Keeping House Plants Alive - The basics

No matter how hard you try and how much research you do on a particular species of plant  - sometimes they fail 😥

cactus house plant care guide

I'm sure we have all bought that beautiful show piece specimen that looks so healthy and vibrant in the shop and just weeks later is a sorry looking mess??

Or other plants that do OK for a while and then refuse to grow.

Sometimes too much fussing can kill a plant, the phrase 'thrives on neglect' springs to mind and can be partly true for some plants.

Over watering is a big killer too - perhaps even more likely to kill a plant than under watering.

Its impossible to succeed all the time but to give plants the be shot the following principles should help! 😊

bonzai care guide

RESEARCH - the 1st thing you should do when you get a plant home is research its preferred needs - google it! - look for care sheets or if you old fashioned like me consult a book too - get information from a variety of sources so you can get a good general idea of conditions required to thrive. Facebook groups can also be a great place to get tips and tricks from real gardeners.

orchid bark types

Soil - Look at what sort of planting medium suits the plant and the way you care for your plants (for example occasional waterers might want something that holds moisture longer) Select the appropriate potting medium for the species and also think about pot size and drainage. Not all plants want the same - a cactus is not going to do well in peat based compost with no drainage - obviously! and likewise a orchid will not survive long in dry desert like conditions without water.


Position - When thinking about a place for a plant the main consideration is probably light. Will it get enough or too much!? Direct sunlight can destroy plants quickly - even those used to warm climates and in the same breath a sun loving cactus will not grow long term in a shady spot in the corner where it will be more prone to disease and pests. Its often about getting balance right as many plants like bright sun but not direct sun all day. hade lovers will quickly frazzle in direct sun where moisture is lost quickly. So do your research when it comes to getting the lighting correct for a particular species. You might even consider supplementary grow lights or even shading. Also give a little thought to air circulation and humidity. Sometimes the perfect looking spot for you will unfortunately not suit the plant you want to grow there - so be mindful of that.

Temperature - related to the positioning - sudden changes in temperature can harm plants - some wont do well if kept too hot or too cold. Probably best not to water with either ice cold  / boiling water either!. Draughts can also do damage but good air circulation in general will help most species.

Humidity - Many tropical plants like high humidity so try to provide this - bathrooms and kitchens are obviously good spots - think about humidity trays or even electronic misters and manual misting. Grouping plants together also helps hold humidity well. Many ferns will only thrive if misted almost daily especially in hot weather.

Watering - Like many things it can be a balancing act - even moisture loving plants don't want to be waterlogged and soggy so don't over do it. Unless its dry don't water is a good rule - stick your finger into the soil to test this. Again its down to research on how much water a plant species might need. Over watering can kill especially when there is no drainage. Although cacti don't like much water in the colder weather in a Hot summer you can be pretty liberal - just ensure any excess cant pool round the roots! When thinking about watering plants take in to account the position of the plants and how quickly they tend to dry out. Providing saucers of water at the base of plants can help regulate water when the plant needs it.

Nutrients - This is also related to the type of potting medium, bare in mind some plants don't like lots of nutrients and do better in poorer soils, Over fertilising can also kill plants. When potted plants have been in the same substrate for some time it is usually beneficial to add some sort of feed but always follow the manufacturers instructions and if anything feed less. Newly potted plant will not usually require supplementary feeding for first few months. Feeding in winter or went plants are in dormant stages is not usually advised either. Consult a good book on what nutrient deficiencies look like on a plant - you can often tell what's wrong from the colour of the leaves or type of damage.

Pests / Disease - As above educate yourself on the symptoms of specific pests and disease - the plant will often give you clues if something is wrong, pests should be dealt with as soon as they are spotted and plants quarantined to prevent spreading to your whole collection. Its said that to eradicate every pest is near impossible but if you keep on top of them they don't normally pose a big problem.

Whats wrong with my plant book

books such as the one above can help you determine what's the wrong when a plant is not doing so well - correct diagnosis can help you solve the problem!

plant disease leaf colour chart


I hope the above tips help with your indoor jungle 😎


we also stock a range of unique substrates for all types of house plants - have  a look here

Or read one of our other articles with plenty of tips and tricks!!