The main things all plants need to survive are light, water, and fertilizer. Some indoor plants prefer a lot of humidity. Here's a little guide on those things to keep your indoor plants happy and healthy.
- Light: As a general rule, indoor plants that say "bright light" prefer Western or Southern exposures. "Low light" plants have more versatility as to where they can be placed. Sometimes it is a trial and error game until you find the perfect spot where your plant thrives in your home
- Indirect Light: This means that the plant wants to see the sky, but not the sun. If you have direct sun (such is the case for most Southern exposures), buy a sheer curtain to cover your window. That way the sun is filtered and won't burn your precious plant's leaves. Most indoor plants are going to need "indirect light." If the tips of your plant's leaves are turning brown, black, or yellow, it probably is getting too much light. Move it to the side of the window, further from it, or to a window that gets a different sun exposure
- Water: Always pour tap water into your watering can and let it sit overnight, or run water through a filter to cut out chlorine and fluoride. The chemicals/minerals often found in tap water can build up in the soil of your plant and slowly weaken the roots
- Fertilizer: The rule with fertilizer that I like best is "fertilize weakly, weekly" - meaning fertilize every week, but with a weaker solution than is suggested on the package instructions. Cut back or cut out fertilizer in the winter months when the days are shorter causing most plants to go through a dormancy. If you prefer (or have trouble remembering), you can always follow package instructions and fertilize once every month or two with the full solution strength
- Humidity: For plants that like more humid conditions, you can do several things to help with that. First you could buy a spray bottle, found for $.99 at most gardening centers, and mist them daily. If a daily routine is too much you can set them in a tray filled with pebbles and water. Make sure the water never reaches above the top of the pebble line so that the plant itself will never be sitting in standing water. Or even simpler, keep a humidifier always running near your plants
Most orchid species will do best in a Western or Southern facing window with bright but indirect light. Once a week submerge the pot into a tub of room-temperature water and let it soak for an hour or two. Once done, pick up the pot and let excess water drain from the pot as you would through a colander and replace pot in its normal spot. Orchids grow naturally in humid environments, so for added love, mist the plant a few times a week, set on a tray filled with pebbles and water, or keep near a humidifier. I also find that a lot of people don't realize that when the blooms die, that doesn't mean the plant is dead. As long as the leaves are green, the plant is alive and when given the right conditions will bloom for you again.
Where the vast majority of plants demand drainage to prevent root rot, most carnivorous plants prefer to sit in a pool of water to thrive. For these beauties, fill a shallow dish with distilled water (found by the gallon just about anywhere beverages are sold for around a dollar) and place your plant in the dish. For pitcher plants also fill the pitchers with the distilled water to help them digest their prey. Carnivorous plants only need about four bugs a year (in lieu of fertilizer) to survive so there's no need to get bugs to feed them.
Succulents & cacti
All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti. A defining characteristic of all succulents is that they have thick, waxy leaves which are used for water storage. The defining characteristic of a cactus is that they all have needles on those thick, waxy leaves. Since they store water for future use in their leaves, succulents don't need as much water as your typical houseplant to survive. They are supposed to be the easiest plant to grow, but I hear a lot of frustration from people who say they kill them all the time. I actually used to have that problem as well, and it turns out that the easiest way to kill a succulent is to OVER LOVE them. Since their thick leaves store water, they don't need to be watered much or often. I find that a small drink every other week seems to be enough for most of my succulents. If the plant starts to turn mushy at all, you're watering it too much. If the thick leaves start to wither, then the plant isn't getting enough water and you can adjust accordingly. Make sure you have well-draining soil and your plant is in a well-draining pot to prevent over-watering. Also, succulents are one of the very few plants popular for indoors that need direct sunlight. So if you get direct sun in any window in your house, grab some succulents to place there!
Ferns are great indoor plants because they love indirect light, this doesn't mean low-light. They are used to living under trees mostly, where they receive dappled light as the branches move in the wind, so a bright window with a sheer curtain to filter the light is the best spot for them. On the watering spectrum, they prefer to be kept evenly moist, with regular watering. Letting them dry out completely stresses the plant, and with more delicate ferns like the Maidenhair fern for instance, letting them dry out completely will likely kill the plant. They like high humidity as well. Sit them on a tray with pebbles and water, mist them daily, or put a humidifier in the room to keep them looking extra good!