Six Reasons Your House Plants are Dying

If your house plants are in various states of near-death, this article is for you.

I got the information for this article from my Mom, who used to own a plant store and loves gardening. Drawing from her years of experience dealing with plant customers and plant-owning friends, she’s given me the top five mistakes that people make with indoor plants.

1. Not picking the right plants

A big mistake is buying an outdoor plant and trying to grow it indoors. You need to buy a plant that will grow in a household environment. If you are a beginner, resist the temptation to buy blooming plants or colorful foliaged plants, because most of those will not grow well indoors.

Here are some good plants to start with (click to see names of plants):

These are hardy plants that grow well indoors and are perfect for beginners!

2. Not watering enough

Most people I know under-water.  They wait until the soil is bone-dry, then pour a dixie-cup of water in it.

How often you should water depends on many factors, but as a rule, the soil should never completely dry out, but shouldn’t be soaking wet all of the time either.

About one inch deep of the topsoil should be dry to the touch between watering. Don’t let all of the soil in the pot completely dry out.  Usually once or twice a week is sufficient, depending on temperature, size of pot, and location.  Use enough water to completely wet the soil in the pot all the way to the bottom, not just the surface.  If water has pooled in the dish at the bottom of the pot, that is enough.

3. Watering too much


On the other hand, people usually over-water orchids and kill them that way. Orchids require only a small amount of water gradually over time. One technique to prevent over-watering orchids is to put two ice cubes in the pot each week, depending on the size of the plant.

4. Not using a pot with a hole at the bottom

The bottom of your plant’s pot should have a hole at the bottom for excess water to drain out (into a saucer or something else to catch it ideally). Without that, water sits at the bottom of your pot and could cause your plant’s roots to drown or rot, even if you don’t water it that much.

5. Placing your plants “where the sun don’t shine”

Placing plants in a dark corner is a common mistake, often resulting in a dead or droopy-looking plant. You should place the plants where they can get a lot of indirect light.  Even though some plants can grow in low light, they will do much better near a window or artificial light.  Do your plants a favor by opening the drapes in the room and letting the sunlight in every morning.

6. Not feeding your plants

We tend to forget that plants need food if you want to see healthy growth.  Feed them regularly with a good indoor plant fertilizer. The easiest way to feed plants is to use a time-release fertilizer such as “Osmocote Indoor & Outdoor Plant Food”.  This is good for lazy people because it lasts three or four months!

If you don’t mind feeding the plant every other time you water, use Schultz’s Plant Food. It is also pretty easy to use. Just add seven drops for each quart of water. (It even comes with the dropper.)

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Bonus Tip: How to Keep Bugs Away

Once you’ve got the right plants, in the right location, in the right pot, spray the leaves once a month with soapy water.  A little dishwashing soap will do.  That will keep the bugs away.  This is especially needed for the Areca Palm.

Now, go out and get some plants!

Plants in home office

Neglect is the most common reason for dying house plants.  They may not need daily care like a pet, but they shouldn’t be neglected for days, especially when it’s hot.  They need air, water, food, and light.

Indoor plants are beautiful to look at and can turn your sterile home or office into your own little slice of paradise.  They can help you relax and are also great indoor air cleaners, removing toxins from the air.  Take good care of your plants and they will bring you much pleasure! – Brian

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Carol Eveson
Carol Eveson
8 years ago

I love your site! It gave me the information I needed to make a decision about whether or not to get Apple TV. I signed up for the newsletter, and I have been going through so many of your articles, they are great, and full of really helpful information. So, I have read much more than just the Apple TV article, I’ve read everything from cellphones to houseplants, and I love it! I can see that I will definitely be referring back to this site from time to time. I am going with a Roku box, make some changes on my cell phone services, and even though I have always had a terrible time with house plants, I am going to use your mom’s tips, and give “going green” another try. :-) Oh, and I am moving, so I will be using your Craigslist tips too.