How are your houseplants?

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

How are your houseplants doing? So far, mine look pretty good. I have a few that are rebelling after being brought indoors.

We are entering a time of year when houseplant care is a bit challenging, and watering is the most challenging task of all. How often do you water your plants?

I have heard some say that they water them every Saturday on a schedule. I hear others say they wait until they need watering. Then I have a lot of people who aren’t sure when to water and how much.

The rule of thumb is to water thoroughly, less often. In other words, they do not need a cup of water a day or a week or to be on a specific watering schedule. They need to be watered when THEY need it.

I believe (this is not based on research!) that the biggest problem that people have with indoor plants is watering and I believe that most die from overwatering.

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Some say that they can’t grow plants because they have very little light. Many houseplants will survive in the house in low light situations; they may not thrive; they may just hang on.

If you have low light (north north-facing or somewhere in a room away from a window) consider plants that do well in that setting. Sansevieria spp., commonly known as mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant, is native to tropical western Africa and is one tough plant.

It takes a wide variety of conditions and care. I had one that fell out of its pot, had hardly any soil, and survived all summer outside with just a little bit of water. This plant thrives on the dry side and is slow to grow, requiring very little water.

You can also provide artificial light for those plants that may like a little extra light. There are all kinds of artificial plant lights available today.

I don’t have high expectations for plant growth indoors in the winter. If I can just keep them alive and happy until I get them outside again in the spring, I am happy.

Normally I tell people not to transplant houseplants in the fall, however, this fall I picked up a couple of new ones that were root bound. I am watering these much more often than I want to water. I am going to transplant them into a two-inch larger container (with drainage holes in the bottom).

Back to watering indoor plants in the winter, slow down and water them according to their needs and not on a schedule. I check mine every week, but I also peek during the week at those that tend to dry out faster. If you have a wide variety of species, chances are they won’t be on a schedule.

I have a couple of prayer plants, for instance, that are in a type of soil that has more peat moss. These stay moist longer. I don’t water these nearly as often as I do my giant monstera which seems to suck the water as fast as I pour it.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Get to know your plants. Hopefully, if you brought them indoors for the winter, they are settling in by now and you are getting to understand their needs. If you buy new ones, the same thing applies. It takes a few weeks to acclimate to the indoor environment.

And, if you have animals, particularly cats, check to make sure that your plants are not toxic to them. Sansevieria are toxic to cats and dogs.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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