How to Take Care of Plants & Flowers


Around 400,000 species of plants exist, according to Botanical Gardens Conservation International. The plants and flowers you are likely to grow in your yard and inside your home, however, form a shorter list. Whether you choose a split-leaf philodendron for your living room or an apple tree for your backyard, all plants and flowers have some similar needs in terms of their care. With just a little water, light and fertilizer, you can succeed with any plant you decide to grow.

Step 1

Look up your climate zone on a United States Department of Agriculture map or other source. Then choose plants that are suited to your climate zone. Although you can grow some tropical plants outdoors in the summer, if you live in a region that receives frost or snow, a banana tree is not an appropriate plant for your yard.

Step 2

Give all plants good drainage. Plant potted plants in containers that have drainage holes. Plants you grow in the outdoor soil must also have good drainage. From tomatoes to orange trees, most plants will not succeed if their roots are constantly waterlogged. Exceptions to this rule include aquatic plants.

Step 3

Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Over-watering is the No. 1 cause of plant death, so be sure to poke your finger into the soil of both potted and in-ground plants before you give them another watering. If the soil feels dry about 2 inches deep, that's an indication that most plants need water.

Step 4

Give your plant the correct amount of light. Many plants, such as tomatoes and marigolds, need full sun. Others, such as orchids and many other houseplants, perform best in filtered or reflected sunlight. Doing a little bit of homework about your plant will give you the information you need to succeed.

Step 5

Fertilize your plants as recommended for the specific type of plant. For example, you can fertilize potted orchids every time you water them, but most other plants respond better to quarterly fertilizing, or less. Over-fertilizing can cause a plant's roots to get burned and it also causes excessive vegetative growth, which frost can damage if you fertilize too late in the year.

Step 6

Prune your plants correctly, depending on the type of plant. If you deadhead, or cut the spent flowers from ornamental plants, it can encourage more flower production. Research the type of plant you are growing to learn the correct pruning techniques. For example, fruit trees have specific pruning needs, depending on the type of tree.

Step 7

Protect outdoor plants against harmful insects. Snails, slugs, aphids, scale, mites and mealybugs are common garden pests. Many simple, nontoxic products and techniques are available for keeping these pests and others away from your prized plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Climate zone map
  • Pots with drainage holes
  • Well-draining garden soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Water
  • Correct light conditions
  • Clippers or pruning shears


  • National Gardening: Gardens For All
  • Better Homes and Gardens: Gardening
  • "Gardening Basics For Dummies;" Stephen A. Frowine; 2007
  • Botanical Gardens Conservation International: Plant Species Numbers

Who Can Help

  • The Garden Helper: Average Date of Last Killing Frost
Keywords: plants flowers, gardening basics, light water fertilizer

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.