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The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

While we could chat about a number of ways to keeping houseplants alive, there is one BIG thing we do wrong without even realizing it.


Did you know that the number one houseplant killer is over-watering?


Rethinking how we water our plants will save a lot of heartaches when a houseplant succumbs to pest and disease problems.

It is so important not to allow plants to sit in soggy roots.


Because soggy roots promote pest and disease problems.

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The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

Keeping Your Houseplants Alive by Watering the Right Way

In general, and I do mean “in general,” water houseplants roughly 1x per week.

But this type of watering schedule may not work for all plants.

So it’s important to understand when a plant does not need to be watered.

NOTE: If you have succulents or cacti, water 1x a month or less.

These plants typically thrive on neglect.

For my cacti and succulents like aloe vera, cacti, etc., I don’t water them much at all and almost leave them alone.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

Why We Mistakenly Over-Water

Most people water because the soil looks dry or it’s that day of the week when they are scheduled to water.

The problem with both of these methods is that the soil where the roots are may not actually be dry.

And if the soil is not really dry, then plant roots sit in a wet soggy mess that promotes pest and disease problems.

So just because the top layer of soil looks dry doesn’t mean it is. And, the plant may not “need” to be watered on the scheduled watering day.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

How Does Soil Retain Water and Still Look Dry?

Wet 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.

Thus, the soil surface may look and feel dry, but may not be dry where the roots are located.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

How to Determine Whether Houseplants NEED to be Watered

While I mentioned having a scheduled watering day could be harmful to plants, it is good to plan one so that watering is on your radar.

So choose a day of the week when you want to water.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

Then check each plant using the cake batter test.

  • use a finger, plastic knife, popsicle stick or something similar.
  • insert it in to the soil about an inch down
  • if the tester comes out clean, it’s time to water
  • if the tester comes out with some wet soil, do not water yet
  • Re-check using the same process in another day or two if the tester comes out with some wet soil.
The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

I know this sounds like a task but you will get to know your plants and their watering needs after a few weeks.

Pro-Tip for New Plants: It’s a good idea to use the cake batter test for the first few weeks of care so you get to know the plant and its watering requirements.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

This Chinese Evergreen could wait another day or so to get watered.

The knife came out somewhat clean but there was some damp soil on it.

I’ll check it again in another day or so.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

Want More Houseplant Tips?

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The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

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  1. Your site is so informative. I truly love it. I need to send you my rose begonia. Every year I love them when they are for sale in the plant nursery and then I get them home on the porch for a couple months and they just simply digress. I know that ‘s not really a house plant…but I’m puzzled by it anyway.

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! Believe me, I’ve over-watered plenty of houseplants – it’s so easy to do without even realizing it!

    1. We are going to work on that green thumb – you can do it! Thank you for including with me! I love joining you guys!

  2. Thank you so much for all the tips. I used to grow beautiful plants, but now not so much. Could it be the water softener unit we have that uses salt and bleach

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