Directions on How to Take Care of Different Houseplants


The majority of houseplants are tropical plants that grow under the canopy of trees where light is low. These plants adapt well to the home environment because they have low lighting requirements and cope well with warmer temperatures found indoors. But houseplants range from easy-to-care-for tropical plants to specialized plants such as cactus that grow in arid environments and require supplemental lighting. Care differs depending on the natural environment of a houseplant.

Step 1

Determine the watering requirements of each houseplant. Watering requirements will vary depending on the type of plant you are growing, the quality of the soil, size of the container and environmental conditions such as light, heat and humidity in the home. One way to determine if a plant needs watering is to use a soil moisture meter with a soil probe. Insert the probe into the soil of a houseplant. The gauge on the meter will tell you how much moisture is available in the soil. Most gauges include a chart that will tell you what the meter's reading should be for a wide range of popular houseplants, including African violets, spider plants and cactus.

Step 2

Group plants with similar watering needs together. Grouping potted plants together helps reduce evaporation of water from the plant pots. Grouping will also make watering easier, since each plant in the container will require water at the same time.

Step 3

Examine the leaves of plants to determine how you should water the plant. Plants with hairy leaves often prefer to be watered at their base and do not like moisture on their leaves. Plants with smooth, succulent leaves may be watered from above.

Step 4

Add a liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants to the water in spring and summer months when plants are most active. Most plants do well with a balanced, liquid fertilizer (10-10-10), although some companies manufacture fertilizer formulated specifically for orchids and African violets.

Step 5

Place plants where they will get the proper amount of light. Plants such as cactus may require supplemental lighting such as a plant light. Plants such as orchids and African violets that have higher lighting requirements will do well near a south-facing window if placed back from the window where they will not receive direct sun. Plants with lower lighting requirements such as devil's ivy will do well under fluorescent lights.

Step 6

Fill a tray with water and place stones over the tray. Put houseplants with higher humidity requirements, such as orchids, on the stones where they will not absorb the water. The water will create a zone of higher humidity that will prevent the roots of plants from drying as fast, and will discourage mites that thrive in warm, dry conditions.

Step 7

Clean leaves with a soft rag to discourage insects and help the leaves absorb light more efficiently. For plants with smooth leaves, dip the rag in lukewarm water. Use a dry cloth for plants with hairy leaves, such as African violet.

Step 8

Move plants outdoors when outdoor temperatures are the same as those indoors. Most plants do well if placed on the protected, northern side of a home.

Things You'll Need

  • Moisture meter with probe
  • Water
  • Watering can
  • Clean cloth
  • Balanced liquid fertilizer (10-10-10)
  • Cake pan
  • Gravel


  • Texas A&M Univerity Extension: House Plants
  • Univerity of Minnesota Extension: Caring for Houseplants in Northern Climates
  • NorthDakota State University Extension: Questions on: Spider Plants

Who Can Help

  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Winter Care of Houseplants
Keywords: caring for houseplants, watering houseplants, growing houseplants

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."