Plant care 101: Here's how you can grow strong and healthy plants.


Being a plant parent has its fair share of responsibilities. Remembering when to water them, choosing the perfect spot for adequate sunlight, knowing when it’s time to repot — there’s a lot that goes into taking care of indoor and outdoor plants.

But growing healthy plants doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. Use these tips to help ensure your succulents, flowers, herbs and other plants will thrive all year long.

Best indoor plant care tips.

Decorating your home with indoor plants is a great way to liven up your rooms. Not to mention, growing houseplants is also a fun (and increasingly popular) hobby. Give your plants the best chance of success with these tips.

Tip #1: Choose easy houseplants.

There’s a wide range of low-maintenance plants you can select from. It’s true —  some of the best houseplants can thrive with little maintenance. 

Popular houseplants include those of the tropical, foliage and succulent varieties. For example, consider choosing any of these three great indoor plants, which should be available at your local garden center.

  • Jade plant (Crassula argentea): With thick, shiny leaves and stems, this succulent looks striking in a sunny window. Give it plenty of sunlight, and water it just enough to keep the soil moist — not soggy or wet.
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.): One of the best indoor plants for beginners, the peace lily has large, graceful white flowers. This tropical plant loves the shade but needs indirect light (and moist soil) to grow. 
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata): One of the easiest plants to take care of, the snake plant has long, tapered leaves. This durable houseplant can grow in low light and doesn’t require frequent watering.

Tip #2: Know how much water your houseplants need. 

The right amount of water is crucial for indoor plants. Overwatering can cause root rot, while underwatering leads to stunted growth. Each type of plant has specific watering needs, but there are some general rules to keep in mind. 

Rule 1: Water when the soil feels dry and the leaves are wilting.

Your plants will thank you if you only water when needed, rather than overwatering “just in case.” Before watering most plants, wait until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. If you notice the leaves are wilting, that’s also a sign it’s time to water your plants.

Rule 2: Avoid leaving plants in standing water.

Plants generally don’t like wet feet, so make sure that the water drains through the drainage hole. Pour out excess water from the drip tray. 

Rule 3: Consider distilled water to avoid mineral buildup. 

You can give your houseplants tap water, but sometimes it’s better to choose distilled water. Tap water often contains minerals and chemicals that can interfere with plant growth. For example, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) don’t tolerate fluoridated water well. As a result, their leaf tips may turn brown. To avoid this problem, opt for distilled water. 

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Tip #3: Maintain the proper humidity for indoor plants.

An indoor environment can become too dry for plants, especially when the furnace is running in the winter. Maintaining proper humidity levels is important for successful houseplant care. Use these tips:

  • Place plants away from drafts. Keep your houseplants away from heating and air conditioning registers in your home. The cold and warm drafts can quickly dry out the soil.
  • Use a humidity tray. Fill a humidity tray with pebbles and water. Place your plants on the tray to provide moisture.
  • Mist plants. Spray your plants occasionally with distilled water. A plastic spray bottle will work just fine. 
  • Group plants together. Place plants close together to preserve moisture.  
  • Move your plant to a more humid room. For example, your kitchen or bathroom might be a more suitable environment for your plants, thanks to the moisture these rooms contain.
  • Invest in a humidifier. If it’s a constant struggle to maintain humidity levels in your home, you might want to buy a humidifier. 

At the same time, make sure it’s not too humid for your plants. You’ll know if the humidity level is too high if your plants start sweating, rotting or developing mold.   

potted herb plants in sunlight

Tip #4: Choose the right containers for your houseplants.

Every plant needs room to stretch out and grow. Keep these tips in mind when selecting containers and pots for your indoor plants:

  • Size. Avoid “overpotting” by choosing a container that’s the right size. To do this, you’ll need to consider the plant’s roots system. When in doubt, ask your gardener for advice.
  • Material. Many plants do well in porous terra cotta, clay or ceramic pots. But you also have the option of wood, metal, fiberglass and plastic containers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. 
  • Drainage hole. Choose a container that has a drainage hole in the bottom. Drainage prevents standing water and root rot. 

Tip #5: Know when it’s time to repot your houseplants.

Occasionally, you’ll need to repot your plants that have outgrown their pots and containers. Generally, you should repot your plants every 12 to 18 months, and spring is usually the best time to do it. 

But there are a few other signs that indicate it might be time to put your plant in a bigger container. Some of those signs include the following:

  • The roots are growing through the drainage holes. 
  • The roots are pushing the plant out of the container.
  • The plant’s growth is slowing down (or stopping altogether).
  • The potting mix or soil is drying out quickly.

Your local gardener can help you determine if now’s the right time to repot your plants.

Tip #6: Provide adequate sunlight for indoor plants.

Plants have specific light requirements, ranging from sunny to low light. Find out what the lighting preferences are for your houseplants, and keep these tips in mind:

Low-light plants

Rooms with north-facing windows have the lowest light, and low-light plants should be able to grow in that type of environment. But you can also consider placing your low-light plants in east- or west-facing windows. Examples of low-light plants include:

  • Dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Marimo
  • Palms
  • Philodendron
  • Prayer plant
  • Pothos
  • Snake plants
  • ZZ plant

Medium-light plants

Place medium-light plants away from direct sunlight. Choose a room with an east- or west-facing window. Examples of medium-light plants include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Elephant ear
  • Begonias
  • Ferns
  • Fiddle-leaf fig
  • Grape ivy 
  • Jade plant
  • Spider plants
  • Weeping fig

High-light plants

High-light indoor plants can thrive in a room with windows that face the south or southwest. Examples of high-light plants include:

  • Basil
  • Cacti
  • Gardenia
  • Geraniums
  • Hibiscus
  • Lavender
  • Orchids
  • Poinsettia
  • Succulents
  • Thyme
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Best outdoor plant care tips.

They may not be on full display on your coffee table or kitchen counter, but outdoor plants deserve plenty of TLC, too. Whether you’re investing in new landscaping or designing a garden, these tips will help you grow strong, healthy outdoor plants. 

outdoor plants pot soil

Tip #7: Choose low-maintenance outdoor plants. 

Beginner gardeners and plant enthusiasts should start small with low-maintenance plants. Garden centers carry a variety of low-maintenance perennial flowers, shrubs and groundcovers. Here are a few other popular outdoor plants that are easy to take care of: 

  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): With golden yellow petals and dark brown centers, black-eyed Susans will perk up your yard. Plant a patch in a well-drained, sunny spot.
  • Hosta (Hosta spp.): Choose from the many varieties of this shade-loving, perennial plant. Hostas grow best in moist, well-drained soil and in partial shade.
  • American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus): This shrub produces white flowers in the spring, red fruit in September and showy, scarlet leaves in the fall. Choose a sunny or partially shaded location with well-drained soil. 
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus): You might want this aromatic ground cover for the fragrance alone. Plant in a sunny or lightly shaded environment (and in well-drained soil).  

Tip #8: Strategically design your garden or yard.

Can’t wait to start planting herbs, veggies and other plants in a new garden? Ready to give your yard a landscaping makeover? 

Before you begin, put some serious thought into your landscape and garden design. Make sure you select plants that grow well in your region and climate. And, consider these important questions:  

What is your climate zone?

Your zone will determine which plants can grow in your yard. Find your climate zone on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness map, and make your plant selection based on the average temperatures.

If you need help choosing the best plants, hire a local gardener for their expertise.

How direct is the sunlight? 

Different plants need different amounts of sunlight for healthy growth. Choose plants according to their sunlight requirements. For example, bleeding hearts (Dicentra) thrive in heavy shade, while coneflowers (Echinacea) love direct sunlight. 

Note which areas of your yard have the most sunlight and the heaviest shade so you can place plants accordingly.

How will you use your yard? 

Before you choose your plants, consider how you will be using your yard. Do kids and pets play in certain areas? Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) tolerates foot traffic. Do you want a quiet, secluded space? Privet hedges (Ligustrum) provide a tall, thick privacy screen.  

How will you arrange your plants?

You’ll want your plants to be visible. Place the tallest plants, such as shrubs, behind shorter plants. Or, highlight a favorite area with an eye-catching flower, such as daffodil (Narcissus). Another strategy is to group plants according to their color or leaf shape.  

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Tip #9: Water outdoor plants properly.  

Some plants may need 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week during the summer, and others will need less water during the fall and winter dormant periods. Meanwhile, drought-tolerant plants need less frequent watering throughout the year. 

Find out from your landscaper or gardener how often you should be watering your outdoor plants and vegetation. To make the job easier, ensure your sprinkler or irrigation system is working correctly and is on a timer.

Tip #10: Invest in weed prevention.

Whether it’s crabgrass or dandelions, weeds are a fact of life in every garden. But that doesn’t mean you should sit back and watch them wreak havoc on your plants.

Pull up weeds before they become widespread, or spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over planting beds to suppress weed growth. Be careful when using chemical herbicides to kill weeds — they may kill your other flowers and shrubs as well. 

Need help protecting your garden from weeds? Find a weed control service near you.

Tip #11: Keep insects, pests and diseases away.

Like weeds, dealing with pests is an unavoidable fact of gardening. You may be able to keep pests away with a pesticide or through other methods. For example, you can try:

  • Regularly inspecting your plants for damage.
  • Planting varieties that are resistant to pests.
  • Maintaining healthy soil. 
  • Growing plants that will attract insects that eat other pests. 
  • Using natural repellents, like mint or basil.

outdoor flowers mulch

Tip #12: Keep your soil healthy.

Most plants prefer well-drained soil. Compact, poorly drained soil prevents water and air circulation, and inhibits root growth. Add compost or other organic matter to the soil to improve drainage. 

Before you start planting, you should also test your soil’s pH. Some plants, such as azaleas, need acidic soil. Others, such as lilacs, prefer alkaline soil.

Acidic soil has a pH below 7, while alkaline soil has a pH above 7. You can mix in elemental sulfur to make your soil more acidic. To make the soil more alkaline, add lime. 

Tip #13: Mulch it up.

Mulch is a great way to promote healthy plants. Adding a layer of mulch can:

  • Prevent weeds from growing.
  • Help your soil hold moisture.
  • Keep your solid cool in hot, drought-like conditions.
  • Provide nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil. 
  • Make your yard and garden more attractive.

You can buy bark mulch or use dried leaves, grass clippings or pine needles as mulch. Want a professional’s help with mulching? Find out how much mulching costs, and request free estimates from pros near you.

Find gardeners on Thumbtack.

If you need help taking care of your plants, that’s OK. Whether you want to start a garden or bring your dead plants back to life, hire a pro. Become an excellent plant parent, and hire a gardener on Thumbtack.  

Also read: How much does a gardener cost?

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