Instructables

How to keep a house plant alive

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Keeping plants alive indoors can prove next to impossible to some, but it really isn't all that hard to do. Plants need light, water, support, nutrients, and an adequate air supply.

Like anything in this world, excessive amounts of any one thing is often a bad thing, even if that substance is necessary for survival. Just because you think your plant might want more of something, doesn't mean you are doing your plant any good. The fact of the matter is, unless you know what you are doing, you may very well be killing it. Plants can't scream in pain like the rest of us....

 
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Step 1: Try to figure out what your plant is called

Each plant will have a common name, and a Latin name. For the most part, knowing the common name should allow you to find the growing requirements of your plant. Latin names are often better, as they are universal. But no one is forcing you to learn the names of your plants, and certainly not the Latin names.

These names will only help you find extra information on how to grow each specific plant, and how to correct any problems that may occur.
This is a very helpful guide! I think a lot of people could use something like this. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
I concur
taria3 years ago
I guess you could say I have a very green thumb, I find dead plants all the time and I mean dead okay? and I take them home put them in new pots and a few weeks later there's new green leaves growing on them. I don't do anything special like fertilize or anything like that. I just put them in a new pot.

My daughter came home one day a few months ago and held a dead plant up to me and said 'mom can you bring this thing back to life for my boss?' Of course I was looking at this dead planet with all the brown leaves that looked like over cooked bacon thinking, it was hopeless, but I stuck it in another pot with regular soil and a few weeks later there were 2 new green leaves coming up on it, her boss was excited cause it was given to her by her late husband. I felt good that I brought it back and now she has her planet back.

You think I'm odd that I can do this?

I had a hanging plant given to me from a friend that had gone to Korea for a month that only hung about a foot from the bottom of the pot and when he came back his plant had grown to were it could wrap around my living room at least once (if I pulled it instead of draped it.) I ended up having to brake it apart and make another hanging plant for him to have. We both hung our outside in the hallway of the apt complex we lived in (inside hall way) and mine still grew faster then his and both plants were getting the same amount of light. (we were opposite of each other). I don't do anything special to any plant and they just grow like mad around me.

I think I'm strange when it comes to plants, that or I'm just strange...lol


that's my daily rant or what ever you want to call it...lol
Burn5 years ago
Giving a plant what it needs, is easy, or maybe i am just lucky. Put some leaves at the bottom of a pot, some rocks on top, some more leaves(or mulch), soil, the plant soil, a thin layer of ashes (from burned wood), more soil and on top used coffee grounds. After that, your plant is set for nutrients, just make sure it is near a window and experiment to find the correct amount of water for it. A really nice indoor plant that reproduces quickly is Wandering Jew. When the plant gets too tall, break it right above a leaf and stick the broken piece in a cup of water(do not put it in too much water) and the plant will root, then plant it. Wandering jew needs very little light, it just needs to stay moist.
Blackbirrd5 years ago
If you decide to use your outside/garden soil for your houseplant, you will need to sterilize it. You don't want to bring in pests, fungi and other invaders to eat your new roommate. This can be done by putting a proportionate amount of soil (how much you will put in the pot) in a brown paper bag. Preheat your oven to 180-degrees F. Set the bag on an old cookie sheet and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool back to room temperature before using. And, if you are recycling a pot for your new plant, sterilize that, too. 5 parts water to 1 part bleach, soak, scrub, dry and you're ready to pot!
pr1mus2855 years ago
Don't forget to watch Ph and add lime / sulfur as necessary! Also, remember, apply the fertilizer to the roots, not the leaves! also, the typical potting soil has a very high CEC, so every bit of fertilizer you apply will be sucked up by the soil and held for later use (the plants bump off cations on the CEC they need by putting out into the soil other cations). You don't need to apply fertilizer that often for this reason.
I'm not sure I buy this. The "extra" fertilizer might be sucked up by the soil, but it'll be held there burning the plant's delicate root system like a salt - ever see a chalky build up on the rim of a clay pot? It's safe to say you can cut the recommended fertilizer amount (given on the bottle) by 1/2 or 1/4 and probably have healthier plants, though I suppose your argument for fertilizing less often would have a similar end result. Also, some fertilizers CAN be applied to the leaves, such as fish emulsion.
jackilyn1575 years ago
I just wanted to add something that is very weird to me. I'm EXTREMELY successful growing plants (indoors and outdoors) except for one thing. I had about three of these approximately 4 inch square pots that I couldn't grow anything in. I finally solved the problem by tossing the square pots (in the recycling bin, of course).
Scammah5 years ago
Well i have plenty of "Air Supply" so I'm good to go.
pr1mus2855 years ago
More soil stuff... You could use the soil from around your house... but the second you removed it from the ground it would become dirt (soil where it is not supposed to be :-P ). If you choose to use such dirt, be sure to mix with sand (and silt if that is available). The sand will allow for the water to be held less tightly (the clay actually holds the water the most tightly, but then again, it has all of the inorganic CEC) You also want to add some sort of organic matter - Compost or peat would do. This will increase water retention, biological diversity and CEC. There are some interesting experiments with using charcoal too... but, yes soil from your back yard would likely yield unsatisfactory results. So modify the soil to your needs - and learn something in the process -I like Soil Science - you get to poke soil for lab practicals
pr1mus2855 years ago
a little info on the watering of plants... The soil has an ability to hold nutriants, right? This is called the CEC or cation exchange capacity. The problem with tap water is that it has a lot of dissolved cations in it - not only that, but cations that the plants need only in very small quantities. These cations "fill up" the CEC in the soil and reduce the availability of critical nutriants. Also some of the cations in the water may reach toxic levels for the plant. So what to do? As stated above, use water that has less of these cations. "but all I have available in my office is tap water" Yes, I have been in that situation too. Another trick is to overwater the plant, and allow the water to completely run through the pot - washing out many of the cations. Running the water through the soil should also help the soil to breathe by filling up all of the pores in the soil with water, and then having them drain out - and be filled with gas. -Soil Science, what can I say, its dirty stuff...
Nickelplate5 years ago
That was very well written! I can't stress enough the importance of buying a plant that is suited to the growing conditions where you plan to put it!
I can vouch for the fact that "full sun" and "annual" does not mean your plant is doomed to die in the first frost. I've had the same pepper plant spending several winters indoors.
psymansays5 years ago
I have a few plants growing in my house. I had a tendancy to not adequately water my plants when they were in regular pots, so they often were hit or miss, especially during summer, when some plants needed watering multiple times a day. I found this video, though, and built a few of these self-watering plant holders. Since then, I've been able to keep some of my plants alive nearly indefinitely.

Good tips, on here, for the rest of us, who don't have "green thumbs".
Solderguy5 years ago
I also have a bunch of indoor plants. My first indoor plant was a Christmas Cactus. Great instructable!
Thanks. I've never had much luck with growing plants inside before, but I think that I can do it now.