How to Identify & Care for House Plants


Many houseplants are tropical forest plants, which is why they do well inside where it's warm and the light is bright but indirect. They developed under the rainforest tree tops. In their native state, plants such as pothos grow hundreds of feet long with leaves up to 8 inches long. Recreate the ideal growing conditions for your house plants and they'll reward you with lush leaves.


Step 1

Pick up the plant pot and look for a label or a plant identification stick.

Step 2

Examine the leaves of the plant. If they're variegated, they need more light than solid green plants.

Step 3

Visit a nursery or big-box store and look for plants that resemble the ones you have.

Step 4

Write down the name of the plant and any care instructions.

General Care

Step 1

Follow the specific directions for any exotic houseplants. Orchids need warmer, brighter and more humid conditions than other houseplants. Cacti need drier conditions and not as much water.

Step 2

Place plants where they'll receive bright indirect light. Bright green leaves are a sign that the plant is getting enough light. Yellowish leaves may mean the plant needs more light. Leaves with bleached-out white spots means the plant is getting too much light. If the plant is receiving enough water and plant food, failure to grow may mean it's not getting enough light.

Step 3

Use room-temperature water. Cold water shocks the plants. Tap water contains chemicals, including chlorine, to purify the water. Let the water sit for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate, or use bottled water. Water when the plant needs it. Test the soil with your finger. If it feels damp then wait to water, even if it's been a week or two. Water plants with dry soil by setting the pot in water. After about 20 minutes, remove the pot and let it drain.

Step 4

Feed with a water-soluble plant food at half strength. If the label says 2 tsp. per quart, only use 1 tsp. In the garden, excess fertilizer is washed away by rain. In a houseplant, it has nowhere to go. Too much fertilizer will burn the roots of the plant.

Step 5

Re-plant the houseplant in a bigger pot when the roots are starting to come out the drainage holes. Let the plant get to the point where it needs water, then gently remove it from its old pot and put it in a pot one size larger that has about an inch of new potting soil in the bottom. Fill in around the sides with more new soil and water well.

Tips and Warnings

  • Pay serious attention to the fact that overwatering kills more plants than underwatering.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Water
  • Fertilizer


  • The Garden Helper: Houseplants
  • This Old House: Houseplants for People Who Can't Grow Houseplants
Keywords: identify houseplants, care for houseplants, care house plants

About this Author

Katie Rosehill's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written three additional books as well as screenplays, Web site content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on GardenGuides, eHow, and GolfLinks. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Favorite topics include personal finance, weddings and gardening.

Article provided by eHow Home & Garden | How to Identify & Care for House Plants