Houseplant Appreciation Day | Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive

by Bonnie Way

When I moved into my first apartment, my boyfriend bought me a house plant.  I liked having a bit of greenery in my new place.  Unfortunately, the plant didn’t like me.  It became the first in a series of indoor plants that I managed to kill.

Slowly, in the years since then, I’ve managed to acquire a few potted plants that have withstood not only my lack of a green thumb, but also several moves.  Here are my favourite house plants and my tips for keeping them alive.

Tips to Keep Houseplants Alive

My Favourite Houseplants

1. Aloe Vera.  Aloe is a spiky, succulent plant that comes from Africa.  It grows to fill the pot you put it in.  My mom had an aloe plant that was several feet tall and several feet wide, with spikes as thick as her arm.  Most aloe plants you’ll find in the store are about six inches tall, with spikes the width of your small finger.  My aloe plants have thrived wherever I put them and whenever I water them, perhaps because they like to be well-watered and then allowed to dry out before being watered again.  I’m also a huge fan of aloe because of its usefulness in treating burns, sunburns and other skin problems.

2. Cyclamen.  My husband first got me a cyclamen for one Mother’s Day.  It grew and flowered and grew and flowered for a couple years, and then it slowly faded away despite my best efforts to care for it.  I stuck the pot in the back of my pantry and forgot about it for a few months.  Then, when I was rearranging the pantry, I noticed that there were half a dozen six-inch tall spikes of growth in the pot.  I put it back on the window and it grew leaves and flowers and flourished for a few more years.  Looking it up, I learned the cyclamen like a period of dormancy.  They have wide green leaves that are easy to pull off if they die and pretty flowers in a variety of hues.  It is a small plant that likes to be watered when dry.

3. Ivy.  Ivy is a leafy vine that grows wild in many parts of the world and makes a nice houseplant that can either be staked upright or allowed to hang down (depending upon your space).  Ivy plants like bright light.  Their leaves wilt if they don’t have enough water (giving you hints about what they need) or turn yellow if they don’t have enough sunlight.  Like the aloe and the cyclamen, the ivy likes having its pot dry out before being watered again and it should be planted in a pot with good drainage.

Tips for Growing Potted Plants

1.  Get your plants from a friend.  My most successful plants have been ones that I got from my aunt or mother-in-law.  These plants  seem hardier than those from a store.  If you have a friend who has a plant that produces babies (such as an aloe or a spider plant), ask for one of the new plants when it grows.

2.  Find the right place for the plants.  After my first apartment, I moved every year for three years.  I soon realized that it took a month or two in each new place to find the right spot for each of my plants.  If a plant wasn’t thriving in the place I originally put them, I’d try it somewhere else.  Often the plant needed more or less light in order to thrive.  If your plant seems to be doing poorly, try relocating it.

What are your favourite house plants?  How do you keep them thriving?

Bonnie Way grows her house plants in Victoria, BC, where she and her husband are both students.  They have three daughters under six.  Bonnie enjoys reading, baking and rock climbing and blogs about her life as The Koala Bear Writer.



Email Author    |    Website About Bonnie Way

Bonnie Way is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, mom and wife. She has three daughters, ages five, three, and newborn, who take her to parks and read books with her and help fold laundry. When she's not hanging out with them or working on her computer, she enjoys rock climbing, scrapbooking and reading.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cheryl F. January 11, 2014 at 12:19 am

I’ll have to check out these plant varieties because I’ve never been very good at maintaining houseplants.

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2 vickie couturier January 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

love these plants,,I keep a aloe plant always

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3 Tammy S January 12, 2014 at 11:12 pm

I have more of a brown thumb then a green one. I let my husband deal with all the house plants. He has some plants that we have had for over 20 years. I will pass on the tip about getting starters from friends and family. Thanks!

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4 Rebecca Parsons January 13, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Ah yes the house plant. I haven’t a green thumb. As the matter of fact my husband says there isn’t a plant that thrives and then I bring it home and kill it. I don’t mean to I just am bad at remembering them and bad at placing them in the best spot.

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5 LKlonsky January 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I love aloe and have had mine for years. Cyclamen and ivy are, however, poisonous to cats – don’t know about dogs – so caution needs to be taken if you have those animals around. I also like spider plants, pothos, and still have the corn plant that was a wedding gift 20 years ago! There’s a great article on 15 Houseplants That Won’t Die On You here: http://www.ivillage.com/top-10-indoor-plants/7-a-258925. Unfortunately, I managed to kill several on the list. Oops!

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6 Karen Glatt January 16, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I like the Aloe and Ivy Plants because they are easy for me to grow. I like growing plants, and I make sure not to over water them. I need to get some starters from friends.

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7 Diana Stanhope January 22, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I have tried so hard with houseplants and had no luck. I will use these tips and see if I get better results.

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8 pamela love January 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I always have to look for plants that are easy to care for and safe to have with my dogs, cats, and birds.

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9 Pam H. January 23, 2014 at 6:27 am

Thank you so much for this post. I love having houseplants, but end up killing many of them. I printed this post so I can follow these tips.

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10 Annmarie W. January 23, 2014 at 8:26 am

I usually have a ‘black thumb’, but I found that I love ferns. With a fern hanging in the bathroom, there’s almost no way for it not to be healthy!

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11 Holly Storm-Burge January 23, 2014 at 10:48 am

I am so terrible with houseplants! I do have one left standing, but only because it was labeled ‘hearty’. I have tried herb gardens and potted plants galore, but I seem to kill everything! I would love to grow some Aloe though; seems that their watering cycle is just my speed ;)

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12 Meagan BS January 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

these are great tips, i’d love to have some aloe vera plants. I wish we had more windows in our house!

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13 K. Finn January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I miss having plants, but I am about to move cross country. In addition to it being something I can keep alive, I also have to make sure that any plants I bring in won’t be poison to my pets.

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14 Helen January 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm

My grandma can grow just about anything, and I can kill just about anything. She does have aloe vera and ivy, so I just might have to get some and try out your tips. I always wanted to have plants in my house. I guess it is worth a try

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15 Michelle S January 23, 2014 at 8:53 pm

I love houseplants, except the part where they die on me! LOL, I always dream of having some nice setup in pretty jars, and I want to get air-cleaning plants.

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16 Christina Marie January 23, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I’ve never thought of moving my plants around before. I don’t know why–it certainly makes sense. Thanks for sharing!

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17 Buddy Garrett January 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

Cacti are my favorite plants. They don’t require much care to thrive.

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18 Lily Kwan January 24, 2014 at 1:44 am

I like herbs. I keep them by a sunny window.

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