10 Tips & Tricks to Keep House Plants Alive


No green thumb? No worries. Every new plant you bring home is no longer destined to die within weeks. Keeping your house plants not only alive but flourishing is within your reach. (Hint: It's all about water control.)

Woman watering houseplants

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1. Repot New Plants

The plant comes in a perfectly good plastic pot, so why make a mess by taking it out? Just stick it inside a larger pot and move on, right? Wrong: Plants that you buy pre-potted often outgrow their containers. To give them the best chance at life, repot new plants in slightly larger pots with fresh, nutrient-rich soil.

Work that dirt, save the earth

2. Try the Sponge Method

Holding water is what sponges do best. When you first move a plant into a new pot, put that power to good use by sticking a clean sponge in the bottom of the pot. Then add the soil and plant. When you water the plant, excess water will collect in the sponge and keep the soil moist.

Close-up texture of sponge

3. Cancel Your Watering Schedule

It's hard to remember to water your plants, so sticking to a set schedule is helpful. But if you have a variety of plant types and you water them all every Saturday, there's a good chance that some will be overwatered and others underwatered. Instead, press a finger into the soil every few days and only water plants when their soil feels dry.

Midsection Of Man Watering Potted Plant At Home

4. Use Warm Water

Timing how you water your plants requires thoughtfulness. But once you get to the sink, what does it matter what temperature the water is? While water of any temperature is better than no water at all, extremes in either direction will stress your plant. Use warm water, not cold.

Watering can by faucet in kitchen sink

5. Keep Pests Away

Pests aren't just a problem for backyard plants — they can ruin your houseplants, too. Routinely spraying pots with natural repellents like salt spray, soap spray, eucalyptus oil or onion and garlic should keep those destructive little critters away.

Womans hand spraying ivy hanging basket in kitchen

6. Don't Spritz Without Cause

Have you ever seen someone mist a plant and wondered… am I supposed to be doing that too? Probably not. Certain tropical plants may benefit from being spritzed with water each day, and you may want to mist leaves if they look dirty or dusty. Otherwise, put the spray bottle down.

Close-Up Of Potted Plant On Window Sill Against Sky In City

7. Feed With Eggshells and Coffee

Eggs and coffee give you new life, so why shouldn't they have the same effect on your house plants? Sprinkle crushed egg shell into soil to boost calcium in the plants. If you're willing to put a bit more effort into nourishing your house plants, compost coffee grounds and other organic scraps and add a little of the compost to the soil.

Plants and roots photographed on a white background.

8. Give Plants a Bath

Going out of town for a week? Don't let your plants dry out before you get home. Before leaving, fill the sink with a few inches of water and place plants directly in the water. As long as their pots have drainage holes, the soil at the bottom of the pot should draw water upward and keep plants hydrated.

Potted Plants On Sink In Bathroom

9. Slowly Feed Plants By Bottle

This is another simple strategy for keeping plants alive while you're away from home. Take a bottle with a sealable cap, like a screw-top wine bottle or water bottle. Fill the bottle with water and make a few small holes in the bottle top to let a trickle of water through. Submerge the bottle upside down in the soil and the water should slowly seep out over several days.

A row of recyclable glass bottles

10. Try Trimming Before Giving Up

You gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them. When a plant looks dead, it's tempting to trash it and start anew. But there could still be hope if the roots are alive. Trim off all dead-looking stems and leaves and give the plant a few weeks out of direct sunlight with minimal water. If it's still well and truly dead, use the pot to plant something new.

Close-Up Of Dead Plants

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