Biggest Mistakes People Make With Indoor Plants

Shannon Quinn - January 31, 2022
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Are you a new plant parent? Buying house plants can sometimes be an intimidating process, because there are so many mistakes you could accidentally make that will kill your plants. Here at Home Addict, we’re going over some of the most common houseplant mistakes people make, and how to fix them.

Some new plant owners assume that they’re going to fail. Credit: Shutterstock

30. Assuming You Don’t Have a “Green Thumb”

First and foremost, never assume that you’re terrible at raising plants. A lot of people get intimidated when they think about buying houseplants, because they may have had a bad experience in the past. Maybe they bought a plant and it died, so they assume that they’ll need to resort to keeping fake plants for the rest of their life. This is a huge mistake. Remember that no one is perfect the first time they try something new. Don’t be afraid to try again. Of course, reading these tips will help you avoid making those same mistakes again.

Every houseplant needs a different amount of sun and water. Credit: Shutterstock

29. Assuming That All Houseplants Need the Same Care

Some of you new plant owners out there will go through this list and assume that you have now become an expert in plant care. The truth is that all plants are different, and they all have individual needs. Luckily, they usually come with a little tag or card that will give you some information about what it takes to make it thrive. For example, does it like full, or partial sunlight? What’s its ideal temperature or soil acidity? Just do a little bit of research online about taking care of your plant to make sure it will be happy and healthy.

Don’t try to save a dying plant you find from the garden center. Credit: Shutterstock

28. Trying to Rescue a Dying Plant From the Garden Center

If you have a big heart, you might see a dying plant at the garden center and think that you can “save” it with your tender loving care. Unfortunately, this can be a big mistake. Sometimes you can put a lot of time, money, and effort into a dying plant without yielding any results. It’s best to buy a plant that looks healthy. This way, you can enjoy having the plant in your home. Help keep it alive and happy for the duration of its life.

Make your you water your plants the proper amount. Credit: Shutterstock

27. Overwatering or Under-Watering Your Plants

When you water a plant too much, it can get root rot or mold. Water it too much, and it can dry up and die. It’s a delicate balance of trying to maintain the right amount of water. As human beings, we thrive when we live on a schedule. Unfortunately, your plants won’t agree. One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to stick to a watering schedule, no matter what. In reality, you need to check the dryness of the soil. If the soil is completely dry, you can go ahead and water it. But if it still feels moist, you need to give it some more time. 

Make sure your plants are getting enough sunlight. Credit: Shutterstock

26. Placing Your Plant in an Area With Poor Lighting

A lot of new plant owners make the mistake of putting a plant somewhere in their home that looks pretty. They don’t even think about how much sunlight the plant is getting. One of the most important things about keeping a plant alive is making sure it has great lighting. Do a quick search online to see if the plant thrives in direct or partial sunlight, and find a place in your home where it can work. Sometimes, people might live in a basement apartment or somewhere that doesn’t allow them to give plants sunlight. So another alternative is to purchase an LED grow light. 

Plants on a windowsill can easily get too cold from a draft in the winter time. Credit: Shutterstock

25. Keeping Your Plants Too Hot or Too Cold

Just like humans, plants thrive when they’re living in an ideal temperature. One of the most common mistakes people make is putting a plant directly in their windows. If there is a draft, it can get too cold and freeze the plant. Alternately, in the summertime, putting a plant in the window could cause sunburn and overheating.  A plant that’s too hot will start wilting, and it’s easy to see how they’re basically fainting. Make sure your plants are in an idea room temperature of 70 degrees. If necessary, consider buying a heating pad for your plant in the winter.

Some people choose a plant simply because it’s trendy. Credit: Shutterstock

24. Choosing a Trendy Plant Without Planning Ahead

A lot of people out there will choose a plant based on if it’s trendy or not. They want to make sure they have cute plants in the background of their Instagram pictures. In recent years, this has happened a lot with succulents and fiddle leaf figs. This can be a big mistake if you’re not actually ready to take care of these plants in your home. Instead of going with the trends, find a plant that suits your home and lifestyle. For example, if you travel a lot and can’t water plants often, it may be better to go with a desert plant that can go a few weeks without watering. Just be realistic with how much plant care you can handle, and everything will be fine.

Do some research to learn the origin of your plants. Credit: Shutterstock

23. Not Knowing Where Your Plant Comes From

One great tip for growing thriving houseplants is to educate yourself on where it came from. It would be a mistake to ignore your plant’s natural climate. For example, if you own a tropical plant, it will obviously thrive in a hot, humid climate. You may even need to invest in a heating tray to keep the roots warm. It’s not realistic to change your home to match the climate of where you plant came from, especially when you have multiples. However, once you know what climate your plant thrives in, it becomes easier to find a spot for it in your home that will accommodate its needs.

There are a few ways you can increase the humidity in your home. Credit: Shutterstock

22. Not Enough Humidity In Your Home

A common mistake plant owners make is ignoring their humidity levels. Throughout the year, the humidity level will change in your home. The average household has around a 30 to 40% humidity, but tropical plants love 50 to 60% humidity. You can increase the humidity level for your houseplants by buying a humidifier, boiling water, or spritzing the plants with a water bottle. You could also find a watering tray, and fill it with water to ensure that the plants are always getting the amount of moisture they need.

If you put plants in direct sunlight, they could become burned. Credit: Shutterstock

21. Placing Plants in Direct Sunlight

One of the most common mistakes new plant owners make is to put their plants in direct sunlight. They might put them on a window sill or out on the front porch, assuming that a lot of sunshine is necessary to make the plant grow. In reality, these house plants were grown in a greenhouse where they had plenty of shade and protection from the elements. In most cases, plants will dry out in direct sunlight. Always check the card that came with the plant to see how much sunlight it actually needs.

Be careful with the amount of fertilizer you put on a houseplant. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Burning the Plant With Too Much Fertilizer 

Using fertilizers like Miracle Grow on your plant can be beneficial, especially if you want it to grow larger. However, don’t rush to fertilize your plant right away. If you recently purchased it from the store, it could have recently been fertilized at the green house. Wait at least one month before you add any more fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can add heavy salts to your soil, which can lead to its death. So it’s best to let it grow naturally for as long as possible.

When you travel a lot you might need someone to help you care for your plants. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Traveling Without a Plan For the Plants

If you travel a lot, one of the most common mistakes is that people forget to water their plants. They come back from a trip to discover brown, dead plants left behind. Sometimes, you need to ask friends and family to water your plants for you. Other times, it can be as simple as getting a watering mat and allowing it to self-water while you’re away. Before you buy a houseplant, just keep in mind how much you’re actually home to take care of it. For some people, they might be better off with a fake plant instead.

You may need a fan in your home to improve the air circulation for your plants. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Not Enough Air Circulation

Something that not enough people take into consideration is the air circulation in their home. In fact, they assume that since plants clean the air, that problem will be solved simply by buying them. The reality is that you need to make sure your house has good air circulation. Periodically open your windows and doors in the warmer months to make sure you get good airflow. Alternately, buy a fan and let it circulate the air throughout the room.

People can go overboard with the number of plants they want to buy for their collection. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Getting Too Many Plants at Once

Buying plants can be exciting. Maybe you just moved into a new apartment, and you are eager to get started with a beautiful collection in your home. However, it can be a mistake to buy too many plants. It’s best to buy one or two plants at a time, and really get to know what they need to thrive. Once you are comfortable with the plants you already own, it’s okay to grow the collection. (It’s also better on your wallet.)

Make sure your plants have enough soil in the pot. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Not Enough Soil

A very common mistake people make is to not put enough soil in their plant. When you buy a plant from the store, check out how much dirt it has in the container. Your containers should be filled up to the top, in order to give the plant enough room for their roots to grow. Also make sure that the soil you use is suited for your plant. For example, succulents are desert plants that thrive with dry soil.

So your research to make sure a plant isn’t poisonous for your pets or kids. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Keeping Poisonous Plants When You Have Pets or Kids

Unfortunately, a common mistake people make is buying a plant that’s poisonous to humans and animals. For example, did you know that poinsettias are toxic to cats? Or that daffodils are toxic to both humans and pets? It’s always best to do your research, especially if your kids or pets tend to chew and put things in their mouths. Check out some of the most poisonous houseplants.

It’s best not to move your plants too much. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Moving the Plants Too Much

A big mistake people make with their houseplants is that they move them around too much. It’s okay to move your plants in the beginning to figure out where they enjoy living the most. But once you find a sweet spot when the plant seems to be thriving, it’s best to leave it alone. Moving a plant stresses it out, and it can stunt its growth. Sometimes you can’t help it, like if you’re moving to a new apartment. But just don’t make a habit of it.

Be careful before you repot your plants. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Knowing When it’s Appropriate to Repot

Sometimes people are excited to repot their plants right away, while others leave it in the original plastic container for the rest of its life. So how do you know when it’s appropriate to move it to a new pot? If the plant has shallow roots, it’s a sign that it needs to stay in its original pot for at least another six months to a year. Once the plant has a well-established root system, it’s safe to repot it. It’s possible to repot your plant too many times, though. Always allow the plant to get acclimated to the pot that it’s in before moving it from one pot to another.

If you want your fiddle fig to grow larger, it needs to be transplanted to a big pot. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Stunting a Plant’s Growth

Some of you out there might have dreams of growing a huge tree or house plant, like a Fiddle Leaf Fig. But these plants will never get larger if you continue to keep it in the same pot it originally came in. Once a plant has become root-bound, it can no longer grow larger. So if you want a bigger plant, it’s best to repot it into a larger pot with more soil. You will also have to fertilize the plant to help it attain the nutrition it needs. On the flip side, this might not be a mistake, because some people want to stunt a plant’s growth.

Different plants thrive in different size and shaped pots. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Choosing the Wrong Pot 

Different plants like different types of pots. Sometimes you’re better off going with a more porous container, like a terracotta pot. As a rule of thumb, plant pots with no drainage holes are usually a big mistake. Water can pool at the bottom of a pot and cause root rot and mold. Even if they sell these pots at the gardening center, that doesn’t mean it’s what is best for your plant.

Clean the leaves of your plants to help them thrive. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Dirty Leaves

Just like taking a shower or cleaning your apartment, it’s necessary to also clean your plant’s leaves. When there is dust on the leaves, it can block your plant from processing the sunlight, and it won’t get proper nutrients. All you need to do is get a damp cloth and gently clean the leaves of your plant. Some people like to buy leaf shine spray. However, this can actually add chemicals to the plant that will clog its pores. So it’s best to stick with simple water on a rag.

Bringing plants outside or on a front porch should have a limited time. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Overexposure to the Elements

In the spring and summer months, it’s a good idea to bring your plant outside to give it some fresh air. And if you have trees, like the fiddle leaf fig, giving it some exposure to wind will actually help establish its root system. However, some people can go overboard by leaving their plants outside in direct sunlight. If you leave a plant outside for several hours on a sunny summer day, it can end up with sunburn. (Trust me, I’ve done it.) 

Be careful when pruning leaves from an indoor plant. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Pruning Your Plants Too Much

Pruning your plants is healthy, and it can encourage healthy regrowth over time. However, if you’re new to pruning, it’s easy to make a mistake. If you take more than ¾ of the foliage off, it’s going to become an issue for the plant, and it may never recover. Never take more than half. Remember that it’s best to remove any leaves that are brown, and leave behind the healthy growth. In most cases, it’s not necessary to prune very much off of the plant.

Don’t cut away from an established root ball if you want to keep it healthy. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Cutting Away Roots

Sometimes, when people are in the process of pruning a plant or repotting they make the assumption that they need to prune the roots, too. This is especially true if they’re trying to control the size of the plant and prevent it from growing bigger. The truth is that you should leave roots alone, especially when they’re still shallow. It’s almost never necessary to tamper with the roots unless you’re planning to divide up the plant. If the root system is very large and healthy, it’s okay to trim away some of the roots to make it possible to fit into the new pot. 

If you find a pest on your plant, it’s best to take action right away. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Ignoring Pests and Disease

The minute you see pests or disease on your plants, you need to take action right away. It would be a huge mistake to ignore it, because it can spread to the rest of your plant collection. Make sure you isolate any plant as soon as you see something has gone wrong. It needs to go into quarantine! However, as new plant owners, it can be difficult to diagnose what’s wrong with the plant in the first place. Check out this guide to some of the most common houseplant diseases. 

Don’t water your plants if the soil is already moist. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Watering When the Soil is Already Moist

When you buy a plant from a big box store or hardware store like Home Depot or Walmart, they will typically be watered every single day. The employees don’t usually stop to check which plants need more water or not. Because of this, when you buy a plant from the store, it’s usually already very moist. You don’t need to water it again, because  root rot or mold could develop on your plants. Check the roots to see if there is still moisture in the soil. If so, give it some time to dry out before you water it again. 

Some people get fed up with raising indoor plants. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Losing Patience With Your Indoor Plants

New plant owners can underestimate the amount of time it takes for a plant to grow. Or, if something goes wrong, they almost immediately assume that the plant is a lost cause, so they’ll throw it away. Remember that indoor gardening is a process. Your plants might not grow as quickly as they would in your backyard garden. Take some time to educate yourself on how long your plant will take to grow. And if you spot a disease on the plant, figure out how to fix it so that it returns back to full health.

It’s possible to split one plant into two plants to be repotted later. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Dividing a Plant Too Soon

When you get a new plant home from the store, you might be tempted to divide the plant up into multiple pots. Sometimes, this is totally fine. Other times, it can kill the plant. The way to tell is by checking the root system. If two plants have roots that are completely intertwined, it’s best to leave them alone, because cutting them apart can damage the plant. But if you find two plants that basically have their own independent root systems sitting in a pot side-by-side, it’s fine to break them apart and report them. For more information, check out this guide on how to divide houseplants.

Succulents need to be watered every few weeks. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Assuming Succulents Don’t Need to be Watered

A lot of people want to buy succulents because they assume that they’ll never have to water them. While it’s true that succulents are desert plants that need very little attention to thrive, that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore them. Some people also make the mistake of assuming that all they need is misting to survive. Every few weeks, succulents need to be soaked with water. Allow the water to go out of the drainage hole in the bottom. Once the soil is fully moist, you can go a few weeks without watering them again.

Give new plants some time before you add them to your collection. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Placing New Plants Into Your Collection Right Away

You’re bringing a new plant home, and it’s so exciting. Most people want to put their new plant baby in a pot and add it to their collection right away. But this could be a huge mistake. It could potentially have bugs or a disease that you’re bringing from the outside world and into your home. It’s best to isolate your new plants and examine them thoroughly for a couple of days before you put them with the rest of your collection.

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