Houseplant Guide

Guide to getting the best houseplant

What makes the perfect houseplant?


A houseplant needs to be evergreen, holding onto its leaves throughout the year. Some houseplants are deciduous, meaning that they’ll lose their leaves during the cold dark winter months. However, where do you keep these plants after they have lost their leaves? Essentially, they are a pot of soil that should not be stored in a cupboard.


A houseplant should have interesting foliage. Although they may flower which brings a lot of interest to your home, they will not flower forever. However, their foliage will be there until they die or die back during the winter.


A houseplant should be hardy and not too fussy or tender. There are so many houseplants out there that are tough enough to live within our homes. Believe it or not the most commonly available houseplants originally from the tropics. Our homes, at least in the UK are not particularly humid, hot or brightly lit, so placing them in our homes can be stressful. There are some beautiful houseplants that require a lot of care and attention, and if you have the time that’s great but for most we do not.

What to look out for when buying a plant?

1. Look for new and sturdy growth, particularly the stems

2. Growth should be lush and full

3. The plant should have equal growth on all sides

4. When picking a flowering plant,  select one with more buds than actual flowers in full bloom, they will flower for longer

5. Check plants for any pests (especially for gnat flies) or diseases

6. Put your finger into the soil, it shouldn’t be too compact or loose

7. Try to get a plant with lots of root growth coming from the bottom of the pot (not too much where the pot is distorted)

8. Ensure that there are no weeds growing amongst the plant

9. Avoid plants that are yellowish, wilted or distorted 

Three catci in a row

Remember plants are living things

Houseplants are living things and sometimes they may have yellowing leaves, brown patches, slightly wonky growth and other imperfections. This is a part of the deal with keeping living houseplants. Sometimes we put these plants on such a pedestal due to them being in our homes. Whereas, we are more forgiving with outdoor plants, as we expect them to include imperfections due to the weather. Just remember these little imperfections cannot be helped, just like with people as they age.

The readjustment period 

So you just bought your new houseplant? When bringing a houseplant home for the first time, you need to consider what is called the 'readjustment period' that houseplants will go through. This period your houseplant will start to adapt to living in your home.

When plants are grown in nurseries, they are grown in the most ideal conditions for them. However, when you move them to your home these conditions change, and can somewhat differ from their nursery originate. This period is where the greatest number of issues can occur, i.e. yellowing of the leaves or leaf shedding. To help with the transition, keep in as close conditions to where you had bought it and read the label. As well as this, keep an eye out for early signs of stress.

Plant on windowsill
Collection of succulents

Your choice of pot matters

Did you know that the material of your plant pots can affect the growth of your houseplants? Plant pots add loads more creativity to your houseplants, adding a touch of interior design. Here are just a few of mine. As well as having a plethora of designs, colours and shapes you also have a wide range of materials; ceramic, metal, plastic, fabric and concrete.

Your choice of material for a plant pot can actually have an impact of your plants for example, plastic and metal don't 'breathe' not allowing much air exchange to the roots. Some plants don't mind but others do, particularly from the tropics that need their roots to dry a bit after watering. Generally ceramic plant pots are the most popular with fabric baskets fast becoming fashionable.

Don't forget to dust your houseplant

Leaves like anything else in your home can accumulate dust. To remove gently wipe the leaves using a damp cloth or cotton pad. A dry duster will also work but ensure it hasn't been used alongside polishes or other chemicals. You can also use a paint brush to remove debris or dead materials from small plants. 

Wipe your houseplant's leaves
Using a reed diffuser?

Avoid using sprays near your houseplant

Do you like reed diffusers? Do you use air 'fresheners' or polish in your home? If so then you'll need to keep their spray away from your houseplants as the chemicals contained within them can harm your plants. A reed diffuser that can of course be used in a home with plants but remember to keep it clear of them. The chemicals in these products, and others can burn the leaves.

Best medium to grow your houseplant

 As houseplants are typically confined within a small container, they require additional care compared to their outdoor counterparts. One particular thing to watch out for is watering. As outdoor plants are, well outside they can take a lot of watering where the water filters through various layers of soil. However, with inside plants they have a very limited amount of soil before the water starts to build up, starving the roots of oxygen. Yes, plants do indeed need oxygen like us to ‘breathe’.

 So here comes some special material called vermiculite, which is typically made of aluminium, iron and/or magnesium silicates. Or perlite that is made of expanded volcanic glass, which has been heated to 1000°c until it pops like popcorn, greatly expanding its original volume (simar texture to Styrofoam). These materials are essentially made of little soft light rocks aids with the drainage of a plant. The worse issue that houseplants can suffer form is a soggy bottom. One of the best potting mixtures for houseplants is 1 part vermiculite/perlite to 2 parts peat free compost.

Please do note that desert growing plants i.e., cacti and succulents would require a sandy medium rather than a compost one due to it holding onto less water. 

Plant out of pot
Watering your houseplant

Avoid tap water when watering your houseplant

Within the wealth of knowledge on keeping houseplants, you’ll find extensive chapters and notes on watering. You’ll find apps helping you to keep track on their watering regimes and hint and tips videos via social media. All of which can contradict each other. However, the rule of thumb that has kept my plants healthy is to water little and often. Knowing your environment also helps, for instance if your houseplants are on a south facing windowsill in full sunlight their going to need more water compared to a plant kept on a semi-shade north-facing windowsill.

I always keep to the ‘weigh it and/or finger it’ method to see if one of my houseplants needs a water. Generally speaking, when lifting your houseplant if it is light it needs a water (dry soil tends to be light) if heavy it’s fine. This isn’t a fool proof method so if you’re not sure you can move onto the second part, finger it. Place your finger into the top 5 cm of the soil in your plant pot to see if it is dry. If so, give your plant a bit of a water, ensuring that there’s no standing water left in decorative pot. Simply knowing your environment and when your plant typically gets dry is your best mantra. Keep to these easy-to-follow steps and your houseplants will be just fine.

Tap water can contain high levels of various salts including chlorine and florine that plants, outdoor and indoor cannot process. Instead, plants accumulate the salts within tap water on their leaves as a white powder, which will be firmly stuck to leaves.

Ideally use rainwater or filtered bottled water found in shops. In this case tap water was the only option. After heavy rainfall, newer growth will recover. For houseplants, wipe or rinse (depending on sensitivity) leaves with filtered or rain water.

There are a arrange of methods to water your houseplants. I have listed six key methods below:

Water from top

For most houseplants, particularly for the leafy houseplants. Keep soil moist but ensure that plants aren’t sitting in soggy soil. Afterall most plants don't like sitting in water.

Water from bottom

Mostly for cacti and some succulents that don’t often need watering. Watering from the top will cause their stem to rot.

Soak and dunk

For very dry plants that need a emergency water. Dunk whole pot into water and leave until pot sinks. Drain excess water after soil becomes moist.


Mostly for air plants that get their moisture from their foliage. As well as misting keeping them in high humid areas will help these types of plants.

Slow and constant

Sometimes you can use irrigation systems like the drip method which gives you plants a slow but constant supply of water.

Capillary watering

This uses the natural process of capillary action to drive water from a wet source to a dry source i.e. placing natural pieces of string into a bucket of water into your plant pot. This method is great for when you have to leave your houseplants

Plant mister

Misting your houseplants

 The theory is that if you mist your houseplants; using rain or filtered water to prevent white blotching, it will boost the humidity which is of benefit to those plants that original come from the rainforests such as the Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera), Elephant Ear (Alocasia) and Prayer Plants (Maranta). Although some sources claim that misting your houseplants is ineffective, only lasting 10-20 mins. However, it has been shown to be effective if you regularly mist your humid-loving plants to prevent their leaves from dying out.  Clumping humid-loving plants is also another way of keeping local humidity levels up. If you have a plant that requires high humidity and doesn’t receive it, apart from dying it will just survive. Misting will boost new growth - once a day should be sufficient. Don’t worry if you forget once in a while, it won’t hurt your houseplant.

How to reduce water loss

To reduce the amount of evaporation on your houseplant's medium try using horticultural grit (2-3 mm). This grit is a great method of retaining moisture in the soil, plus it can reduce chances of insect infestations in the soil and it looks pretty. Typically, this grit is used for succulents and cacti bit can be used with larger plants. Additionally, you can get all sorts of colours, sizes and shapes.

Horticultural grit

Steps to take if you need to leave your houseplants

Are you going on holiday or a short get-a-way? Can’t find a suitable plant sitter? Well here are some tips to keep your houseplants alive without you. Please bear in mind that these tips can keep your houseplants alive for up to two weeks in summer conditions. 

First of all your biggest problem will be running out of water.  

Watering houseplant
Pot of catci

Living houseplants come with imperfections

Have you ever noticed that your houseplant has some yellowing or brown spots of their leaves? Well, these are just sometimes imperfections that won't harm your plant.

Houseplants are living things and sometimes they may have yellowing leaves, brown patches, slightly wonky growth and other imperfections. This is a part of the deal with keeping living houseplants.

Sometimes we put these plants on such a pedestal due to them being in our homes. Whereas, we are more forgiving with outdoor plants, as we expect them to include imperfections due to the weather. Just remember these little imperfections cannot be helped, just like with people as they age.

Getting the right temperature for your houseplants 

Houseplants tend to prefer what we do, about 21°C but can go below 12°C. Anything lower could started to harm tropical houseplants. I have included a basic guide below.



Only the toughest plants can survive, probably outdoor or woody.



Death to most tender plants. This is the lowest temperature for many cacti.



Just above freezing, anything lower will start to kill off tender plants.



This is at the extreme of most tropical houseplant. They will be potentially damaged being at this temperature for prolonged periods. Rarely need watering.



At this temperature your houseplants will go into dormancy but will largely have no will affects. Little watering required.



Generally the most ideal temperature for most houseplants. For most plants, keep soil moist but well-draining.  



Houseplants generally get too hot and go into dormancy. Possible wilting may occur. Give plenty of water and misting.

Steps to take when your houseplant has been dropped or knocked 

Have you or someone else or even your pet ever dropped or knocked your houseplant? Well take the following steps to help recover your beloved plant.

As a general rule of thumb, the broader the leaf the more damage from dropping is likely to occur. Cacti are generally the most resilient to being dropped or knocked. However, if your cactus’s maim stem has been damaged it is most likely too late.

Fallen down houseplant
Watering your houseplant

How to deal with overwatered plants

Removing excess water

Have you ever over-watered your houseplants? Notice a sulphur smell near your plants? Then don't worry, your soil is far too wet. Most plants require air to their roots so that they can 'breathe'.

If you notice a sulphur smell near your plants then the soil and roots within are starting to rot. The first thing to do when over-watering is to remove your plant out of its ceramic plant pot holder or cover, and place within a sink to drain. After leaving to drain for some time, gently squeeze the plant pot to help the water drain. Then place onto an absorbent material such as paper towels, toilet paper or a tissue. Once the paper has become damp replace until it no longer becomes damp. Place the plant back in its holder and don't water until the top couple of centimetres had become dry.

Overwatering your succulent

Once over watered, the roots and the base of the thick leaves begin to rot, becoming very mushy to touch, and is irreversible. Watering succulents particularly stone plants can be very tricky, as I found in my experience. You can tell when your stone plant requires water when their leaves become less firm to touch. Do not water whilst growing new leaves. You should also aim to water these plants no more than two to three times a year. Their growing season is between May and July when watering is usually needed

When to water your succulents

Have you ever noticed moulted patterns on your houseplant's leaves? Well, this is an early indication that it requires watering. This patterning will typically present on new growth but in some circumstances, it can present on older growth first.

To effectively water your plants if they show moulting, place them in a sink and flood soil with rain or filtered water until it drains through plant pot. Leave for several minutes until water has stopped draining away. Keep an eye out for soil drying out. The moulting pattern should fade away a couple of days after watering, depending on species.

Watering houseplants can be tricky but using a long-spout watering can, can make life easier. I tend to underwater my plants as I know the common error is to overwater them. I find this sort of watering can be a lifesaver as it delivers low amounts of water at a time. Additionally, rainwater is so much better for the health of your houseplants. I used the large green jug filled with water collected from my water butt to decant into my little watering can.

Moulting on your succulent's leaf
Plants growing in water

When growing houseplants and cuttings in water

Standard cuttings

Do you have one of your houseplants growing in water as a part of a display? If so remember to regularly change the water, weekly to fortnightly with fresh rain or filtered water. Plant roots require oxygen to 'breath' and old unchanged water can become stale, loosing oxygen. Carbon dioxide from the air dissolves into the water increasing its pH. Additionally, microorganisms in the air and start to grow in the water causing it to become cloudy in appearance.

Cuttings to fill out your pot

Do you have a plant that looks tired or is becoming rather thinned out? You can bolster your plant by taking cuttings. 

This method is particular useful and easy for houseplants such as the Wandering Jews (Tradescantia zebrina) or Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum). Many houseplants especially for trailing ones are actually made of several smaller plants grown together to fill out the pot. Additionally, trimming your houseplants will encourage bushier sturdier growth.

To take cuttings:

Best method to support your climbing houseplants

Well, totem poles, which are made from recycled coconut coir are recommended as they are highly dynamic; meaning that you can use pins to hold up the stems of your houseplants at any position. Additionally, totem poles can be bought in modules so that you can continually enlarge them if needed. You can also encourage aerial root growth by adding in water from the top.

Pins, specifically moss or florist pins can also be used to propagate plantlets of trailing houseplants. As well as producing more plants, this method can be used to fill out a plant's pot if you have a bear patch of soil.

Additionally, there are different methods used to tie up your houseplant. For hardener wooden stems you can use plastic or metal clips. For softer stems you'll need to use natural twine. Remember not to tie too tightly as you can chafe the stem resulting in open wounds making the plant open to attack from insects and disease. 

If you do use totems, whether made of moss or coir (as pictured) keep them damp to encourage new root growth particularly for Swiss Cheese Plants (Monstera), Philodendron and Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum). When these plants produce aerial roots, they’re able to consume more recourses required for more, stronger growth. An issue commonly faced when using these totems is then they dry out and then aerial roots die back to only support the plant.

Plant growing on totem pole

Pruning your houseplant

Deal with weedy growth

Have you noticed that your houseplant is starting to become too tall? Or has it become top heavy? Or even looks a bit weedy? Well the vast majority of plants respond well to some pruning, which encourages them to produce more bushier outgrowths. To prune effectively, make a slanted cut just above the internode, i.e. about 1 cm above a leaf stalk (imaged). We cut with a slant as a standard to prevent water from seeping into the wound that would culture fungi and bacterial infections. You could also cover cut with non-scented wax to seal it.

From the material that have you pruned, you can also produce cuttings with instead of composting. To make baby plants, cut just below the leaf stem at an angle and place into fresh rainwater or filtered water. Within a week or two your cuttings will start to make roots.

Tidy your houseplant

Have you noticed that some of your plants have a few dead stems, leaves or branches? It's a good idea to remove that dead material by pruning it off. This keeps any material from rotting the base or core of the plant away.

First of all, you'll need to check if the targeted stem, stalk or branch isn't just dormant. You can do so by slightly bending the affected area. If brittle it is dead if flexible it is more turn likely a live. To further check, you can make a small cut on the area. If green or whitish-yellow then it's a live, if brown is dead. Once you have confirmed the affect area is dead then cut at the base of the plant (as imaged) or at the junction where the next living areas are. Make a slanted cut to ensure water flows off the cut and does not accumulate, where fungi and bacteria can take hold.

When to cut down your plants

Have you ever noticed new growth developing on the base of your plants, especially for herbaceous perennials in autumn? This is an indication that you need to cut down your plants to rejuvenate their growth before winter.

Before you start cutting down, please ensure that there is a substantial amount of new leafy growth at the base. When ready to cut down, don't be afraid and cut all material just above the new growth. After cutting down new growth will start to growth faster due to having more light to use.

Gardening tools

Key maintenance on your gardening tools

If not you do not keep up with maintenance you could be causing your plants harm when pruning or repotting them. 

What to generally look out for:

How to deal with root and soil compaction

Aerating your houseplants

Do you know that your houseplants can suffer from root compaction? As plants grow they require more space to grow which can be limited within plant pots.

To help you can either embrace the problem or avoid i.e. pot up into a larger pot or keep in same pot if you don't have room. To keep within the same sized pot, you can help reduce compaction by poking a stick into the soil. As well as reducing compaction this technique can aid with aeration, roots need air to 'breathe'. Another method to use is to remove the plant from the pot and take small chunks out of the root ball (root-soil clump); don't be too cautious. After removing small chunks you can tweeze of some of the outer roots to encourage new growth. Then replant the houseplant using new compost. Please note this method is not appropriate for tuberous or bulbous houseplants as they can be damage.

When to transplant your houseplant

Furthermore, a distorted plastic plant pot also an indication that this plants needs to be either planted into a new, larger plant pot or to tease out the roots in order to trim them. This will cause some stress to the plants but will keep the plant at a similar size.

A key indication of root boundness is that the roots are starting to grow through the bottom of your pot. You can check if your plant is root bound by gently lifting the plant out of its pot to see if the roots are wrap around themselves. If plants become too root bound they will strangle themselves and die. When planting up tease out majority of roots, don't be afraid if some break. 

Re-topping the soil that your houseplants grow in

When transplanting is too much you can re-top the soil, adding in additional nutrients from the new compost without disturbing the whole plant during a transplant. You can undertake this by removing the top fifth of the soil in the pot and replacing in with new fresh houseplant compost. 

Using a chop stick to aerate your plants
White growth in your plant's medium?

White growth in your plant pot

Have you ever noticed a white powdery substance growing on your houseplant's soil? This substance is a type of powdery mildew, possibly saprophytic fungus. This fungus is totally harmless to both people and plants, and is a direct result of exposed soil where fungal spores can land on and grow.

Although white powdery mildew on soil is totally harmless it can look unsightly. To prevent this from happening you can cover the soil with a mulch such as pebbles or a fine horticultural grit. If you don't want to cover the soil, then you can simply rub your fingers across the surface of the soil to remove.

Houseplant bending towards the light

This is your plant's natural phototrophic response to maximise its access to sunlight. Essentially a plant's leaf is like a solar panel, it is where plants generate their energy. To fix blending houseplants, regularly rotate your plants so that their growth becomes more even. Move the bend away from the light source. Be aware that some plants will bend more rapidly than others.

Chinese money plant bending towards light
LED growth lights

Supplementary lighting for your houseplant

In the dark winter days, houseplants don’t receive as much light as they require particularly if they are originally from the tropics. You may have seen several adverts or posts on social media covering supplementary LED lighting, which have a purple hue. Though giving our houseplants additional lighting through the winter does indeed benefit them, it doesn’t benefit them as much as you may think.

 These lights must give off special wavelengths that plants used to grow (red and blue) so they won’t benefit from your standard desk lamp. Instead, you need to purchase ‘LED growth lights’ (available on many online retailers), which emit the correct wavelengths that plants need to grow. Two to three of hours a day will help get your botanical children through the winter. Think as these lights as a sort of life support, they will keep your plants alive but they won’t flourish. These lights must also be fairly close to the leaves of your houseplants (within 20 cm) in order to give them sufficient light. Additionally, as many people have commented from my video calls these lights give off a colour retro purple tinge.

Variegated foliage fading

Have your noticed that the variegated foliage on some of your plants has started to fade? If one of your variegated houseplants has started to loose its appeal then it is in an area that is too shady. Houseplants and outdoor plants with variegation require more light than their non-variegated counterparts as they don't contain as much chlorophyll needed for their growth. Move your variegated plant into a more sunnier position and within a few weeks it will return.

Here we have an example of a 'dead head' or a flower that has naturally finished its self cycle, either it has been pollinated or not. To encourage your plants to produce more flowers, particularly with bedding plants remove them at the point where the flower stalk meets the stem.

Pulling dead heads off may damage your plants and make them vulnerable to various diseases. Removing dead heads tricks plants (thinking that they are under insect attack) into producing more flowers as they want to produce seed. Another method to increase flower growth is to encourage competition amongst plants by planting your plants close to each other, which works really well for bedding plants.

Variegated foliage
Scorched tomato leaf

Plants get sunburnt 

Yes, plants can get sun burn or 'scorching' from too much exposure to ultraviolet light. This scorching presents itself as dried out brown blotches on the leaves. To prevent, move plants to more of a shady area of your home. Scorched areas will not recover but you can prevent it from spreading.

Fertilising your houseplants

I tend to fertilise my houseplants once a week during the height of summer, once a fortnight during the spring and once a month during the winter. I recommend using a plant fertiliser which shows a high NPK ratio (typically 10:4:2); nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (major nutrients needed by all plants). Remember don't feed seedlings, cuttings and carnivorous plants (they get fertilised from insects). Remember that houseplants are in an unnatural environment, where they are stuck in a small pot rather than in their native habitat.

Nutrient deficiency symptoms

Seedlings growing

There are a huge range of plant ‘foods’ or fertilisers to choose from at garden centres or supermarkets. It can be a bit overwhelming to know what type if best for your plants. I have included six broad categories of plant food and what they can do for your plant.

Slow release

Usually comes in pellet, powder or crystal forms. They can be added to outdoor plants and pots but must be turned into the soil or compost. They will remain in the soil for a while slowing releasing their nutrients. Bone meal and fish bones is pack full of potassium required for healthy growth.

Green manure 

From decayed plant matter such as comfrey (Symphytum officinale). These plants take a lot of nutrients from the soil and are fast growing. Decaying them in water releases what nutrients these plants have accumulated in their leaves. This is an organic means of fertiliser and is relatively slow acting in them.

Liquid concentrate

These are fast acting nutrient releasing compounds. Usually inorganic but can be organic. Ideal for houseplants and plants in need of a nutrient boost.

Liquid diluted 

Usually in the form of small plastic bottles that you pop into the soil for when you’re on away. They are fast acting and help to boost a plant’s growth. They won’t last long and don’t provide any long-term benefits.

Liquid pumps 

A fast acting dilute fertiliser that can be applied directly into a plant’s soil without adding water. They are fairly recently become popular. In my opinion they’re too expensive, contain little fertiliser and are a gimmick. But if you have few houseplants, don’t have the time and plenty of money then why not give them a try.

Leaf sprays 

Fast acting and can help a plant’s leaf, suffering from a nutrient deficiency. Spray directly onto leaf for prevention. Any spots or blotches cannot be reversed. Some producers have created a ‘leaf posh’, which is meant to make your leaves glossy. While they do, in my opinion they’re a total gimmick. Expensive and no necessary. Just dust your plant’s leaves using a damp cloth or duster.

Seedling growing

Make your own organic fertiliser for your houseplant

Do you want to avoid non-organic fertilisers for your plants? If so then have you considered using the leaves of the Comfrey plants (Symphytum officinale)?


This unassuming woodland plant is a hardy fast growing squat bunch of leaves, which is accumulate lots of nutrients from deep within the soil. Once taken up, these nutrients (vital for plant growth) are stored in the leaves.


To gain the nutrients from the leaves, you can then remove the leaves and rot them in some water – until the water turns a shade of brown and has an aroma. This leaches out the nutrients and forms what is known as a ‘green manure’. There are also many other fantastic examples that can be used as a green manure such as:


Dealing with greenfly

Have you ever experienced the wrath of green flies, otherwise known as aphids? These critters not only are an annoyance to gardeners but cause major losses to world crop production. There are a range of methods to use to get rid of these pests.

Of course chemical sprays will do the job but there are more easier and organic methods to employ. If your infestation is fairly minor, then you can simply run your fingers across the infected area to squash them. Please bear in mind that then aphids sense movement they will drop to the ground (a survival strategy). If worse than you can use a low concentrated washing up liquid solution - 1 L of water to 5 mL washing up liquid to get rid of them. Oil-based solutions to the above are also effective. Another more biological method to rid yourself of these aphids is to encourage their natural predators such as ladybirds.

Green fly
White Powdery mildew

Dealing with Powdery Mildew

This is an example of White Powdery Mildew or Erysiphe alphitoides, which is a common foliar fungi that infects a wide range of plants. The fungi proliferates on new growth and in damp conditions. The best treatment is to remove all majorly affect leaves and to spray using an organic fungicide that contains sulphur once a week. White discolouration will not be reversed until next year's growth.

What do plants grow in?

Have you ever thought about what your houseplants grow in? Where it has come from or what it is made of? The stuff that your plants grow in is very important; not just for the health of your plant but the sustainability of the planet.


This substrate is essential to your houseplant’s health providing:



As a standard houseplants are grown in compost - dark brown crumbly material that provides the above. However, the majority of this compost contains peat. Although peat is fantastic to grow our beloved plants in, it is very unsustainable for the environment. Peat is generally dug up from peatland areas and takes thousands of years to replace. Peatlands are also huge carbon stores.


There are great moves to change to ‘peat free’ alternatives which are sourced from composted organic waste including garden and food waste, wood fibre and coir.


The UK government for example will phase out the sale of peat compost to consumers by 2024 and to industry by 2028. So, look out for peat free composts.

Make your own organic compost

One great way of reducing the environmental impact from your houseplants is to create your very own compost. Don’t worry it’s very straight forward. All you need is a small area in your garden and to collect certain food scraps (listed below). As a broad guide you can follow the below steps to create a nutrient rich compost for your non-desert loving plants:

Find a quite area of your garden and ensure the compost heap is on bare soil to encourage soil dwelling life to help break down your food scraps into compost. Typically, a compost heap is surrounded by a wooden structure (slatted fence) to hold it together. After you have built your heap:

Within months (up to 6 months) you’ll have lovely dark brown fluffy compost ready for your plants. 

Items to make compost

Items not to include

Compost heap

Plant specific guidance

Brown tips on your Spider Plant

If you've noticed that your spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) has dry brown tips that crumple when touched? Then this indicates that your watering regime is stressing your plant out. Additionally, this could indicate that you've placed your plant in an area where it gets regularly disturbed.

To check which problem is causing the browning, check if soil is bone dry. If so water, if flooded drain water and leave to dry for several days. Ensure when checking that you fully remove plant out of a hanger or pot to check. If caused by disturbance, newer growth will not have any browning. If older growth is displaying browning at the tips move to a quiet corner. Other houseplants can display the same symptoms.

Brown tips on your Spider Plant

Browing Aloe vera leaves

If you start to see indented brown leaves on your Aloe (Aloe vera), this indicates either over- or under-watering. If you start to notice this, check how wet the soil is. If soaking, then your Aloe needs drying out. Place on a thick layer of paper towels and leave to drain. If bone dry give water from the bottom using rain or filtered water. Aloes are sensitive to too much water.

Browing Aloe vera leaves

Rubber plant outgrowths

What you noticed that you rubber plant (Ficus elastica) has started to produce these outgrowths? If so don't worry. These outgrowths are actually aerial roots. 

In the wild these plants grow in the rainforest and require extra support, and these aerial roots offer that. Seeking other stronger plants, these aerial latch onto them. No need to cut them off, they're perfectly natural to your rubber plant. 

Rubber plant outgrowths

Yellow leaves on your Dragon tree

Have you noticed yellowing leaves at the bottom of your dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)? These are just simply old leaves. You can pull them off by grabbing them at their base, and they will fall off. You can also leave them on although they may make your houseplant look a bit messy. 

Yellow leaves on your Dragon tree

Donate today

Donate to the running of these pages and to help Dr Andrew Fife Hopkins-Galloway continue his voluntary efforts with various public engagement projects, giving talks and helping to teach people on the wonders of plants. To make a donation please click the below, thank you.