How To Keep Your Houseplants Alive (And Thriving)

Gardener Larry Varlese offers six rules to getting a greener thumb.

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keep houseplants alive-feature image shoes a leafy palm plant draped over a white bed

Don’t be intimidated by the lush images on Instagram — it is possible (and not that difficult) to have a thriving indoor garden. Here, gardener Larry Varlese offers six rules to getting a greener thumb.

Water sparingly

It’s incredibly easy to kill plants with kindness. “Plants don’t actually need to be watered as frequently as you think,” says Larry Varlese, manager of Valleyview Gardens in Markham, Ont. “Less is more. Once a week is generally plenty.” To help plants develop a pattern (and to help you remember), pick a watering day. During the dry winter months, use what Varlese calls a “knuckle test”: Poke your finger into the soil; if the tip of your finger doesn’t touch moist soil, water lightly to sustain the plant until the next watering day.

Give them space

To keep plants looking their best, make sure to give them enough room. Keep foliage away from walls, furniture and windows, as contact can bruise them (causing leaves to turn brown). Be sure to rotate planters every two weeks to give the leaves on all sides exposure to different light levels.

Pick the right pot

Drainage is very important, especially if you tend to over-water. Plant holders with limited drainage can cause root rot. Look for pots with holes, or line the bottom with a layer of rocks.

Shower with love

Most houseplants love humidity, so a humidifier or regular misting will keep them looking spry. Varlese also recommends placing them in the bathroom when you take a shower about once every three weeks.

Have an escape plan

When you’re away for a few days, watering globes are great for medium-sized pots. If you’re gone for more than a week, be sure to have someone come in and water them.

Size up slowly

“Plants like to feel established, so repotting them in a container that is too large will shock them,” he says. If your plant has outgrown its home, move it into something that is no more than two inches larger than its current planter.