Top Houseplant Parent Mistakes

If you’ve read about my plant journey, you know I grew only outdoor plants for about five years. In my experience, the trial and error method works much more effectively in a garden than with houseplants. So here are some of the top mistakes made by beginner houseplant owners, including myself.

Not Doing Your Research

One of my first mistakes with indoor plant care was believing the generic care instructions that come on their labels. Starting out, this was my main point of information for what conditions my plants needed. This didn’t work out – many of my plants weren’t thriving.

After looking up more specific care tips for my plants, I realized many of those labels were flat out wrong. You can often get plants that are completely unlabeled as well. Or in some instances, be told the wrong species by the seller. For instance, I was told by a cashier at my local conservatory that this aluminum plant I purchased was a fittonia. I went a few months believing that’s what it was, until I purchased an actual fittonia and realized the difference.

Now I go straight to the internet when I get a new plant or have one that’s giving me trouble. Facebook groups, Instagram, and apps like GrowIt are great places to identify mystery plants. These are also options for finding care tips, along with a quick Google search or the House Plant Care section of Sanity Plants!

Over Watering

Some of my first houseplants were succulents that I was gifted. Unfortunately, they didn’t last very long. I was trying to show them too much love with water. It’s common for new plant owners to want to water their plants way too frequently. One of the most ingrained things we know about plants is that they need water, right? However too much can cause your plant’s roots to rot, eventually killing it.

This goes back to what we just talked about – research. It’s important to know how much water the species of plant you’re caring for needs. Desert plants, like succulents and cacti, thrive on being neglected. While tropical plants, like Prayer Plants or Orchids, will need more attention.

In most cases, under watering is safer than over watering.

Too Little Humidity

While not every plant needs humidity to thrive, many do. Many common houseplants originated in tropical or jungle areas, meaning they’ll probably need more humidity than the average home has. If the edges of your plant’s leaves start to brown, low humidity could be the culprit.

There are a few different options for raising the humidity levels around your plants. This is particularly important during cold months when the heat is on and evaporating moisture out of the air. The easiest and most effective option is to use a humidifier. Humidifiers put out a constant mist to raise humidity levels with little effort.

However, if buying a humidifier isn’t in your budget, don’t worry. Using a mister or spray bottle to mist your plant frequently will raise humidity without the risk of over watering. A couple times a day, I mist the leaves and containers of my tropical plants. Another option is to leave open containers of water around your plants, so that as it evaporates they get moisture. You can also leave trays of water and gravel under the plant container, having the same effect. Gravel ensures that the roots don’t touch the water in order to avoid root rot.

Using Tap Water

If you’re like me, you probably didn’t even think twice about using tap water to water your plants. Then I had a Spider Plant that was less than happy with me, and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong! After a bit of research, I read that Spider Plants are especially sensitive to tap water. This might sound strange, but tap water is full of added chemicals and minerals like fluoride, chlorine, and sodium. These chemicals build up in the soil and can damage your plant.

Many other plants are sensitive to tap water as well. Because of this I’ve stopped using plain tap water all together. There are a few alternative options for watering plants:

  • Purchase jugs of distilled water inexpensively from your local grocery store.
  • Filter your tap water through something like a Brita filter.
  • Let the tap water sit overnight before using it to allow some of the chemicals to evaporate.
  • If you live somewhere rainy, collect rain water in jars and use this to water your plants.

9 thoughts

  1. You have some great tips here. I have too many plants to purchase or filter water. My solution has been to fill washed out gallon milk jug containers and let the water set for several days, or even longer, before using. In a year’s time I will have 30+ lined up in the basement. Now my supply is dwindling because at this time of year I use the cartons for winter-sowing seeds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very true that some of the elements drawn up from the earth in both city and well water are toxic to plant materials, they become a problem in houseplants because they build up in the relatively small amount of potting mix in the pots.

    Fluoride, in particular, will turn the tips, edges, and potentially the entire leaves brown and burned looking in certain plants.

    Among others the Spider plant, the Peace Lily, Dracenas, Chinese Evergreen plant are particularly sensitive to fluoride.

    Distilled water is a great idea, however the other methods mentioned do not remove fluoride. Fluoride filtering pitchers are available, as are Reverse Osmosis filters that can be installed to your tap. Makes for tasty drinking water as well.

    Bev Van Engelen, Horticulturist
    Far West Landscape & Garden Center Boise, Idaho


    1. Thank you for the info, Bev! I don’t personally use the method of leaving water sit out for 24+ hours to remove chemicals, but I’ve heard many people say they’ve had success with that. I always either use distilled water or water filtered through a pitcher πŸ™‚


  3. Guilty as charged! I just can’t help over-watering my plants. It has been such a hot Summer here in Aus that I automatically assume EVERYTHING needs a good drink of water. I now try to restrain myself…not always successfully! Thanks for the tips, Mel

    Liked by 1 person

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