How to grow houseplants

Providing the proper environment for healthy plants. Select plants whose needs match the conditions of light, heat, and humidity you can provide. Buy plants from reputable dealers. Before buying a plant, examine it carefully for pests and signs of disease.


Take advantage of the different light zones in your home. Generally, flowering plants require more light than foliage plants. Observe plants regularly to make sure their light needs are being met. Too much sun may scorch or turn leaves yellow; too little light results in poor growth, thin stems, and yellow leaves. Turn plants periodically to keep them growing straight.

Where light is poor, grow plants under fluorescent lamps. Place the light 8 to 12 inches above the plants (closer for flowering plants; farther away for foliage plants). Keep the light on 14 to 16 hours a day.


Probe the soil with your finger every 1 or 2 days. If a plant requires moderate watering, let 1/z to 1 inch of soil dry out before rewatering. If it needs light watering, allow two-thirds of the soil to dry out. If it needs plentiful watering, the surface should always be moist.

Water plants in the morning, using a long-spout watering can and room temperature water. Stop when water flows from the drainage hole. Or stand the pot in a deep saucer of water for 30 minutes (water is drawn into the soil through the drainage hole); pour off excess water.


The usual household temperature range of 65° F to 72° F, with a nighttime drop of 10° F to 15° F, suits most houseplants; a greater drop can be harmful. Don’t place plants near fans or radiators or in a draft. On cold winter nights, move plants away from windows. Most plants tolerate summer temperatures up to 90° F as long as the humidity is kept high.

Moisture in the air is essential to a plant’s well-being. To increase the humidity level, group plants together on a bed of damp pebbles or place a potted plant in a larger container and fill the space between with moist peat moss. Or install a room humidifier. Misting or washing the leaves of shiny- or smooth leaved plants temporarily raises humidity. Don’t spray plants with hairy leaves.


In spring and summer, pinch off growing tips with your thumb and forefinger to make a plant bushier and to promote flowering. If a plant becomes scraggly, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut off shoots just above a leaf joint. Avoid drastic pruning unless a plant is overgrown or damaged by disease.