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Easy Indoor Plant Care Basics for the Beginner

Do you want to be an indoor plant parent but think you aren’t very good at it? Learn how to keep your houseplants alive with these easy indoor plant care basics.

If you are a novice to growing houseplants or think you have a not-so-green thumb, then this post is for you!

From easy care houseplants you can’t kill to general indoor plant care tips, this post will help you become the plant parent you’ve always wanted to be.

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Why You Should Grow Houseplants

There are several benefits to growing indoor plants in both home and work environments.

  • They purify the air we breathe.
  • Beautify living spaces.
  • Help us feel happier.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Improve productivity and increase concentration.

Houseplants are great for all levels of gardeners because there is one for everyone to grow. Even those of you who think you kill them.

I hear it all the time from friends and family and it’s just not true!

Once you have a good understanding of what indoor plants work best for you, your inner green thumb will flourish.

When I was a novice, I had no clue why my houseplants struggled and oftentimes didn’t survive.

Indoor plants you weren’t suppose to kill? I managed to kill them.

But through the years, I’ve learned what works, where plants thrive best in my home, how and when to water.

As my knowledge and experience grew, there are a few steps I take that have dramatically improved the overall health of my houseplants.

A little knowledge can go a long way, so let’s get started.

fun planters at the garden nursery with houseplants

Easy Indoor Plant Care Basics for the Beginner

If you’ve never grown houseplants before or haven’t had much success, this post will break down the basics so you can become the plant parent you’ve always wanted to be!

This post will help you reframe your thinking about how to grow indoor plants.

Because the plants you choose need to match your lifestyle AND the climate you have in your home.

Not all plants will be suited for your home.

And not all plants are easy to grow.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even the best gardeners kill plants. Myself included.

So don’t get down on yourself if a plant dies, cause it happens. You become a better gardener from the experience.

Here’s what you need to know to improve your indoor plant parenting game!

shop for easy care houseplants here

Choose Easy-Care Houseplants

If you are just starting out or think you regularly kill indoor plants, you need to start with easy-care, hard-to-kill plants that are resistant and thrive in a variety of conditions.

Starting off with low maintenance plants will help you grow their gardening confidence through small successes.

Unless you receive a houseplant as a gift, choose plants that match your lifestyle and the care you can manage.

sharing easy care indoor plant care basics and how I maintain them in my sunroom with white swivel accent chairs, snake plants, spider plants, and boston fern.

If you are the kind of person who wants to grow indoor plants but don’t want a lot of work, then choose plants that can bounce back easily after some neglect or ones that don’t not need a lot of watering or light.

Of course, if you want to care for a fussier plant, by all means do it.

But the result may be disastrous and kill your plant parenting confidence. So I don’t recommend it.

I don’t have the kind of time to devote to high maintenance plants, so I stick to the easy-care ones and my home is covered in plants.

It’s awesome!

monstera plant in farmhouse family room with sectional sofa and white throw pillows with round mango wood coffee table

If you want to start greening up your home, here is a short list of some low maintenance plants:

Easy Care Houseplants that are Hard to Kill

Sansevierias are the EASIEST houseplant ever to care for.

If you are new to growing indoor plants, start with one of these. They easy to find, easy-to-grow and you can’t kill if you tried.

Front entry hall with houseplants of sansevieria, pothos and peacy lily with wood floors that have painted inlays and arched doorway

They can handle a variety of growing conditions and thrive on neglect.

I moved one to our Vermont cabin. And we sometimes aren’t there for a few months.

There are some occasions that I notice the foliage looking like it needs water. But they are so resilient that once given that water, they bounce right back.

So if you want to try your hand with houseplants, I suggest starting with a snake plant.

Houseplants and Amaryllis on white tiered Plant Shelf
lacy tree pholodendron, chinese evergreen, pothos and a tea cup on a plant standHigh Tea with the Traveling Teacup

Proper Light Conditions

Knowing and understanding your home’s light conditions and where you want to grow indoor plants should all be considered before bringing one home from the nursery.

In general, houseplants fall under one of 3 light condition categories:

  • high
  • medium
  • low

Once you have a general understanding of what each means and how they translate in your home, you will be on the road to plant parenting success.

close up of indoor plants growing at the nursery in the greenhouse
close up of Houseplants that purify the air with ivy and pothos - How to Care for Plants in Winter

How to Determine Your Light Conditions

There are 3 types of light conditions.

Different areas of your home will offer different types of light. So try to figure out which light conditions you have where.

You can do this by determining where north, south, east, and west is in your home. If you aren’t sure, grab your cell phone compass to help you figure it out.

Think about where the windows are in each room and what light exposure it provides so you know the types of plants that can grow in that environment.

When you buy houseplants, read the plant tags and choose ones that match the light conditions you can offer it.

  • High Light: southern or southwestern exposure window.
  • Medium Light: east or west window with direct exposure or bright indirect light from filtered spots near a southern exposure window.
  • Low Light: north windows or indirect light that is several feet from east, west or south facing windows.
Christmas Cactus in Full Bloom with pink flowers near a western facing window
My Christmas Cactus blooms 3x a year. This is the fall 2019 bloom after I brought it indoors.

The biggest mistake new indoor gardeners make is to site indoor plants where they think they will look good, but not necessarily where the plant needs to grow in order to survive.

So it’s really important to know the light conditions you have and read that plant tag in order to achieve success growing houseplants.

Those plant tags are your friend because they tell you how to grow that particular plant.

Before you put an indoor plant on your car, ask yourself if that plant’s light requirements are a match for the location you want to place it in your home.

If it’s not, put it back on the cart because you won’t enjoy growing it.

Indoor seating in the greenhouse with houseplants - 7 Easy Indoor Gardening Ideas for Beginners

After you bring your plants home, keep an eye on them for signs of distress because they will let you know when they are not happy with given light conditions.

Distressed houseplants may show leaf drop, yellow foliage, or spindly stems.

When a plant receives too much light, it can cause pale foliage or leaf burn.

But houseplants sometimes show some distress after the initial move from a greenhouse to your home, that is normal.

However, if a plant does not bounce back or gets worse, consider the light conditions it is receiving.

Indoor Plant Growing Tip: It’s a good idea to turn your plants every now and again so they grow evenly. Oftentimes, we leave them where we first place them and plants will stretch in one direction to reach the light causing them to look lopsided. Turning plants every now and again will help maintain an optimal shape.

Garden blogger stacy ling watering chinese evergreen houseplant -The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

How to Water Houseplants

It is so important to not over-water or allow indoor plants to sit in soggy roots. Over-watering is probably the number one reason that causes plant fail.

Too often, we see a plant decline and think it needs more water so we keep watering. But really, that plant is trying to tell you it’s drowning.

Here’s what happens.

Soggy roots promote pest and disease problems.

Oftentimes, novice or new gardeners water because the soil looks dry or they water on the same day every week because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.

Both approaches are very ineffective measures. And here’s why.

Container soil is very similar to a sponge. If you soak a sponge and hold it upright, water collects at the bottom while the top dries out. So the top of that sponge appears dry, but in reality, the water is sitting at the base.

Soil acts in the same way. The soil surface may look and feel dry, but may not be dry where the roots are located.

So what’s a plant parent to do?

You need to check deeper into the soil where the roots are. This can be done with this test for soil moisture or you can buy a moisture meter like this.

watering a monstera deliciosa plant

How I Water My Plants

In general, I water roughly 1x per week but I ALWAYS check the soil first. If the soil is set 1-2″ down, I leave it alone and check it again a few days later.

I also like to do a monthly flush where I drop them in the sink or tub, soak them and let them dry before putting them back in their homes.

During the winter months, I water indoor plants much less. Learn more about indoor plant care in winter here.

If you have succulents or cacti, water 1x a month or less, particularly in winter. For my cacti and succulents like aloe, cacti, etc., I don’t water them much at all and almost leave them alone.

Indoor Plant Care Tip: When you bring new plants home, it’s a good idea to use the cake batter test for the first few weeks to help you get to know the plant and its watering requirements.

Houseplants in farmhouse ktichen ready to get watered. farmhouse kitchen with chalk painted cabinets and granite counter top with houseplants -Easy Houseplant Care Tips

Fertilizing Indoor Plants

In order to thrive, houseplants need to be fertilized. I like to use a slow-release fertilizer so I feed my plants about 3x per year: once in February, second in mid-May, and third in late August/September.

It feeds for about 3 months and keeps all of my plants happy.

I start feeding my houseplants in mid-late February so they can start waking up from winter dormancy.

Winter dormancy helps houseplants acclimate to colder temps and less light. So if you fertilize them this during this time, the plant thinks it needs to keep growing when it should start to rest.

Indoor Plant Care Tip: Do not feed them any later than late August/September for that last feeding because we want to encourage winter dormancy. If you forget to feed them in late August/early September, I recommend skipping this feeding altogether and just allow plants to go dormant.

lush houseplants on decks at sunset - deck has white spindle railings

Controlling Pests and Disease

Inspect plants for signs of pests and disease both at the point of purchase and when it’s in your home.

If at some point you discover a problem, it is important to determine what the issue is before treating it.

The best way to narrow down a pest or disease issue is to identify the plant you are growing and research problems associated with that plant.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep plant tags. Take a photo of them or note them somewhere so you can easily refer to the type of plant you have.

If you do not know what kind of plant you have, reach out to your local gardening extension or feel free to email me at bricksnblooms@gmail.com.

Houseplants on Vintage Chair in the garden
Gorgeous houseplant display at the local nursery.

Houseplants on Summer Vacation

Like people, plants enjoy a good summer vacation too! Most indoor plants are tropical, so thrive in that heat and humidity.

When the temps warm-up and the danger of frost is gone, send your houseplants outdoors to summer. But keep them out of direct sunlight so the leaves don’t scorch.

All of my houseplants double and sometimes triple in size just from that summer vacation. And they are much healthier year-round because of that outdoor exposure.

In my zone 6a climate, my indoor plants go outside about mid-May. I bring them back in before the first frost in late September/early October.

When I move my houseplants outside, I give them their second feeding of fertilizer.

During the hot summer months (late June-August-ish) when temps are 80+ and humid, I probably water them 1x per day when I water the rest of my container garden plants.

houseplants in the backyard zen garden with yellow house in gardening zone 6a New Jersey

An additional bonus to moving houseplants outdoors is it adds a tropical vibe to outdoor spaces like decks and patios.

Tropical indoor plants give all the vacation vibes without ever having to leave your deck or patio.

Even in New Jersey.

I keep most of my houseplants under the roof awning or a covered porch so they are outside but do not get hit with direct sun.

And they seem to like that best.

Front porch swing in fall with heuchera, chinese evergreen, zzz plant, fall throw pillows and area rug in fall

How to Move Houseplants Indoors

Start preparing to bring houseplants back indoors around late September/early October or before the your first frost.

Hose down each plant well and spray the undersides of leaves, remove any leaf debris, then let it dry out before moving indoors.

It is recommended to give them a slow transition from outdoors to indoors so houseplants can slowly adjust to being indoors.

Experts recommend moving them to a garage, enclosed porch, or something similar for a few days before moving to their permanent location.

I have to admit that I skip this step because I have so many plants that I just bring them right inside. It would take me forever to get them all in.

That said, I’ve been doing it this way for several years and haven’t had a problem with bringing bugs or pests indoors.

If you are concerned about it, then take that extra step.

This is what works best for me – do what works best for you.

Once they are brought inside, check houseplants for the first few weeks for any signs of distress, pests, or disease.

A little vigilance can go a long way if you catch problems early!

monstera delciiosa by the koi pond

Repotting Houseplants

Many homeowners like to keep their houseplants in the tiny plastic pots they arrive in.

And that’s OK to do, but plants can get root bound in these containers.

Root bound means the roots are getting tangled because the plants are outgrowing their containers and need more space.

When plants are root bound, their growth is stunted and they may start declining because they need larger accommodations.

I don’t repot all plants I bring home from the nursery, but I do repot most because they tend to grow better in new containers with fresh potting soil.

If you choose to replant it in a new container, don’t go more than one size up of the planter it came in.

To learn how to divide plants, see dividing perennials and how to divide an aloe plant.

Dividing snake plant helps maintain the health of plants -Easy Houseplant Care Tips
Dividing a Sansevieria
Sansevieria plant on the patio in the backyard garden - Indoor plant care basics for the beginner
Same plant after the division. One plant created five!

How to Know When a Plant is Root Bound

To determine whether a plant is root bound and needs repotting, look at the bottom of the container or lift the plant out of the plastic pot and check the roots.

If the roots are coming out of the bottom of the container or are tangling around the inside of the container, the plant should be repotted.

And that’s it!

I hope you found this post helpful and inspiring to grow indoor plants this year.

Happy Gardening!

Potting Bench Idea made from wood pallet and has lots of terracotta pots with houseplants, flowers and potting shed sign

More Houseplant Care Tips and Tricks

close up of pink orchids in the greenhouse at the nursery morris county farms in denville new jersey

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Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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10 Comments

  1. This is a great post Stacy, full of tricks and tips. I noticed the pic with the Aloe Vera which you had repotted. I have a large Aloe Vera which has grown too leggy on the bottom of the trunk and needs repotting but I’m not sure I will be able to find a pot deeo enough to submerge the leggy part into the soil as well as the roots. Can you crop some of the roots of those plants?

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  4. Hi Stacy I always appreciate your advice. I have many plants I want to bring inside but I’m concerned about critters, i.e. snakes, lizards, fire ants, etc. dwelling in them. I don’t use pesticides so I appreciate your advice on how I should handle this.
    My thinking is to leave them outside near a wall so it creates a micro-climate. Those that survive, great. Those that don’t, so sorry.
    I’m open to what you think may be best.

    1. Hi Diane! I’ve not had a problem before and don’t have experience with fire ants but if you are concerned at all, you can try repotting them in fresh soil and a clean planter before bringing them in. If you want to skip that, then bring them to a sheltered indoor area like a garage and let them dry out a few days to a week and acclimate to the indoors then check them before bringing them inside your home. Where fire ants are concerned though, I don’t have experience so you may want to check with your local cooperative extension for other tips before repotting or bringing them in.