Surviving to Thriving: 5 Tips for Healthy Houseplants

by Nancy Brenseke 05/08/2022

Caring for houseplants involves more than watering them. Even the most “unkillable” plants will benefit from extra care and attention. If your plants are surviving but not thriving, here are some tips to take your plant care to the next level:

Aerate the Soil

Aerating the soil is a simple way to help your plants get more from their watering. It also promotes healthy roots and reduces your risk of decay. Before watering, use a pencil, chopstick or anything of a similar size and shape to poke holes in the soil around the plant. This will gently loosen up the soil and help the oxygen flow. When it’s time to water, the aerated soil will spread and absorb the water more efficiently, leading to a happier plant.

Avoid Dramatic Changes

Many new plant owners are discouraged to find browning leaves or drooping stems in the first few days at home. For most plants, this is a sign of stress from a change in environment and they will recover in about a week. Keeping this behavior in mind is crucial for arranging more established plants in your home as well. If you need to move a plant from an area of low light to full sunshine, do so gradually so the plant has time to acclimate to the new conditions. You can do this by setting a “halfway” point between the original position and the new in order to find a happy medium for light and temperature.

Fertilize Accordingly

Plants get most of what they need from water and photosynthesis, but still benefit from additional minerals found in fertilizers. Calcium, phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen are some of the most important nutrients fertilizers provide. Adding fertilizer, either by slow-release granules or liquid solution, will help promote new growth and keep the plants at their best. However, note that each plant has different fertilizer needs. Many do not require fertilizer at all during their dormant seasons, but thrive with frequent feeding in the spring. Check what your specific plant prefers to avoid overwhelming it.

Clean the Leaves

Plants “feed” through the surface of their leaves, which means dust and other residue can hinder growth. To avoid this, you can gently clean the leaves with a damp cloth or dense cotton ball. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the environment and the specific plant, but giving the leaves a quick wipe every few weeks will keep them shiny and flourishing. If you notice white filmy residue after cleaning, try using distilled or rain water instead to avoid excess mineral build up from your tap water.

Know When to Upgrade

For plants to grow, their roots need to grow too. If you notice a plant has stopped growing, it might be time to move it to a larger pot. The other sign that a plant needs a bigger pot is roots poking out of the drainage holes at the bottom or the surface of the soil. For size, it’s best to upgrade to a container at least 2 inches larger. The plant may need time to adjust to the new pot, but once it gets comfortable you should notice new growth resume.

This may seem like a lot of detail, but the above tips are essential for growing healthy houseplants. These are some of the important things to do to help your plants flourish.

About the Author

Nancy Brenseke

I love the ocean, sand and sunshine! That's why I call Hilton Head Island/Bluffton my home! I relocated to Hilton Head Island over 20 years ago from North Carolina after graduating from East Carolina University - Go Pirates! I continue to be successful in real estate for the past 13 Years and with my experience working with top resorts and gated communities, I have cultivated attention to detail, understand the importance of listening first and have the positive "Can Do" attitude in all situations. I offer my sellers and buyers the BEST advice to achieve their real estate goals. I enjoy spending time with my family boating on the May River, attending festivals along Old Town Bluffton and building sandcastles on HHI beaches.  

"Nancy Brenseke is the type of realtor that everyone should contract to sell their property. She is very knowledgeable and gave us valuable information when listing the townhome. The whole process went smoothly and Nancy was responsible for that. She always communicated with us which kept us confident that all aspects of the closing were under control and on track. I highly recommend Nancy Brenseke." ~ Deb Bluffton, SC

"I would highly recommend using Nancy for your real estate needs. She is extremely knowledgeable and responsive. Nancy's representation is top-notch." ~ Jill - Nashville, TN

"Nancy went the extra mile on everything around selling the condo. I would use her again and would recommend her to anyone I come in contact with. Our condo sold in 1 day! She was excellent and hardworker. She helped in all aspects of selling, from marketing with great number of pictures, to home inspection with helping us find contractors to fix the inspection issue so were were able to close." Eric - Cumming, GA