Gardening Basics

How to Revive Houseplants

If your houseplants are showing signs of stress, use these tips to revive them.

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Simple Metallic Garden Pot

Getting your houseplants to survive the winter months is not easy, especially since most homes lack the two things plants need most: high humidity and bright, indirect light.

Even if you've done everything right, such as watering properly, misting routinely and providing proper light levels, chances are your houseplants will show signs of stress as spring approaches.

To ensure your houseplants' survival and help them thrive, revive them.


1. The single most important thing you can do to revive your houseplants is to repot them. Use a knife to loosen any roots that might be stuck to the sides of the pot, gently remove the plant from its existing pot, and inspect the roots, using small pruners to remove roots that appear lifeless.

2. You can repot the plant in a brand-new pot roughly 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot, or you can prune the roots and put the plant back in its original pot. Root pruning allows you to maintain the existing size of the plant while improving its overall health, much like the process of bonsai.

3. With the roots trimmed up, it's time to trim away the yellow and brown foliage, and remove roughly the same amount of top growth that you did roots. If you removed a third of the root growth, remove a third of the top growth to balance the plant's needs.

4. Then water the plant well, mist it thoroughly, add a few stones to serve as decorative mulch, and place the plant back in its spot in your home.

Tips for Reviving

When repotting a houseplant to a new, larger pot, remove the plant from its current pot and inspect the roots. Add fresh potting mix to the new pot and position the plant so that it is no deeper than it was growing in the old pot. Continue adding fresh potting mix to within an inch of the pot's rim. The space between the potting mix and top of the pot prevents water and potting mix from running off the pot's rim and ruining the carpet.

Now spray the plant with a moderate blast of water from the hose to get rid of winter dust and other airborne crud that settles on leaves and clogs leaf pores.

If you don't have time to repot each year you can still revive your houseplants by carefully removing roughly an inch or so of potting mix from the surface and adding a layer of fresh mix. This isn't as good as repotting, but it is better than doing nothing. And rinsing off the leaves is also a healthy way to let your houseplants breathe in spring.

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