Remedy a black thumb by choosing these easy-to-care-for houseplants. Once you have established a houseplant, make sure you know the warning signs of a dying plant and how to adjust for any houseplant problems.

By Jenny Krane

Houseplants are extremely popular right now and don't need to be a challenging addition to home decor. These varieties are common finds in plant stores because they can thrive in almost any home with little to no fuss. The most common issue houseplant owners face is loving their plants a little too much.

Many common houseplants are from subtropical or tropical areas, meaning they need moisture. However, a common misconception of plant owners is that plants want more air moisture rather than soil moisture. Many plants show yellow leaves or brown leaf ends because they are being overwatered. To avoid overwatering, press your finger about an inch into the soil to feel if it is moist. If the soil has moisture, wait a few days before watering. As a rule of thumb, only water a plant with dry soil.

Although many houseplants can't tolerate overwatering, they also cannot tolerate dry air, which is a problem in many modern homes with air conditioning. To keep houseplants happy, place them away from any source of forced air or heat like vents, heaters, or radiators. In the winter, when the air is driest, use a spray bottle to lightly mist houseplants a few times a week. Open a window near the plant when the weather gets warmer to give it some fresh air. Also, keep light in mind. Most houseplants prefer bright, indirect sunlight over direct sunlight, so be mindful when choosing a place for your plants.


houseplant container yellow leafy indoor white table

One of the best indoor plants for low-light situations, pothos is an easy-care vining plant equally at home hanging in a basket, climbing a plant pole, or spilling over the edge of a table or shelf. An older plant can have vining stems that are many feet long. Give it normal room temperature water and keep the soil slightly on the dry side. Pothos is a forgiving houseplant that puts up with neglect.

Peace Lily

Peace Lily Spathiphyllum wallisii 'Domino'

Peace lily is an easy-care plant that tolerates low light, low humidity, and still blooms consistently. Its glossy, lance-shape leaves arch gracefully from a central clump of stems. The white flowers are most common in summer, but may occur any time of year.

Snake Plant

houseplants hanging display shelf stands containers green indoor

Snake plant is a carefree, tough succulent that grows almost anywhere. Its leathery, sword-shape leaves are usually marbled with gray-green colors and may be edged with yellow or white. Although snake plant tolerates low light, it grows better in medium or bright light. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, especially in winter.

Jade Plant


Jade plant is a tough, popular succulent with plump, fleshy leaves. This houseplant prefers bright light but can handle some shade. Keep the soil moderately dry. Jade grows well at room temperature during the growing season, but prefers 55 degrees F during winter. Cool winter temperatures help promote bloom.


dracaena houseplant in pot

The Dracaena genus is composed of a large group of popular foliage plants. Most grow strongly upright with long, straplike leaves variegated with white, cream, or red. Dracaenas grow well at average room temperatures but don't like cold drafts. Give plants medium to bright light to maintain best leaf color. Make sure the soil feels dry to the touch before watering.


houseplant containter white table indoor

Philodendrons are one of the toughest houseplants you can possibly grow. Whether you choose upright or trailing/climbing types, they are perfectly happy in a home setting. These plants prefer dappled light—much like the canopy of a tropical rainforest. When they live in too much shade they tend to fade to a dull green. Choose a well-drained potting medium that will not stay wet for too long—philodendrons prefer even moisture and do not like sitting in wet soils.

Money Plant

houseplant corner indoor lamp green container

Called money plant because it is reputed to bring good luck, Pachira aquatica has a slender trunk that often comes braided. Over time, the trunk thickens and becomes more interesting and textural. The shiny leaves add a tropical feel to any decor. This easy-care tree does well in bright to medium light. Money plants prefer slightly moist soil.

What to Look For When You're Killing Your Plant

  • Yellow leaves indicate lack of nutrients, overwatering, poor drainage, or a combination of the three
  • Brittle leaves come from giving your plant too much sun and dry air
  • Wilting and brown spots can be a sign of overwatering and possible root rot
  • Stunted growth means the plant is rootbound and too large for its pot

How to Transplant a Houseplant

You'll know it's time to transplant your houseplant when either the roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot or when the plant is starting to lift itself out of the soil. Transplanting not only gives your plant a little more breathing room, but freshens up the soil. Choose a new pot that is only a few inches wider and deeper than the previous pot, and one that has a drainage hole at the bottom.

Give your plant some moisture in the days leading up to repotting. When it's time to repot, loosely wrap fingers around the plant, turn the pot upside down, and wiggle the plant out into your hand. Place the plant into the new pot, which should be around 3/4 of the way full with new soil. Add extra soil around the plant, but leave about an inch of the top of the pot unfilled for fewer watering messes. Water the plant well and move it to its location in your home.

Comments (7)

February 1, 2020
Please add info on whether a plant is toxic to pets.
October 20, 2019
Over the years, I've killed Pathos, Snake Plant, Jade Plant, and Dracaena.
January 30, 2019
My snake plant grows in water!
January 29, 2019
The leaves on my bamboo plant are beginning to turn yellow. You mention overwatering can cause yellow leaves on plants, this can't be the case, as it grows in water. Any ideas? Also, I have an African Violet with beautiful green leaves that continue to grow, but no more flowers since last summer?
January 29, 2019
I have always enjoyed having houseplants even when they are not "in style." I have found that a hibiscus makes a dandy houseplant over the winter if there is enough room for a big pot and bush. Mine blooms all winter long in my dining room, near the kitchen.
January 29, 2019
This is so of the course these are the most killed plants in houses today. They don't survive well water and barely survive bottle water. Did you try your self.
September 29, 2018
Jenny Krane. I was reading this article right after I tossed my dead philodendron. Your sub head of “What to Look For When You’re Killing Your Plant” had me in stitches. Thanks for the great laugh and great advice.