by Jan Cashman

Houseplants are back. After years of homes with dust-collecting artificial plants or no houseplants at all, we are seeing a resurgence of living plants decorating our homes. Houseplants give us the satisfaction of caring for something real and living. They purify the air in our homes by absorbing carbon dioxide and neutralizing many harmful chemicals. They improve our mood and mental health. A tall ficus, Norfolk Island pine, or fiddleleaf fig will add bright green color and make a decorating statement in any room.


The majority of common houseplants are easy to care for. They need little or no fertilizer. Compared to outdoor potted plants, the recommended fertilizer dosage is about half. In the winter, when houseplants are getting less light and not growing so fast, they need little or no fertilizer.

Different houseplants have different water requirements. When watering, soak the plant until the water runs through–make sure pots have drainage holes. Overwatering is worse than underwatering. Let plants dry out between waterings. A moisture meter can help you determine when your houseplant needs watering. In our dry climate, occasional misting can help raise humidity.

Some of our houseplants haven’t been repotted for years, but generally, plants do better when repotted every year or two into slightly larger pots. If you can’t transplant into a larger pot, at least add a layer of new potting soil or compost to the top of the soil. Don’t be afraid to prune your plant back—it will then send out new, fresh growth.

Different houseplants have different light requirements…

Low light (northern exposure away from windows)-Aglaonema, Dracaena, Pothos, Sansevieria

Medium (bright but not direct)-African violet, ferns, orchids, Schefflera, peace lily

Bright (near south or west-facing windows)-Succulents, ficus, croton, palms