2 Things You Should Never Do as a New Plant Parent if You Want Healthy Houseplants

updated Jan 25, 2021
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I’ve spent quite a bit of time as a houseplant educator. Sometimes, I think I’ve heard every question possible (yes, it is alive, and you have to water it; no, definitely don’t let your puppy eat a leaf off of it). And over and over again, I see the same mistake from new houseplant parents.

Whatever you do, do not become a helicopter plant parent. You’ve probably heard of the term “helicopter parent,” which refers to a child-rearing style where parents pay extremely close attention to their child and their child’s experiences, often getting overly involved.

Of course, we’re not talking about human children here. We’re talking about your plant babies — but the idea is the same. Whether you’ve opened your home to tropical plants, desert plants, or temperate plants, the worst thing you can do for your new plant is to constantly mess with it. Obviously you want to try to recreate the plant’s natural habitat in your home to allow the plant to thrive, but avoid these two easy-to-make mistakes and you’re more likely to set your plant up for success.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Obsessively Water Every Day

It’s easy to fall into the “what if it needs a drink??” trap. But here’s the thing: Most common houseplants won’t need a drink until the top of the soil begins to dry out; if you’re dealing with arid plants, they won’t need a drink until the soil totally dries out. That’s at least three days after the initial watering, and likely more.

Obsessively watering your plants will lead to root rot, which in turn leads to plants that are actually less able to pull in water and nutrients — and more likely to die. Relax, take a breath, and appreciate your plant from across the room, without a watering can in your hand. Generally speaking, your plant will tell you when it’s thirsty. Do your research and you’ll be just fine. 

Credit: Amelia Lawrence

Cutting off Every Leaf That Looks Less Than Perfect

Surprise! The plant you’ve brought into your home is a living thing. It grows and changes over time, just like a human does. Sometimes leaves get crispy on the edges. Sometimes leaves turn yellow and fall off.

Most of the time, if you’re caring for your plant correctly, these events correspond to a normal plant life cycle. If you start cutting off every leaf that looks different than when you bought your plant, you’re going to run into a big problem. Healthy plants can only handle one third of their living growth being cut off at a time. Remove any more than that, and you’ll end up with a stressed houseplant that’s trying to replace all that’s been cut away.

Leave the pruning shears alone for now so you can try to understand the natural being that is your new plant baby. Instead, break them out only to prune off obviously dead leaves, or to snip a piece or two for propagating your plant. After all, once you have one healthy and successful plant, it’ll be hard to resist adding more.