How to Kill Your Houseplants

How to kill your houseplant featured image

Want to kill your houseplants? Then you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we will go over the 4 most common ways to kill your houseplants. Just kidding! Let’s go over these
ways to kill your houseplants so we can AVOID them.

I am a self-proclaimed expert in killing houseplants, so you are in luck. The 4 most common ways to kill a houseplant are:

  1. Too much light
  2. Not enough light
  3. Too much water
  4. Not enough water

If you are new to plant parenthood, you are probably familiar with at least one of these ways to kill a plant. So let’s tackle why these things happen and of course, how to prevent them.

anthurium magnificum

Too much light

So you get a new plant, and obviously, plants need light. So clearly it should go right in the brightest spot on your windowsill, right? Not necessarily.

A lot of new plant owners kill their plants with too much light. It’s easy to assume that more light will cause more growth. Or that more light will create a happier plant. But some plants
really don’t need all that direct sunlight. In fact, too much light can be detrimental to certain plants.

If your foliage is brown, crispy, or yellowing, it might be from too much light. Too much direct sunlight can burn your leaves. A good way to tell if your leaves are burnt is to see if they feel “crunchy” or dry. If your leaves are brown and basically crumble apart when you touch them, your plant is getting too much light.

Alternatively, plants like succulents, cactuses, and hoyas love bright light, and they are built for it. Plants with thick or “succulent” leaves can handle that kind of sun intensity and often thrive in it. But plants like philodendrons, pothos, and certain monsteras, not so much. A great way to figure out how much light your plants need is to look at the leaves. If they are thin and not succulent, then they shouldn’t be in direct sunlight.

Pro Tip: Most plants thrive in eastern-facing windows – these tend to have soft morning sunlight and diffused afternoon shade. If you aren’t sure which direction your windows face, try the compass app on your phone! Finding the right light for your plants to thrive is a big first step on your plant owner’s journey. Don’t feel bad if you’ve burnt your fair share of plants, we all have!


Not enough light

Although your new plant would look great in that dark corner of your living room, it likely won’t enjoy living there. More often than not, new plant owners think “low light” plants mean “no
light” plants. If there isn’t a window or a grow light nearby, your plant won’t like it there.

Here is a helpful diagram showing the different types of light you would find in a room:

Tips for plant lighting

As you can see, low light does not mean no light at all! It just means a much more diffused light, or perhaps a touch of light in the morning or afternoon. Furthermore, as you can
see from the diagram, there actually aren’t any plants in the darkest or the brightest spots. So what we can really learn from this is that plants do not like extremes.

Another way to tell that your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight is internodal length. That’s the length between the nodes on your plant. If your plant is getting long or “leggy,” it isn’t
getting enough light.

Remember, even the lowest light-loving plants still need light! After all, they still are living plants.

Alocasia Polly

Too much water

Let’s admit it, some of us are helicopter plant parents, I know I can be. We check on our plants every day, maybe multiple times a day. This habit can often lead to over-caring for your
plant. And the most common form of over-caring with plants is overwatering.

Most plants don’t want their soil to stay moist all the time. More specifically, plants don’t want their roots to stay wet. Think of it like being stuck in a wet pair of shoes. No one wants that.

So what happens when your soil is too wet? Root rot. That’s when the roots of your plants start deteriorating and actually rotting from sitting in water.

If the foliage of your plants starts drooping or decaying, it’s likely because the roots of your plant are unhealthy. If your plant starts rotting, the leaves can actually fall apart and basically turn into slime.

If you are unsure whether your plant has root rot, simply take your plant out of its pot to check. If the roots are brown and mushy, it’s likely root rot!

I’ve lost my fair share of plants to root rot and it certainly is not fun. But it isn’t always a death sentence! A great way to avoid overwatering is to use terracotta pots. Terracotta is a porous material that actually sucks the water out of the potting mix. So it’s a great way to help those of us who tend to water our plants too much.

crispy prayer plant

Not enough water

Some of us tend to forget to water our plants, which is totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Forgetting to water our plants happens to the best of us. But this lack of watering is
one of the many ways we kill our houseplants.

Plants need water to survive. It’s as simple as that. Figuring out a watering routine that works for you is a big part of your plant parenting journey.

If your leaves start to yellow or crisp, your plant might be thirsty. Some plants like pothos, calathea, and peace lillies literally droop when they need water. These are known as the
drama queens of houseplants since they always make it clear when they are unhappy. It’s actually really fun to water these types of plants and watch how the foliage comes back to life.

If you find one of your plants to have bone dry soil, make sure to completely submerge the root ball to rehydrate it. One easy way to help a dehydrated plant is to bottom water it.
That’s when you fill a saucer or dish with water and let the plant soak it up from the bottom. That way, it can take in exactly what it needs and fully re-moisten the roots.

When I first started collecting houseplants, I tried to reserve an hour or two on Sunday morning to care for my plants. I’d dedicate this time to watering everyone and checking leaves
for new growth, damage, or pests.

I think that dedicating a specific time or day every week to your plants is a great way to introduce healthy plant care and even create a sort of mindfulness routine. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we impulse buy and suddenly have a house full of plants. Making the commitment to check on everyone once a week will really help with keeping your plants alive and happy.

Now that you know how to kill your houseplants, you are on your way to becoming an expert on keeping them alive. Remember that learning how to care for your houseplants is a journey. Unfortunately, you won’t become a plant expert overnight, but that’s part of the fun. Over time, you will learn exactly how much water and sunlight to give your plants so they thrive under your care. So, let’s go out and kill some plants! (Just kidding.)

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