Every Question You Have About Your Houseplants, Answered

Make sure you’re taking the best care possible of your plants with the answers to the most-asked questions about houseplants, including how to keep bugs (and cats!) away from houseplants, how much to water your houseplants, what to do if you have low light, the best plants for air purification, and more.

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
3-minute read
Episode #19

When Is the Best Time to Buy Houseplants?

The best time to buy houseplants in the spring, when you’ll find a better selection and prices that are 20–60 percent cheaper.

How Can I Keep My Cat Away from My Plants?

Are your cats getting into your plants or worse, using them as a litter box? Place coffee grounds or citrus peels directly on the soil, and they’ll stay away. If you catch them chewing on the plant, you may want to try the old spray bottle trick—fill a clean spray bottle with water and spray them if they get near the plant.

How Can I Keep Insects Off My Plants?

If you have insects in your houseplants, use this easy-to-make all-purpose spray: pour 2–3 tablespoons of dry laundry soap and 1 quart of warm water into a spray container and shake well. Spray the solution onto plants immediately, making a fresh batch each time. Spray onto your plants once a week and it will keep bugs off the soil, stems, and leaves of your plants.

How Do I Get Rid of Little Black Flies on My Plants?

Peat Moss Gnats, a.k.a. Fungus Gnats, are tiny black flies that like to hang around plants that are planted in soil that has peat moss in it. To get rid of this problem, make sure you’re not overwatering your plants (see below) to keep them from laying eggs. Then, pour some apple cider vinegar into a bowl and add a drop of dishwashing liquid. Place next to the plant, and the gnats will divebomb the vinegar and drown. For any gnats in the air, you can kill them with a mixture of half water, half rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle (or 3 parts vodka, 1 part water). If they persist, try this trick: Place some moth balls on the surface of the soil, then place a dry cleaning bag over the plant. This will kill all insects (including beneficial ones), but if you really need a solution to your problem, this is it!

How Do I Know I’m Watering My Plants the Right Amount?

No matter how long you’ve had your houseplant, it can hard to tell exactly how much water it needs. Here’s how to know you’re watering your plant the right amount: Poke a pencil into the dirt and pull it back out. Clean means it’s time to water. Soil on the pencil means the plant is okay for now.

What Kind of Water Should I Use to Water My Plants?

Plants should be watered with tap water, and never distilled water, which doesn’t have many of the beneficial nutrients plants need. When watering houseplants, always use lukewarm water. Cold water may chill their roots.

Do I Need to Buy Plant Fertilizer?

Potting soil runs out of nutrients about every 6 months, but you don’t have to spend money on store-bought fertilizer for your plants. Instead, use one of these DIY plant fertilizers, from stale beer to fish tank water.

What Do I Do If My Plant is Dying?

Is your plant fading fast? Check out our article on how to save a dying houseplant.

How Can I Help My Plants Get More Light?

If your houseplants aren’t getting enough sun, maximize the amount of light they are getting by placing them on top of a table covered in foil (shiny side up). The foil will reflect the light, and your plants will thank you.

Which Plants Are Best at Cleaning the Air?

Purify the air in the your home without an air filter by buying potted plants that naturally clean your air. Some good choices are rubber trees, corn plants, bamboo palm, ficus, mums, gerbera daisies, English ivy, peace lily, and philodendrons.

How Do I Get My Plant’s Leaves Shiny Again?

Easily dust your houseplant by rubbing the inside of a banana peel on each leaf. Not only will it remove dust, but it will leave the leaves even shinier than before.

What Should I Put in That Hole at the Bottom of the Pot?

Use dryer lint to prevent dirt from falling out of your potted houseplants when you water them: Place some dryer lint in the pots so it covers the holes. Or, use a tea bag. The water will drain out, but the dirt will stay in!

These tips are even better on our podcast, which you can listen to on the top right of this page or on iTunesStitcher, or Spotify. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook!

About the Author

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin

Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin are the proud parents of three boys and more than a dozen books. After saving thousands per year using everyday tips and simple lifehacks, they started their own business in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with others. They have been known to go into their friends' refrigerators to turn their eggs upside down so that they last longer.