Houseplant care

Houseplant care is the act of growing houseplants and ensuring they have the necessary conditions for survival and continuing growth. This includes providing soil with sufficient nutrients, correct lighting conditions, air circulation and adding the right amount of water.

Spathiphyllum and Ficus benjamina, which only require minor care, in a workplace under a moderately bright window.

Watering houseplants on a regular basis is necessary for the plant to remain healthy and thrive. They should not, however, be watered on a scheduled basis, because different plant species need different amounts of water and sunlight so it is important to know the specifics for the particular plants that are being grown.

Houseplants sometimes also need to be cleaned of dust and greasy films that collect on the leaves when they are indoors. Dusty, grimy leaves can inhibit growth.

Data for some common houseplantsEdit

Major factors that should be considered when caring for houseplants are moisture, light, soil mixture, temperature, humidity, fertilizers, potting, and pest control. The following includes some general guidelines for healthy houseplant care, though each plant has different care requirements. Detailed plant care information can be found in many sources such as the internet and in books.

Light requirementsEdit

Pachira aquatica placed near a window.

The meaning of Low-Medium-High depends on the context. For example, in orchid literature 1,500 foot-candle is referred to as Low Light. It is possible to supplement window light with artificial lighting of suitable wavelengths.

Most plants will survive illuminance ten times lower than listed below but will not grow as well or bloom.

  • Low (500–2,500 lux; 50–250 foot-candles)
  • Medium (2,500–10,000 lux; 250–1,000 foot-candles)
  • High (10,000–20,000 lux; 1,000–2,000 foot-candles)
  • Very High (20,000–50,000 lux; 2,000–5,000 foot-candles)

Temperature requirementEdit

Most plants grown as houseplants are selected because they are already adapted to growing at typical house temperatures, between 15° and 25 °C. Exceptions do occur, and some plants require chilling periods at lower temperatures (down to 5° or 10°) in winter when less light is available.


Houseplants are generally grown in specialized soils called potting compost or potting soil, not in local natural soil. A good potting compost mixture includes soil conditioners to provide the plant with nutrients, support, adequate drainage, and proper aeration. Most potting composts contain a combination of peat and vermiculite or perlite. Concern over environmental damage to peat bogs, however, is leading to the replacement of peat by coir (coconut fibre), which is a sustainable resource. Sterilised soil can also be used.

Pot sizeEdit

Crassula ovata in a clay container (Italian terra cotta).

Proper pot size is an important factor to consider. A pot that is too large will cause root disease because of the excess moisture retained in the soil, while a pot that is too small will restrict a plant's growth. Generally, a plant can stay in the same pot for two or so years. Pots come in a variety of types as well, but usually can be broken down into two groups: porous and non-porous. Porous pots are usually clay and are highly recommended because they provide better aeration as air passes laterally through the sides of the pot. Non-porous pots such as glazed or plastic pots tend to hold moisture longer and restrict airflow.

Another needed feature is the drainage holes. Usually, pots come with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to flow out of the soil which helps to prevent root rot. If a pot does not have drainage holes, it is best to double pot that plant so the inner pot can be lifted out and the excess water accumulated in the bottom of the outer pot can be removed. Soak old pots thoroughly in a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water to kill any bacteria that may remain therein.

Water requirementEdit

The amount of water a particular houseplant needs is influenced by several factors. Not only is the individual plant size and species important, but also the growing conditions. Light, temperature, humidity, container type, container size, and soil type all influence the speed of growth and therefore the amount of water needed. Further, it is best to look up individual plant types for their watering needs.

Both under-watering and over-watering can be detrimental to a houseplant. Different species of houseplants require different soil moisture levels. Brown crispy tips on a plant's leaves are a sign that the plant is under-watered. Yellowing leaves can show that the plant is over watered. House plants are generally planted in pots that have drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to reduce the likelihood of over watering and standing water. Most plants can not withstand their roots sitting in water and will often lead to root rot.


Humidity is slightly more difficult to control than temperature. However, most species of houseplant will tolerate low humidity environments if it's watered regularly. Homes are often around 20% to 60% relative humidity. Such a range is acceptable, although most species thrive near 80% relative humidity.[1] Indoor plants also give off moisture into the air generally raising the relative humidity in the room. To increase humidity one may mist plants with distilled water or use a humidifier.

Nutrition requirementsEdit

Plants require soil minerals such as nitrate, phosphate, and potassium. Nitrogen is essential for green, leafy growth. Houseplants do not have a continuous feed of nutrients unless they are fertilized regularly.[2] Phosphorus is essential for flowering or fruiting plants. Potassium is essential for strong roots and increased nutrient uptake. Minor and trace elements, such as calcium, magnesium and iron, may also be necessary. When using fertilizers for nutrients sources advise you to use an organic fertilizer with indoor potted plants because synthetic fertilizers pose a risk to burn or harm your plant.

Houseplants in a controlled production greenhouse are kept in an ideal conditions for rapid growth. Some plants and production flowers are even hybridized for fast growth characteristics. Nutritional needs of a plant in a production green house are greater than in a typical personal house plant environment where humidity, light, irrigation, and air circulation are not ideal. After being brought into a typical household, the watering and nutritional requirements decline as the plant's growth rate declines.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Chicago Botanical Garden, Indoor Gardening, Pantheon Books, New York, 1995, p. 182.
  2. ^ "How to Care for Indoor Plants (Houseplants)". Planet Natural. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2019-05-05.