Give your plants a fighting chance. / Jamie Grill/Getty Images
Can’t keep a houseplant alive? No matter what botanical nightmares may have haunted your past, making a plant thrive is easy if you follow these simple tips from William Moss, master gardener and author of Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening:
To give your plant a fighting chance, select one that matches your habits. Be honest with yourself — are you really going to remember to water it? If not, stick with a succulent variety, such as cactus or aloe, which can go weeks without attention.
Reduce chances of neglect.
Place the plant near a place you visit several times a day, like the bathroom or kitchen sink, which will remind you it’s there and might be thirsty.
Watch the water.
Surprisingly, the No. 1 killer of plants is too much water, so use Moss’ trick: Dip a finger into the soil up to the first knuckle joint, and if the tip of your finger is wet when you pull it out, then there’s no need to water. When you need to water, soak the soil until you see water running out the bottom of the pot.
Check the light.
A plant’s light requirements are typically listed on the tag, but if it’s not there, eastern exposure is the safest choice.
Feed your plants well.
Proper nutrients are essential, so use potting soil mix, which has the structure to hold in water. Your local nursery is always the best resource for helping you match a soil to your plant’s needs.
Go with the indestructible.
If you discover that you’re truly a lost cause, try a cast-iron plant that can survive under low light conditions and irregular watering.