How many times have you brought a plant home only to watch it shrivel up and die? Do you avoid plants now, convinced that you’ll curse them to a horrible death? Fear not! While you may never grow all your own food from seed you’ve saved, you can keep a house plant alive if you know how to pay attention to that plants’ needs. Before you even get to the plant itself, you need a crash course in indoor gardening.

Water and Drainage

All plants need water and drainage. Why both when they seem to be opposing forces? Not enough water is what causes your plant to shrivel and die, but too much water causes your plant to drown. Drainage, usually small stones or rocks at the bottom of your pot, gives excess water a place to go so your plant’s roots aren’t flooded. The soil your plant lives in will hold a little extra water temporarily for your plant to thrive.


Your plant will come with a tag that tells you how much light it needs. Picture your home. A plant that needs direct sunlight will have to be placed in a south-facing window. Can you accommodate that? Most houseplants need a period of both indirect and direct light and will be adaptable to what you can provide. For example, a room that gets direct morning or late afternoon sun but stays fairly bright all day from the windows in adjacent rooms will be fine for most plants.


You need water and food. So do your plants. Plant food, or fertilizer, is a must for house plants to thrive. Outside, plants get their food from decomposing material in the soil. Inside, you have to give them an artificial food source through fertilizer. Read the fertilizer package instructions carefully. Too little fertilizer will starve your plant, too much will burn it. You can choose from slow-release plant food spikes, water-based fertilizer or a granule you shake on top of the soil.

Potting Your Plant

Most houseplants come in an attractive pot you can leave the plant in for a while. Eventually, though, you’re going to need to give your plant more room to spread out. It’s not just the foliage that grows, it’s the roots, too. A bigger pot gives the roots space to help your plant thrive. Re-potting or transplanting requires a slightly bigger container than the one currently occupied, drainage material and potting soil.

Cover the bottom of the new pot with your small drainage rocks, then a little soil. Carefully remove your plant from its current home and brush the roots free of soil. If the roots look squished, gently pull them apart without breaking them. Place your plant in the new pot and put soil around the roots. Be sure to keep all the roots below the pot lip and keep the foliage soil-free. Pat down the soil and add more, if needed. Water your plant until the water runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the new pot. Add more soil, again if needed. Voila! You’re done.

Lots of houseplant options are available for you now that you know how to take care of your new ‘friend.’