Directions How to Take Care of Different Houseplants


Most houseplants are those that adapt well to an indoor environment. These often are tropical plants that grow in the under canopy of a rainforest such as the spider plant. Houseplants do well in the lower lighting conditions and warm temperatures of a home. Care for a houseplant involves providing for basic needs, which include nutrients, light and water.

Step 1

Measure the amount of light you can provide in your home before selecting houseplants using a light meter that takes measurements in foot candles. Improper lighting is second only to improper watering in factors that kill houseplants. Houseplants are divided into three types: those with low lighting requirements (tolerating between 50 and 250 foot candles); medium lighting (between 250 and 1,000 foot candles); and high lighting (above 1,000 foot candles).

Step 2

Place your plants in locations where they will receive adequate light based on your measurements. Low-light plants such as African violets will thrive in a north-facing window where they receive little sunlight while plants with high lighting requirements such as cacti should be placed in southern-facing large windows such as a bay window. Where you don’t have adequate lighting, supplement with a plant grow light. Most plants should be positioned with the tips of their leaves 6 inches from the bulb of the grow light.

Step 3

Check your houseplants daily using a soil testing probe, available commercially in many garden centers. A soil probe will measure the amount of water available in the soil of containers and indicate when it is time to water certain plants. Necessary watering frequency is based on a wide number of factors, including container materials and size, plant type and size and location in the home (light and drying factors like a fan or vent). Insert the probe into the plant so the tip penetrates the lower two-thirds of the container where the root zone rests.

Step 4

Water houseplants based on their foliage. Most plants may be watered by pouring the liquid onto the soil from above. Water the container until water runs out the bottom of the pot. This will help to leach out fertilizer residue and ensure the root zone receives adequate water. Plants with hairy leaves such as African violet do not tolerate being wet; place the pots containing these plants in a container of water and allow the water to draw up into the plant from below.

Step 5

Select liquid fertilizer formulated for your specific houseplant type. Most houseplants thrive under a general fertilizer (10-10-10). A few, such as cacti, orchids and African violets have different requirements. Many fertilizer companies manufacture fertilizers specifically for these plants. Place the liquid fertilizer into the water for your houseplant based on the manufacturer’s directions and add it to the plant as you water.

Things You'll Need

  • Light meter Moisture probe Watering can Liquid fertilizer


  • University of Missouri Extension:Caring for Houseplants
  • Texas A&M University Extension: House Plants
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Caring for Houseplants in Northern Climates

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: Lighting Indoor Houseplants
Keywords: houseplant care, indoor plants, lighting 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."