Treating Ailing Houseplants

Get tips on properly watering and fertilizing indoor plants.
Pig Sculpture on Coffee Table

Pig Sculpture on Coffee Table

While books and plants are coffee table standbys, this adorable iron pig provides a dash of whimsy in this sweet, casual space.

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry


  • Keep your houseplants away from windows because they are likely to be too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.
  • To keep your plants thriving, make sure to water them thoroughly. Let the water run out of the bottom of the pot and into a saucer. Empty the saucer after no more than 10 minutes. This will flush the soil of harmful salts that can accumulate in the saucer.
  • Always use distilled water when watering plants.
  • If you are going out of town, use a self-watering device that can water a plant for up to two weeks. Always remove any wrapping on the plant's pot before watering.
  • Use a soluble fertilizer.
  • Fertilize only when the plant is actively growing. This will ensure that the plant will be using the fertilizer you apply and you will not be forcing your plant to grow. Too much fertilizer can put undue stress on the plant, especially if it is trying to go dormant.
  • Use half the amount of fertilizer it suggests on the box because you can't always be sure the plant is actively growing.
  • Some things that can stress your houseplants are insects and disease. Aphids are small insects of various colors that suck the juice out of your plants and can multiply within hours. Symptoms are curling leaves, discoloration and distorted growth. Try insecticidal soap to control aphids. You can also use a mixture of water and dishwashing soap. Just spray on the affected plants.

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