Keeping Your Indoor Container Plants Alive

The secret to success with indoor gardening is to provide the right conditions for your plants. You also have to be sure to maintain the plants by giving them the kind of care they require. Let’s learn more about keeping your indoor plants alive.

Providing the Right Conditions for Indoor Plants


Don’t get carried away with watering and drown the plants. And don’t ignore your plants so they dry up before you even notice they’re dead. If you have a hard time remembering who needs water and who needs food, create a calendar or use the refrigerator for reminder notes.

Remember not to water every week throughout the year. During the winter, most plants slow their growth and don’t require as much water or care. They hibernate so to speak. Pay attention to the directions, especially those that say things like “allow to dry between watering” or “keep evenly moist.”


For a lot of indoor plants, humidity is just as important to them as water is. Some truly need a humid environment and inside a home, the bathroom is perfect for this. Sometimes a simple mister is great if the plant doesn’t require constant humidity. Sometimes, it’s even easier to provide the needed moisture by putting gravel at the bottom of the planter and setting the planter into its dish filled with water. Keep in mind how in the winter your throat gets drier in the house. Well, so do plants.


When you have flowering plants, they have very strict requirements for day and night temperatures in order to bloom, or preserve the blooms already present on the plant. Orchids, for instance, are extremely touchy about temperatures. If your plants don’t flower and only provide foliage, the requirements are less strict. The best temperatures for most plants range between 55 and 75 F. (13-24 C.). As long as the directions for the plant say things like “cool,” “high,” or “average,” they fit in that temperature range. Just like in outdoor habitats, indoor plants prefer cooler temperatures at night.


Another factor to consider for indoor plants’ well-being is the light level in the home. For instance, a polka-dot plant prefers higher light levels and with less light, it might not die, but its stems become longer and the leaf growth is slowed. The plant generally starts looking pretty ragged. Plants that prefer lower levels of light might show brown or burned leaves and spots when placed directly in sunlight.

Then there’s the easy group of plants that prefer medium light levels. They can put up with the widest range of light and temperatures. Remember that plant leaves turn toward the light, so you should try to make the most of photosynthesis. When you find your plants leaning toward a window, turn them every week or so. This will give you a more symmetrical plant.


Remember, don’t over fertilize. This can result in lush growth, but it will also require more repotting and attract more pests. However, don’t under fertilize. If you do, your plants might look a little peaked. There is a happy medium with fertilization. You will want to use a soluble fertilizer three times during a growing season (spring and summer are the growing season). Be sure to read directions though; some plants require more than others.

Pest Problems

Unfortunately, just as with outdoor plants, indoor plants attract pests as well. These pests will find their way indoors. The cause is usually cultural. For instance, if you put the plant in the right place with the right humidity, temperature and light, you shouldn’t have pest problems. If you put the plants where they don’t belong, they are removed from their normal habitat and this makes them prone to pests.


You should try to regularly cut or pick off dying flowers, dead leaves or stems. Some plants very specifically require this. If you have a spider plant, for instance, the little “baby spiders” need to be pruned off and put in water until they root. At that point, you can transplant them. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and cut the tallest cane stem down to 3 inches just so the shorter stems can take over the plant.

As you can see, following the directions that come with your plants would be your first step. Each plant is like an individual person. Every one of them requires different temperatures, light, soil, fertilizer and so on. Make sure you are giving them the attention they need and your plants should thrive indoors.

Keep Your Houseplants Alive

This simple and clear guide to keeping 27 indoor plants alive and kickin’ is just what you need to ease your horticultural frustration. These are plants which had the highest survival rates in offices – in other words, reliable and in it for the long haul. Nell’s brings years of experience in the field of interior plantscaping to the pages of this book. Keep Your Houseplants Alive was written to help you turn your brown thumb into a green thumb.

“If you have lots of houseplants, put them together in the bathtub, then fill the tub with 1 to 2 inches of water,” says Barbara Pleasant, author of The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. “It’s an old-school solution, but it works if you’re going to be gone for a week or ten days.” Make sure to pull the saucer away from the pot (and that the pots have holes in them!) so the plants can wick water up through the drain holes. Just a few pots? Try the same trick in the kitchen sink.

No matter the season, most plants tend to like moderate conditions, so tweak your heat or AC accordingly. Because most houseplants are tropical in origin, they prefer temperatures between 55 to 80 degrees. If indoor conditions are super-dry in winter, try grouping plants together on a tray of pebbles and filling with water to boost the humidity level. They’ll benefit each other by being closer together. It also helps to draw the shades or sheers, or pull them back from the window, so they’ll use less water, says Pleasant.

Survival Tips for Indoor House Plants when You’re Gone for More than a Week

Not There Plant Care for House Plants and Seedlings

I recently returned from an 8 day trip while leaving my babies at home, unattended. No need to call child protective services…I’m talking about our precious little plants!

These are the butterfly plants I’ve been overwintering since last fall and also the milkweed seedlings we started indoors this spring.

8 days is a long time to leave your plants unattended, but I knew it was not an impossible task.

1. Trim foliage of mature plants the day before leaving so they will require less water during your absence.

2. Water all mature plants and seedlings thoroughly the night before leaving.

Use a hydrogen peroxide mixture to kill any potential fungus gnat eggs lurking beneath the soil.

3. Place gallon jugs of distilled water around the plants. You can also fill up empty gallon jugs with tap water.

4. Cut long pieces of natural twine to put inside the jug with just a few inches remaining outside.

I used 34″ pieces of twine and that worked well for me. I put 3 pieces of twine in each jug, so one jug was used to water 3 plants.

5. Tape over jug openings with duct tape to slow down evaporation.

6. Place the jugs next to your plants.

7. Place the remaining end of each twine piece inside one of your pots so its laying on the soil.

8. Place something on the end to hold the string down.

I used flat vase fillers and they worked well. I also use these fillers to secure stem cuttings when raising monarch caterpillars indoors.

9. The water will travel through the twine and into your soil as needed.

10. Give your plants some natural light by a window. Keep in mind, the more sunlight they get, the faster the soil will dry out.

11. Make sure the twine is relaying moisture to plants before leaving.

This simply means the twine should be wet.

12. Spray plant foliage with a hydrogen peroxide mixture on the day of your departure

You’ll also want to make sure the added weight from the moisture hasn’t pulled the twine end outside the plant pot. This happened to three of my twine pieces. After I secured them the second time, they all stayed put for the 8 day duration.

Seedling Care

13. Transplant any seedlings into larger containers if they are in seed starting trays or small cups.

If your twine somehow fails while you are away, your seedlings will likely be dried up and dead upon your return. At least, take this precaution for your most prized seedlings.

14. Get a grow light timer to give seedlings adequate light. I left ours on about 12 hours a day.

Because the root systems of seedlings require less water, they will likely be fine without twine. However, it’s an added layer of insurance.

After using these tips on a recent vacation, I came back to find all of my plants looking healthier than they did before I left! My prized Swan Milkweed seedlings looked fantastic as they soaked in sun from a window and their incandescent light.

The incandescent desk light worked fine, but keep in mind the plants were also receiving a couple hours of natural sunlight too.

If you’re buying plant lights t5 grow lights or cfl grow light bulbs are better options for promoting healthy plant growth.

I’m not sure how long I could have left these plants alone, but I’m guessing they all had at least another week without drying out…pretty amazing!

Fertilizer and Water

Primroses should be watered frequently enough so the soil is continually moist, but not waterlogged. Too much water can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. Don't forget the leaves, either: Although you should avoid getting them wet when you water the plant, you should use lukewarm water to clean the leaves whenever they get dusty. Fertilizing primroses with a phosphorous-rich fertilizer will keep them blooming longer, but do it at half the strength recommended in the product's instructions. Fertilize container-grown primroses grown in containers should be fertilized twice a month. Read the label carefully, as instructions will vary depending on the brand. In general, for concentrated liquid formulas, instructions will state to dilute 1 teaspoon of the fertilizer in 1 gallon of water for an indoor primrose. For a half-dose, dilute 1/2 teaspoon in 1 gallon of water. For outdoor primroses, increase the amount to 1 tablespoon or 1/2 tablespoon for half dose. Use the mixture twice a month to water the primroses instead of plain water.

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