Indoor Plant Care: 10 Tips You Need to Know

Your green friends that give you pollutant-free fresh air indoors and keep you rejuvenated need your attention too. Learn the basics of indoor plant care.

Your house plants can be really rewarding if you keep them in good shape & healthy. A fit plant works great in removing harmful toxins from your indoor environment. A well cared plants looks beautiful, soothing and adds colour to your ambiance.

Here are 10 basic tips to keep you plant, fresh & healthy.

1. High Quality Potting Media

In Standard Potting, it is vital that the soil is healthy and contains the right nutrients for the particular species. Do not use gardening soil for indoor plants. Common “dirt” is far too heavy and provides poor drainage.
Plant roots require oxygen which they obtain from the soil. If the soil is old, it becomes either too compressed or too waterlogged to contain enough oxygen to fulfill the plant’s needs. Therefore, it is a good idea to shake off some of the old soil from the roots when repotting the plant. Soil brought from the nursery ensures a mixture that is pest-free and has not been sitting in the store for a long time. Most Plants require new soil about every six months to two years depending on their size to be effective air purifiers.

Hydroponics or Hydroculture technique is also growing in popularity. A good number of plants can be grown through this system. This involves growing indoor plants in a watertight container filled with support substrate (without the use of soil). Water and nutrients are supplied below the surface of the substrate. The purpose of the substrate is not only to act as a support media for the plant, but also to assist the movement of water and nutrients to plant roots. Commonly used medium include expanded clay aggregates, coir, perlite, vermiculite. Introduce water & nutrients through a water filled tube. Watering from the top may result in formation of salt crystals on the top layer of substrate. Hydroponics is much less messy since no soil is involved. Less frequent application of fertilizer is required and pest infestations are also greatly reduced.

2. Optimum Container Size

The most important thing with any indoor container is drainage. You can use clay, plastic, ceramic, or just about any other kind of pot, as long as it provides a way for water to drain out. Plants should be firmly rooted in their containers.

3. The Right Light

All plants need light, but the amount of light needed varies from plant to plant. Generally, plants that bloom, bear fruit or variegated (more than 1 color) foliage need more light than the plants with plain green foliage. Most indoors we know originally come from tropical & sub-tropical regions.

The light required for these plants can be categorised broadly into 4 types, namely,
  • Full Sun (area with atleast 5 hours of direct sunlight daily)
  • Semi Sun (area that receives only couple of hours of direct sunlight in winter)
  • Semi Shade (area that receives a good deal of bright, indirect light without any direct sun)
  • Shade (area with no direct sunlight and somewhat shaded even at midday)
Basic plant care starts from knowing the ideal light conditions for your indoor plant, then finding the perfect spot in your home / office to suite this requirement.

4. Water Correctly

Improper watering is the number one killer of indoor plants. Overwatering results root rot and mold growth in drain pans and on floor coverings. Overdamp top soil can also result in mold growth and air circulation to the roots being reduced. Under watering causes stress to the plant and can leave the plant dry and cause it to waste away.
Never let your plants sit in water. After watering, let the container drain into its saucer, then empty the saucer of extra water. A good way to check if the plant is dry is to insert your finger into the top 5 cm of compost; if it feels damp, wait until it feels dry before watering again. When you put your hands under hanging plants and they feel light in the pot, this usually means they need watering. Hydroponics, largely, takes the guess work out of watering. Just maintain the water between minimum and maximum on the water level indicator.

5. Humidity Levels

Moisture in the atmosphere is as important to houseplants as it is to human health and well being. The ideal humidity levels for plants and humans range between 35 and 65 percent.
Indoor environments are often air-conditioned (or heated) and have a low humidity level, especially compared to the tropical regions where many of our favourite houseplants come from. To increase the humidity levels around your plants, mist them regularly and group them together. You can use a spray bottle with water for misting the leaves of your plant.

6. Temperature

Almost all indoor plants flourish in broadly similar temperatures that we enjoy. Most plants grow well in temperatures ranging from 16 to 24°C. Variation of a few degrees are not harmful. Most plants like a bit of drop in night temperature. Avoid direct drafts of cold or hot air. Place them in & around the normal temperature of the room they are placed in.

7. Fertilizer

Your plants rely on you to feed them their nutrients, so invest in good fertilizer. Most house plants need a balanced liquid fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium (NPK), usually bought as a liquid, or a powder, then, diluted in water. The optimum ratio for most plants will be about 2:1:1.
Do not feed a new plant for atleast 6 months after purchase. Large amount of fertiliser will have a detrimental effect producing week growth & brown tips on leaves. Plants usually need to be fed once a week over the summer / spring months, twice a month for floor plants and once a month for hanging plants. Plants need not be fed in winter months when they are mostly resting. It is important not to feed an ailing plant – it will then die. Mostly, follow the instructions given in the purchase labels.

8. Keep an eye on Pests

The most common insects that affect indoor houseplants are mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites and aphids.
Careful inspection of plants before bringing them indoors is necessary. Meeting a plant’s native environment needs, makes it less vulnerable to pest attacks. It is always a good idea to first research the kind of bug you’re fighting. Know the plant care needs when purchasing.
If you see pests, start with non-chemical solutions like isolating the affected plant and spraying it with water to blast the pests away. If you must use a pesticide, opt for the least toxic solution possible and always read the label to make sure the pesticide is approved for the type of insect you have and is safe for indoor use. Neem oil is a popular choice for indoor plants.
For washing plant leaves, you can even make your own non-toxic spray solution with the following ingredients, mixed into a spray bottle, shaken well and sprayed onto plant leaves.
  • 2 tea spoons (10 ml) of vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tea spoon (0.6 ml) of dishwashing detergent
  • 230 ml warm tap water.

9. Keep your Plants Clean

Wiping the leaves clean with a moist cloth; it will help keep your plants’ pores open so they can absorb carbon dioxide more efficiently. This is especially important if you’re using houseplants to help purify your air.

10. Re-potting

A plant needs re-potting when it outgrows its present container or has diminished the nutrients in its present soil. If you see roots spilling over the edges of the container or growing from the drainage holes, it’s time to repot. Likewise, if your plants are too heavy and tip over, you should consider repotting. If a plant wilts quickly after watering or if the leaves are pale or yellowing, these are indications that the plant is not getting enough nutrients from the soil and need a bigger pot.
On a thumb rule, most mature plants will need re-potting once every 2 to 3 years. When you repot, go up by one pot size at a time so the plant doesn’t put too much energy into root growth at the expense of leaf growth.


Don’t worry too much about the “rules.” Each home is different, and your growing environment won’t be the same as your neighbour’s. Get in the habit of paying attention to your plants. When you are watering or misting, peek at some leaf bottoms to see if any pests are snacking on your plants. Check the stems to make sure your plants are well rooted. Are leaves turning yellow and dropping off? Learn how to “read” the clues your plant is giving you so that you can cultivate healthy healers.
In their native environment, plants have natural access to sun, rain, light, water, humidity, soil and fertilizers – their basic requirements of growth. The moment we pot a plant indoors, it depends on us for their basic requirements. Be kind to your plants & they will love you back with open arms, with fresh & healthy air and great ambience.

Reference links used:
1. – A Breath of Fresh Air, La Ronna DeBraak
2. – House Plants for a Healthy Home, Jon Van Zile
3. – The Healing Power of Plants, Fran Bailey

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Know Your Home Air

Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.


Harmful effects
Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.


Harmful effects
All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting,
digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.

Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.


Harmful effects
Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.

A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.


Harmful effects
These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.

Second-hand smoke
Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.

Guest Bathroom

Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

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