Growing plants indoors isn’t difficult. For the most part, a few general tips will keep most indoor plants healthy and growing. The right amount of water, humidity, and light are obviously key factors in the health of your plants, and good soil is a must. However, there are other considerations and indoor gardening mistakes to avoid. Here, we will cover the most common houseplant mistakes and how to easily sidestep those costly errors.
12 Common Indoor Gardening Mistakes
1. Avoid getting too many plants at one time
Especially among new indoor gardeners, many tend to purchase a lot of plants at once. You might be excited about starting your indoor garden and can’t wait to have a home full of beautiful greenery. But figuring out the needs of each type of plant and keeping up with their care can be a real challenge if you’re not used to it. It’s better to start with one to three plants, learn their needs and care requirements and then add a plant at a time as you want more. This way you can ease into your indoor garden in a way that will ensure the greatest chance for success.
2. Choosing plant varieties based on popularity or looks
The plants that work best in your environment might not be the same plants that are trendy to have in your home right now. Each species of plant has its own environmental needs – light, water, temperature, fertilization, etc. If you keep your house sunny and dry all year, for example, a fern might not be the best choice for you. Even though they are beautiful and can make excellent houseplants, ferns need humidity and shade to thrive. So, be sure to consider the conditions within your home when choosing houseplants – not just their looks or current buzz.
3. Failing to consider seasonal changes
Because they are inside, many people think the seasons don’t affect houseplants. However, this is not the case. Just because a plant isn’t out in the weather doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted by seasonal changes. Most plants need less water and fertilizer during winter months, for example. They also may get more or less sunlight, depending on outside conditions. Be sure to learn about best care practices for your plants, including how their needs might change throughout different seasons. This will help you avoid these indoor gardening mistakes.
4. Giving your plants too much attention
This might not be an issue that comes to mind when thinking about indoor gardening mistakes to avoid. Afterall, you love your plants and want to take good care of them. Especially for new indoor gardeners, taking care of new plants can be exciting. It’s so rewarding to watch them grow and know that you’re responsible for their thriving. So, many people have a tendency to over-care for their houseplants. They panic at the sight of a fallen leaf or trim or water their plants too much. Houseplants are, for the most part, fairly hardy and don’t need constant attention. Relax, and have fun watching your plants grow. Too much attention just might do more harm than good.
5. Watering on a strict schedule
This is one of those indoor gardening mistakes that is fueled by misinformation. Many blogs and other sources of information about indoor plant care advise how often to water certain plants. You might see an article telling you to water your snake plant once a week, for instance. But while these can be good guidelines, taking them too literally can get you into trouble. The truth is, most plants just want to be watered when their soil is dry – or at least when the first inch or so of soil is dry. If a plant’s soil is moist after a week and you water it again, you run the risk of over-watering and causing your plant to develop root rot. So, let your plants tell you when they’re thirsty. Check them on a regular schedule, but only water when they need it.
6. Never rotating your plants
Unlike a Christmas tree that is okay with its bare spot in the corner, houseplants need sun exposure on all sides to be at their best. If you place your plants in a spot and never turn them, chances are some of their leaves won’t get enough light. Take time to rotate your pots every couple of weeks or so. This will ensure the whole plant is getting its fair share of sunlight.
7. Using the wrong containers
Plant containers come in all shapes and sizes. And some of the variety is purely aesthetic. However, some pots and containers are better suited for certain plants. For example, it’s important that almost all plants live in containers with drainage holes. This allows water to flow through the soil rather than pooling to cause root rot. Additionally, the size of your containers matters for most plants. Some smaller plants don’t do well in large containers, and larger plants will become rootbound in containers that are too small. Be sure to pick the container that’s right for you plant.
8. Not providing enough light
Care instructions for many houseplants talk about their need for indirect light. But what does that really mean? To avoid too much direct light, many people place their plants far away from windows. However, indirect light does not indicate a lack of light. It simply means to keep plants out of direct sunlight beating down on their leaves. When guidelines call for indirect light, it’s okay to have your plant next to a window, as long as the window doesn’t get direct sunrays. A good indicator of whether sunlight is direct or not is the temperature of the inside of your window. If it’s hot, it is most likely getting direct light.
9. Using the wrong potting soil
The type of soil you use for your plants matters. Some species, such as cacti and succulents, need a well-draining, sandy soil. Other plants prefer a soil that includes vermiculite or other substrates that support the plant’s growth. Additionally, some indoor gardeners keep their plants in the soil they were planted in by the store or nursery where they purchased the plants. This is typically cheap soil that may not be ideal for the plant’s optimal health. Read up on the best soil for each of your plants and give them the best chance of thriving by providing the right soil.
10. Failing to consider hot or cold drafts
While the overall temperature of your room may be right for your plants, the spot where they are sitting might not be at that temperature consistently. If your plants are in line of a draft (cold or hot) from a heater, a door that gets open regularly, or an A/C vent, the fluctuations in temperature will have an effect. Sudden increases and decreases in temperature can even kill a plant. Be sure your plants are in an area where the air stays a fairly consistent temperature to avoid this issue.
11. Not fertilizing your plants
Similar to humans, plants cannot live on water alone. Like us, they need nourishment beyond light and water. Of course, different plants need different amounts, types, and frequency of fertilization, but just about all houseplants benefit from some fertilizer. We always recommend organic fertilizer, but beyond that, the type of fertilizer you will need depends on your plants. Some do better with liquid fertilizer, and others prefer slow-release pellets. Take some time to read about your specific plants and their fertilizer needs.
12. Repotting too often or too late
You know how it’s stressful when you move? Adjusting to a new environment isn’t always easy for people. And the same is true for plants. Being repotted is a stress to your houseplants. They aren’t used to having their roots exposed or being shaken around. So, repotting only when necessary is a best practice. On the other hand, if you wait too long to repot a plant that has outgrown its container, it can become rootbound and begin to choke. Make sure your plants need to be repotted before disrupting them, but don’t wait until they have outgrown their pot.
Indoor Gardening Mistakes to Avoid – The Wrap-up
Whether you are new to indoor gardening or have years of experience, we all make mistakes. If you have made mistakes or are having trouble keeping your plants healthy, don’t be too hard on yourself. Most of these mistakes are easily avoided or corrected. Most importantly, don’t give up. There’s really no such thing as someone with a “brown thumb.” With some education and attention, anyone can be a successful indoor gardener!
FAQs About Indoor Gardening Mistakes
Different plant species have different needs when it comes to soil and fertilizer. Search our blog for your specific plant type, and you’ll find information about the best fertilizer for each of your indoor plants. Also, this article provides some excellent general information on this topic.
Yes, there are. Some plants are extremely tolerant and need very little special care. If you want to start indoor gardening and have the highest chance for success, consider starting with the plants in this article.
Great news – you’re already there! Indoor Gardening has a wealth of information about how to best care for just about any kind of houseplant you can think of. Also, we have an Indoor Plant Wiki with answers to hundreds of specific plant care questions. Check it out!
There are so many factors to consider when growing an indoor garden. If the temperature, watering routine, light and temperature conditions, and other factors above are all okay, perhaps another issue is in play. For example, are pests or disease disturbing your plants? Check its leaves, stems, and soil for signs of these issues. Also, you might need a specific fertilizer or grow lights to give your plants their best chance for survival.