Home & Garden

These are the 5 biggest mistakes people make with their houseplants

Here's what's standing between you and healthy plants.

Houseplant Credit: Visual Space/Getty Images

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Being a plant parent can be stressful. So stressful, in fact, that in a new survey, almost half of respondents admitted they don't own plants because they have no idea how to take care of them. And almost one in five said that caring for plants is just as stressful as getting a root canal (!!).

The survey also revealed the five biggest challenges people face when it comes to houseplants. Below are the most common mistakes along with some tips from our own managing editor, Meghan Kavanaugh, who recently became a successful plant parent thanks to popular plant delivery service The Sill.

1. Not giving your plants the right amount of sunlight

"Sunlight (or lack thereof) was definitely the reason I had a history of killing plants," Meghan admits. "I tended to position them in the room where I felt they looked the nicest as décor, but that wasn’t always the healthiest location for the plant to thrive." She adds that even when she tried to pay attention to her plant's lighting needs, she wasn't sure whether the natural light in her home was direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, or too dark.

According to The Sill, most plants are either bright light, medium light, or low light. But what does that mean? Bright light means the plant needs about six hours of direct sunlight per day (like in a sunny window) while medium light means there's something in between your plant and the sun, like a curtain. Low light, on the other hand, means your plant should be kept away from direct light, like in a room with artificial lighting.

2. Over- or under-watering your plants

Houseplant
Credit: Getty Images

Water wisely.

To water or not to water: That is the big question when it comes to plant care and one that Meghan struggled with, too. "I knew succulents didn’t need much water, but after reading some articles on The Sill’s blog, I realized that once a week was probably still too much," she says. "I now try to water once every couple of weeks, or—more realistically—when I just think it’s been a while."

So how do you know if you're over-watering your plants? The Sill's website says that an easy way to tell if you've watered your plant too much is by feeling the soil. If it feels moist or wet a few inches down, you're likely over-watering.

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3. Not knowing whether a plant is an indoor or outdoor one

Trying to pick out a houseplant is overwhelming, we get it. You care about what it looks like, of course, but you also have to know whether it's even a houseplant at all. And the survey revealed that a lot of people can't tell the difference between indoor and outdoor plants (whoops). If you're one of those, fear not—because not only there are plants that can grow both inside and outside (like herbs, for starters!) but a lot of houseplants can be moved outside in summer months or vice versa (you can bring many outdoor plants inside in the winter).

4. Not pruning your plants

Pruning plants may sound intimidating but it's just a fancy term for snipping off dead leaves or buds to encourage new growth. And you don't even need fancy pruning shears to do it—all you need is a pair of kitchen scissors (unless your plant has super thick stems, like an indoor tree). Our favorite pair is the OXO Good Grips Kitchen And Herb Scissors because they're incredibly comfortable to hold and have sharp, serrated blades that cut cleanly and smoothly.

Get the OXO Good Grips Kitchen and Herb Scissors from Amazon for $17.25

5. Being generally unsure of how to keep your plants alive

Houseplants
Credit: Mixetto/Getty Images

You too can have a green thumb.

For those of us who are famed plant-killers, we know the struggle that is trying to care for a houseplant—a.k.a. we need a lot of help. Meghan says that's one big highlight of The Sill. "When I tested The Sill, I enjoyed reading a number of articles about how to best care for each type of plant," she explains. "And though I didn’t use it myself, they also have a virtual plant consultation service where someone can help you troubleshoot specific issues. It’s been nice to know that I have that option in my back pocket should I ever need it."

Get a live plant from The Sill starting at $5

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