Tips for New Houseplant Parents
Congratulations! You’re the proud parent of a new houseplant! For many people, their love of gardening starts with successfully growing a few houseplants — like that pothos you had in your college dorm room — before adding outdoor plants to their parenting repertoire. And it’s no wonder many people also start with a houseplant before committing to the care of another creature, like a dog or a human baby. After all, one needs to know that they’ve got the responsibility thing down, right?
So, let’s start things off on the right foot — we want you to feel successful with this new endeavor. The existence of your future grandchildren could depend on it (but hey, no pressure).
Start with the easiest of easy houseplants.
It’s never wise to choose the most difficult project when you’re just learning a new skill, right? Like, you’re not going to be building your own kitchen cabinets after watching an intro YouTube video on how to use a tablesaw. The same is true for houseplants — some are easier, some are fussier. Go for easy, like pothos, sansevieria, air plants, and ZZ plant. Don’t even look a staghorn fern right now.
Our favorite plants for houseplant newbies are:
Understand what specific care that plant needs.
Understand that no plant was intended to be grown indoors — but that being said, many plants take to indoor conditions quite well when you understand what those conditions are. Each houseplant likes a certain kind of care in terms of light exposure, watering, and fertilizing. Make sure you are purchasing a plant that likes the conditions you can provide, whether a prime spot next to a south-facing window, or filtered morning light from the east.
If you buy a houseplant that needs consistently moist soil and daily misting but you travel 75% of the time for work, it won’t end well. It’s kind of like living in an apartment and deciding that a German Shepherd would be an amazing pet — you file it under “sounded like a good idea at the time.”
But the right plant in the right place? It's like having a pet that needs 1/57th of the care.
Don’t be a houseplant helicopter parent.
The leading cause of houseplant death is too much love. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? How can you love something too much? You can. Remember when you were in high school and you called that boy in math class four times in one evening? That didn’t end too well, did it? Let’s learn from our mistakes. Reread tip #2, and commit to giving your houseplant the attention it needs, but no more. After you’ve watered it correctly the one time a week it needs it, admire it from afar. Hands off, back away from the planter.
How do you know what your plant needs? We've made it easy for you! On every individual plant description here we have sunlight, watering, and feeding instructions.
Build on your skills.
Once you have one type of houseplant down, feel free to build on your skills by trying another type of plant, or one that may be a little trickier.
Don’t feel too badly if your houseplant has a limited life span.
We don’t mean to be indelicate, but every living thing has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your houseplant is a living thing, and as its parent, you need to make peace with the fact that you will likely witness its full lifecycle. It doesn’t mean you’re an awful parent or that you shouldn’t
a) try plant parenting ever again,
b) adopt a dog, or
c) have a child.
It just means you need to learn from your mistakes, if you even made one in the first place.
Trust us when we say that if you grow plants, you'll kill plants, and that's ok. It shouldn't stop you from enjoying them. Seriously - magazines make it look like all plants are perfect all the time, but yours might look great for awhile and then might join the compost heap. Just start over. (It's an excuse to grow something new!) Whether you enjoy it for 20 months or 20 years, you enjoyed it and that's what's important.
- Katie Elzer-Peters