19 Mistakes People Make With Houseplants

Experts share common missteps in “plant parenting” and how to get it right.
By Caroline Bologna08/16/2021 06:00pm EDT | Updated August 17, 2021

If you follow interior design influencers or otherwise keep up with trends in home decor, you’ve likely noticed the mania around houseplants. Indeed, over the past few years, millennials, in particular, have developed a love affair with all things green.

But as newcomers to the indoor plant world quickly learn, keeping your indoor flora alive can be challenging. The leaves may turn brown, wilt away, develop spots or otherwise fail to thrive. Still, there’s no need to despair!

“Plant parents of all skill levels have trouble with houseplants at one time or another, so don’t worry or be afraid to try, try again!” Liam Heeks, manager of Tula Plants & Design, told HuffPost.

To help new and aspiring plant parents, we asked experts to share the biggest mistakes they see people make with their houseplants. Read on for 19 approaches to avoid (and their advice for getting it right).

Choosing Houseplants For The Wrong Reasons

“I’d say the most common mistake that people make is purchasing plants based on how they look, or how trendy they are, instead of getting plants that can thrive in the quality of light they have in their homes.” ― Hilton Carter, plant and interior stylist and author of “Wild Creations,” “Wild Interiors” and “Wild At Home”

Getting Too Many Houseplants At Once

“I’ve seen new plant parents get overly excited and go out and purchase too many varieties of plants at once. They end up losing a lot of those plants because it gets overwhelming trying to figure out which plant needs what type of care. My suggestion is to start with one or two new plants, learn about those and help them thrive, and then continue to add one new plant at a time.” ― Rachel Mayo, photographer, and creator behind Grow in the Light

Keeping Plants Near Heat Or Air Sources

“You want to keep your plant’s environment as stable as possible. Most houseplants, just like us, are most comfortable between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold or hot fluctuations in temperatures can stress them out. Do your best to avoid placing plants near temperature hazards like vents, radiators, and exterior doors or open windows, which might create hot or cold drafts of air.” ― Erin Marino, editorial lead at The Sill

Overwatering Houseplants

“Overwatering is one of the easiest ways to kill a houseplant. You may be tempted to water your plants on a strict schedule, but the best bet is to only water when needed. Always check the soil before watering. If it’s still moist, wait to water. Remember, it’s easier to add water than to remove it. I wait until I see signs of thirst like dropping or wrinkled leaves before watering.” ― Marino

“Plants that are overwatered may lead to yellowing of leaves, fungus/fungus gnats, or root rot. A good tip for making sure you don’t overwater is using a moisture meter like the Sustee moisture meter and watering your plant once your meter goes from blue to white. You can also check by sticking your finger into the top few inches of soil, and also lifting up the pot to feel the weight. For plants like calathea who like to be kept consistently moist, water, when you feel like the soil, is a wrung-out sponge!” ― Heeks

Forgetting To Fertilize

“Another mistake I’ve noticed is forgetting to fertilize plants. Many people think they can thrive off of water, alone. Plants need nourishment, just like humans do.” ― Mayo

Ignoring Seasonal Changes

“Keep in mind seasonal changes. For example, most houseplants need less water in the winter when they’re semi-dormant and receiving less sun.” ― Marino

Not Using Enough Water

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