Watering too much or too little is what leads to the death of many plants. For many tropical plants you will want to water when the top 1-2” of soil feels dry. Some plants will need to be consistently moist while others will want to be slightly dried out between waterings. Succulents and cacti should only be watered once their soil is completely dried out.
You want to water the soil and avoid getting the leaves wet.
If you overwater your plant to the point it is super soggy, the best option is to take the plant out of the planter and put in new soil.
Another essential component to keeping your plant alive and thriving is proper drainage. Planters with drainage holes at the bottom allows excess water to escape which protects against it from overwatering and ultimately root rot. Drainage holes are also helpful in letting you know when to repot your plant. If you see the roots coming out of the drainage hole it’s time to repot.
If you like the look of a planter without a drainage hole, add a layer of gravel and activated charcoal to the bottom of the container to help with drainage. The gravel provides a place for the water to go, while activated charcoal helps absorb extra water and acts as an anti-microbial to help protect against infection. You will need to be careful with watering. If the gravel gets saturated and the soil is constantly moist or overly saturated this can lead to root rot.
It’s important to select a plant which will work for your space. A sunny loving plant is not going to survive long in that low light corner of your room. Plants that are light starved will survive for a period of time but will eventually die from the lack of sunlight. If you place a sun-loving succulent in a north facing window with dim light it will grow slowly and leggy. Conversely if you place a plant needing medium light, such as a Fern or Calathea, in the window sill of western facing window receiving full sun each evening, it will not tolerate this intense, direct sunlight.
Most houseplants are from warm, humid, tropical environments which means cold, dry weather can be a bit tough on them. You will want to make sure to move your plants a few inches back from drafty windows. To add humidity to the air you can use a small humidifier or add a partially filled peddle tray.
Watching for signs
Leaves can provide a hint that something is not quite right. Drooping leaves is often a sign your plant is thirsty and needs to be watered. Some plants will get quite droopy and curled up when they need water, this does not mean they are dead. Give it some water and time to perk up. Browning leaves are typically an indication of either under-watering or too much sun. Yellowing leaves are often a sign that your plant is getting too much water or that it’s not receiving enough sun.
When picking a plant figure out what works best for you. You do not have to be a plant expert to enjoy plants in your home or at work. If you want a low maintenance plant, try a Zamioculas zamiifolia (ZZ Plant - often known as the “king of the indestructible plants”), Sansevieria (snake plant), Golden Potho, or Peperomia.