How to help your houseplants thrive

November 30, 2020

As the temperature falls and the days get shorter, many people turn their attention from the working in the garden to tending for their houseplants. Yet, even the most green-fingered gardener can find it tricky to keep houseplants healthy.

In this article, we take a look at some of the common reasons houseplants fail to thrive, as well as ideas for the perfect plant for your home.

The benefit of houseplants

Houseplants don't just look lovely, adding a splash of colour or lush green to your home. They are also great for the enviroment in your home.

Studies have shown that houseplants help your concentration - perfect if you are struggling with working from home, help to keep the air clean by increasing humidity and oxygen whilst removing toxins, and are great for reducing physical and emotional stress - in turn supporting your immune system.

With so many to choose from, you only need to do a little research to identify the perfect plant for your home. Whether it's a dimly-lit, humid bathroom or a bright and sunny windowsill, choose the right plant and you'll be off to a great start.

Common problems affecting houseplants

There can be many reasons houseplants fail to thrive. Below we take a look at some of the most common reasons, and suggest ways to avoid them happening to you.


Far and away the most common reason for houseplants dying is quite literally being killed by kindness.

In a bid to prevent them dying, over zealous plant lovers actually overwater. This means the roots rot and contaminate the soil, in turn perpetuating the problem each time the plant is watered.

Similarly, allowing a plant to sit in the water that has drained through when it was watered is harmful to the roots system. It's important to ensure that your houseplants have adequate drainage. An easy way to do this is to put a layer of small stones at the bottom of the pot, or in the decorative pot between that and the plastic pot the plant is in. This prevents the roots sitting directly in any excess water.

 To heat or not to heat

Some plants will be affected by temperature fluctuations resulting from your central heating switching on and off. They may also get a chill from being next to a window in colder months, or too close to a radiator.

Moving the plants to a more central point in the room helps to protect them from temperature changes and prevents them being too hot or too cold.

No room to thrive

When did you last repot your houseplants?

You won't be alone if it's so long that you can't remember. However, plants need room to thrive, fresh compost and regular feeding at the right time of the year.

Every two years, repot your houseplants into a put 3-5cm bigger than their current pot, adding a good helping of fresh compost.

Most houseplants only need feeding every 2 weeks during spring and summer but if in doubt, check with one of the many plant websites, or with your local nursery or garden centre.

if it's been a while since you gave your houseplants a bit more space, you will probably notice a growth-spurt once you pot them on.

How to choose the right houseplant for your space

The beauty of houseplants is that whatever size your home, you will be able to find the perfect plant. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Feature plants

If you have a big space and are looking for a houseplant (or selection of houseplants) to create a feature in the room, you might want to consider some of these.

Selection of feature houseplants

From left to right these are; a Yucca plant, a Swiss Cheese plant, a Weeping Fig plant and a Dragon Tree plant.

Plants for sunny spaces

Finding a houseplant that thrives in direct sunlight can be tricky as you also have to consider that it can get extremely hot when the sun shines through the glass (think about the temperatues in a greenhouse on a sunny day).

However, it can be done. Below are some plants that love a sunny spot and, dare I say it, can even handle a little neglect on the water front!

Selection of houseplants that love a sunny windowsill

Again, from left to right these are; Aloe Vera - a plant that will have 'babies' and which has leaves that offer the infamous Aloe gel, the African Violet, a homegrown Avocado, and a prickly arrangement of cacti.

Perfect for dark and humid spaces

Finding houseplants that will thrive in a dim and humid space like your bathroom or showerroom can be tricky, but there are lots of plants that will thrive in these conditions. To make your bathroom a little more luxurious, try adding some lush green with these beauties.

The perfect houseplant for your bathroom

The final line up for this article are, left to right; a Peace Lily, a Spider Plant (these are especially great for hanging as their 'babies' create a cascade, a fern and the lucky bamboo (bamboo is a resilient plant so you'll know if you've ever tried to remove it from. your garden).

Beware of diseases and pests

Most houseplants, if well cared for, fed and watered, won't present any further challenge. However, if your houseplant is starting to look a little off colour, it is a good idea to inpsect them for disease or pests.

Take a close look at the leaves when you are cleaning the plant and if you see aphids, spide mites or other 'guests' you would be recommended to give the leaves a thorough clean, possibly even using a gentle treatment to get rid of the bugs. Some people swear by watered down washing up liquid, or you can buy specialist products from garden centres and nurseries. Just be sure to check any products are suitable for your specific plants.

Finally - don't forget to have a chat

You might be sceptical but taking to your plants in a kind and friendly way really can help them to thrive. Lots of people name their various plants and even sing to them. Whether it's the talking that makes the difference, or the fact that you are actively showing your love to a living thing, who knows. But it can't hurt!