Indoor plant care

Indoor plant care

Do your indoor plants keep dying…or at the very least look decidedly ‘off colour’?

Indoor plants are really fashionable at the moment and they look wonderful displayed in the garden centre and when we thumb through the photos in interior magazines. Plants enhance the decor of our living spaces and they benefit our health physically and mentally. Now we normally only write about outdoor plants, but here’s an article on indoor plant care too.

So as fashions go – indoor plants are a good one to buy into, so why on earth when you get these plants home do they end up looking so naff/ill or the just end up dying?

More importantly though what can you do to keep them looking happy.

Before you buy any indoor plant though, remember,

All plants evolved to grow outside and not inside, so by sticking them indoors you are already fighting nature.

The key to indoor plant success therefore is to keep those negative factors to a minimum for that particular plant.

OK, so lets take each of these problems in turn and find a solution.

  • Lack of light
  • Lack of water
  • Too much water 
  • Dry Air, either from central heating or air conditioning
  • Freezing to death on a cold windowsill behind the curtain
  • The wrong type of water – yep; some plants don’t like tap water!

There’s more explanation below, but here’s a rule of thumb guide to : ‘What can you tell from a leaf’ 

Lack of Light:

All plants seek out sunshine and will grow towards the light. Some plants have evolved to cope with lower light levels and some plant need a lot of sunshine to thrive. So the trick is getting the right plant for the right light levels.

Now you may think a sunny windowsill is perfectly good, but for a plant it’s not, it’s only getting light on one side all day long, so it will turn it’s leaves and flowers to face the light – and you get a lop-sided specimen.

So a quick, free and easy solution is to turn the plant a 1/4 turn each day – which mimics the action of the sun moving round the sky.

Windows that aren’t sunny – there are plenty of plants that will happily grow here, you just need to place a plant that would normally grow in lower light levels. Still turn them if possible, but not so frequently.

Lack of Water:

We all do it, we all forget to water, now if this is you; then buying plants that will quickly shrivel up at the first thirsty moment are not ones you should buy…..Maidenhair Ferns…. no matter how lovely they look in the garden centre!

But there are lots of plants that will absolutely thrive on not a lot of water.

It’s all about Right Plant : Right Place, or in this case Right Human : Right Plant!

If you are prone to forgetting to water, then best invest in a watering device, like a reservoir in a small bulb that you stick in the soil.


Don’t put plants in the hottest sunniest spots in you house unless they are cactus!

Too Much Water:

The only plants that like standing in water are those that normally grow in a pond!

Familiar scene? …..

‘Oops, forgot to water so will throw a bucket over it which fills up the tray, but that’s ok the plant can suck up over the next few days…’


‘We are going on holiday, better fill the tray with lots of water before we go…’

You stand in a bucket of cold dirty water for a few days and see how you feel – it’s the same for your plants!

If the tray is filled up after watering, tip out the excess water.

If you are going away – do as the above, use a water reservoir to slowly water the plant AND move the plant to a less hot and sunny place, so it doesn’t get so thirsty.

Dry Air:

Question – do you use moisturizer?

Probably the answer is yes; Sunshine, Cold Air or Dry air makes most skin feel leathery and wrinkly.

Plants get ‘wrinkles’ too!

So a simple solution is to spray or mist the leaves.

Do this in the summer but more importantly in the Winter when the central heating is on.

Freezing Places:

When you draw the curtains in the winter, the curtains stop the heat from the room escaping to the window and they stop any cold draughts fro the window cooling the room.

So the poor old plant that sits on the windowsill gets it’s brass monkeys frozen every night!

Now that is fine for plants that love big temperature differentials, similar to those you get in a desert..hot days; cold nights, but most other plants hate it!

Wrong type of Water:

Most countries add ‘stuff’ to our drinking water to keep it clean pure and our teeth healthy. Now many plants don’t give a flying hoot as to what type of water it is, but some do and will get really cheesed off if you don’t provide them with rain water.

Plants that really hate tap water:

Orchids: most, if not all of them

Citrus: so, Oranges, Kumquat, Lemons etc

AirPlants: those funny looking things that don’t need a pot to grow in

Cactus: why would you want chemical flavoured water if you evolved to only get a drink once in a blue moon…!

Lastly, Food and bugs:

Having concentrated on the 5 main plant killers, there are two further potential problems.

Food: too much or too little and

Bugs and other nasties.

Correct feeding is so much easier these days. Use the slow release fertilisers so you don’t have to remember to feed every week AND never give an extra dollop for plant food because the plant is looking peaky. Find out why it’s looking peaky, but don’t over feed.

Being indoors is no protection from insects determined to eat your prize specimen, so you need to check for invaders if the plant is looking poorly.