerner, a horticulturist with Purdue University. Indoor plants grow in containers and have slightly different care needs than if they were planted in the ground.

Container

Start your indoor plant off right by choosing the proper container for your plant. Clay or terra cotta pots work well for succulents and cacti, while most other plants will thrive in a plastic pot. Most importantly, make sure your container has drainage holes at the bottom, as well as a water-catch tray so that any draining water does not land on the floor. Proper drainage is important for the health of houseplants, according to Ron Smith, a horticulturist with North Dakota State University. If re-using old pots, wash them with a bleach and water solution to kill any soil-borne pathogens that may be lurking inside.

Soil

The type of soil that is best for your indoor plant depends in part on what type of plant it is. Cacti and succulents, for example, need a planting medium that is high in perlite or coarse sand. Other plants thrive in completely soil-less mixtures, such as those made with peat moss. In general, most houseplants grow best in soil that is loose, rich in organic material and well-draining, according to Smith.

Water and Food

Indoor plants often suffer from too much or too little water. Improper watering practices are the most common cause of indoor plant problems, according to Lerner. Over-watering can lead to consistently soggy soil, which allows fungi to grow and thrive. This can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that attacks the roots of plants, causing the roots to rot away and the plant to die from a lack of nutrients. Under-watering will cause a plant to turn brown at the margins and tips of the leaves, or buds to drop from the plant before they even have a chance to open. The watering needs will vary depending on what types of indoor plants you have. Many big-leafed indoor plants are tropical, and these plants need either consistently moist soil or they need to be watered when the top inch or so of the soil is dry to the touch. Succulents and cacti can be allowed to dry out completely before you give them more water. Water more frequently during the plant's growing period, and reduce the amount of water given in the winter to allow the houseplant to achieve dormancy. You can give fertilizer to houseplants, and it often help the plant grow more vigorously. Too much fertilizer can lead to the buildup of salt in the soil, so use fertilizer sparingly, and choose a type that is formulated for your specific indoor plant.

Light

Some indoor plants thrive in low light conditions, but most need at least six hours of bright light each day to grow well. Plants do best when exposed to morning sun followed by afternoon shade or afternoon light that is filtered, as the hot, direct rays of the afternoon sun can scorch the thin, delicate leaves of many tropical plants and succulents. A south-facing window offers a good source of indirect but bright sunlight, and artificial growing lights can be used as well.

Keywords: indoor plant care, growing houseplants, caring for houseplants

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.