The Q&A Archives: Tips for Houseplant Care

Question: Our houseplants thrive for three or four months, then start declining, and eventually die, even though we water and fertilize them regularly. Can you offer some advice?

Answer: Here are some general guidelines. Note that different houseplants will require different amounts of light, water, etc. Read the plant label, check with nursery staff, or consult a reference for more specific information.

Watering. Houseplants tend to be very particular. One of the most common problems is overwatering. Plants in small containers in bright light may need watering daily or every other day, while plants in large pots in low light may need watering once every two or three weeks. For most plants, the key is to water thoroughly, letting excess water drain off, then wait until the soil dries out somewhat before watering again.

Light exposure. Plant are adapted to different light levels, so choose plants that fit your conditions. Don't try to grow a sun-loving plant in a dark corner!

Fertilizer. Don't overdo it. Generally, houseplants do most of their growth between March and August, so fertilize regularly during spring and summer. Cut back or eliminate fertilizer in the fall and winter months.

Finally, remember also that almost all houseplants hate drafts--hot or cold--so keep them away from doorways and heating and air conditioning vents.

Good luck!

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