How to Care for Plants & Trees


Plants and trees, whether grown inside or out, add a natural splendor to an area. Plants and trees come in endless varieties, shapes and sizes and in an assortment of colors to fit any décor or landscape needs. They also may improve air quality, provide shade, offer homes for wildlife and produce fruits, nuts and/or fragrant and beautiful flowers. Care for plants and trees varies depending on the specific type grown, but all require much of the same basic care.

Step 1

Grow plants and trees suited for the particular USDA hardiness zone you live in if you're growing them outdoors. These zones divide the country by temperatures, and choosing the right types of plants and trees for your zone will ensure their survival for years to come. Choose more than one cultivar of fruit and nut trees if necessary for pollination, or grow self-pollinating varieties.

Step 2

Select locations for the plants and trees according to the specific species grown. Plant sun loving plants in sunny spots and shade-loving types in shady areas. This information is typically found on the markers accompanying the plant, or ask about this when purchasing. Place indoor trees and plants in or near windows and move them outdoors when weather permits.

Step 3

Allow enough room for plants, particularly trees and shrubs, to grow to their full mature size in both width and height. Space the plants with this in mind, and stay clear of buildings, sidewalks, overhead obstructions and other plants within the growing area.

Step 4

Provide water to the trees and plants as needed, especially during the growing season from spring to fall for most types. Test the soil's dryness and water when required. Water indoor or container-grown plants when the soil is dry an inch down. Supply an inch of water a week to outdoor trees and plants if rainfall is less than that.

Step 5

Use top-quality soil for plants and trees in containers, and ensure that outdoor plants have well-draining soil conditions in most cases. Soil provides the trees and plants with valuable nutrients but should not hold large amounts of water for long periods.

Step 6

Fertilize the trees and plants only during the growing season, and as directed on the label. Use a basic fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, or other fertilizer formulas for houseplants, specific trees (citrus, palm and others) and particular species (such as vegetables, bulbs and roses). Do not add fertilizers to planting holes when planting trees, because it can burn the roots. Spread the formula evenly around the canopy or root zones; keep it away from the stems and trunks and flush with water after to push the fertilizer into the soil.

Step 7

Cover the area surrounding outdoor plants' root zones with several inches of mulch to prevent weeds from emerging and to retain moisture in the soil. Keep the mulch at least 6 inches from the trunks or stems and replace annually.

Step 8

Cut away any broken, frail or diseased parts of plants and trees at any time, and discard these to stop the spread of disease. Prune each plant or tree according to the specific type grown or to shape as needed. Some fruit trees grow with one central leader, but others grow best with an open center. For this reason, it is vital that you understand each type's requirement before pruning.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Pruning shears


  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Indoor Plant Care
  • Minnesota DNR: Backyard Tree Care
  • How To Grow Trees: The Home Owner's Tree Book

Who Can Help

  • The United States National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • National Gardening Association: Plant Care Guides
  • Trees Are Good: Tree Care Information
  • Arbor Day Foundation: 9 Things You Should Know About Trees
  • PlantCare: House Plants Care and Maintenance
Keywords: caring for plants, grow plants, grow trees, container-grown plants, outside plants

About this Author

Diane Dilov-Schultheis has been writing professionally since 2000. She is a food and travel writer who also specializes in gaming, satellites, RV repair, gardening, finances and electronics. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has been published on Yahoo!, the Travel Channel and Intel.