Basic Plant Care: Keep those indoor plants alive and thriving

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Everybody has, unfortunately, managed to kill those “unkillable plants”. From a generic cactus to a monstera deliciosa, plant care can seem daunting and overly complex, but it really doesn’t have to be.

With spring just around the corner, many plants are in their prime which makes it the perfect time to hone that green thumb. We will look at the dos and don’ts of plant care and decipher what your plants need to thrive.

It’s widely known that plants utilise carbon dioxide to produce oxygen, which makes having them indoors better for your physical and respiratory health. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that: ‘3.8 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution.’ Having doors and windows open benefit air circulation and purification but that isn’t always an accessible option for many people. This actively demonstrates that having an indoor plant not only improves the look of your household, but also the air purity.

Although there have been many claims that indoor plants are beneficial for psychological well-being, it’s difficult to record this data. Therefore, there is no scientific proof that indoor plants cause any benefit psychologically. Instead, Tina Bringslimark and her team from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences claim: ‘benefits are contingent on features of the context in which the indoor plants are encountered and on characteristics of the people encountering them.’ Bringslimark explains that there are no detrimental issues caused by having indoor plants, but they may improve psychological well-being, amongst other wellbeing practices.

Now that you’ve got an understanding of why indoor plants are a great idea, let’s talk about how to keep them alive.

Basics of Plant Terminology

When you purchase a new plant, they almost always come with a tag that illustrates their care needs. Once you learn to decode this tag, you’ll have a better understanding of what your plant needs.

Sun Symbol

Sun Symbol: Full Sun | Half Sun | Blacked Out Sun

The sun symbol depicts the amount of sunlight your plant can handle. The sun icon is usually one of three: Full Sun, Half Sun or Blacked Out Sun.

Full Sun means full direct sunlight with no barrier between your plant’s green leaves and the sun. This could mean on a windowsill or next to a window door. Be sure that your plant’s leaves do not burn or scorch in the sun and rotate them often. Plants that love the sun are succulents, monsteras, and palms.

Half Sun means partial or indirect sunlight, and this is the most common for house plants. This means out of direct sunlight, such as a windowsill, but still in a well-lit area. These can be placed on tables next to windows, bright corners or near mirrors that may reflect the sun. House plants that love indirect sunlight are spider plants, calatheas, and ferns.

Blacked Out Sun means your plants can survive in full shade, although this is uncommon, it’s always best to be aware. Full shade plants can be placed in rooms lacking natural light or far away from windows. Examples of shade plants are snake plants, ZZ plants, and ficuses.

TOP TIP FOR PLACEMENT: Keep any/all plants away from cold draughty places and away from overly hot places like radiators. Just because cactuses come from the desert does not mean they can survive your central heating.

Rain Drop Symbol

Rain Drop Symbol: One Drop | Two Drops | Three Drops

Once again, this image may seem self-explanatory but over/underwatering is the most common cause of death in indoor plants. The number of raindrops indicates how much water your plant needs, rather than how often you should water your plants. Depending on the size, type of plant and temperature, your plant’s thirst will vary. A great indicator of when to water your plant is to poke your finger about 1cm into the soil of your plant, if it comes out clean and dry then your plant is thirsty. If it comes out sopping wet, you’ve watered too much.

One Raindrop indicates minimal water. These plants prefer to dry out before being watered again. So, if your soil feels a little damp, leave it for a few more days and check again.

Two Raindrops mean normal watering and this is the most common for indoor plants. You should water your plant when your finger comes out of the soil with a couple of specks of moist dirt on it.

Three Raindrops mean your plant loves to drink. Your soil should be moderately damp to the touch and your finger should come out with dirt on it.

TOP TIP FOR WATERING: If you find it hard to remember how much water each plant needs, try bottom watering. Place 2-3 inches of water into a basin and pop your plant in (make sure its pot has holes in the bottom) and leave for 10-15 minutes. Your plant will instinctively soak up as much water as it needs.

When to Repot

When purchasing a plant, more often than not, it will have come from a mass-producing nursery. Although these plants have survived this far, they will need extra care when you take them home. We recommend repotting your plant as soon as you get it home, with fresh clean soil and give them a large drink of water. You can use the same pot you purchased your plant in but as it grows, so do it’s roots. Every 6-12 months check the plant has not become rootbound to the pot and move it up to a pot slightly larger. Your plant will thank you.

ZZ Plant | Calathea | Monstera Deliciosa


  • Make your watering regular and predictable, for example, always do it on a Saturday morning to start your day (and your plant’s day) off right. This way you’ll get a small positive boost for caring for your plants.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new and interesting, such as tropical plants or succulents. They are beautiful to look at and often easy to care for because of their natural domestic climates.
  • Rotate your plants once a month. Most plants will slowly lean towards the direction of sunlight, so to get even and strong growth, rotate their pots.
  • If you would prefer not to bottom water your plants, make sure their pot has drainage holes. That way, if you do happen to overwater them, they can expel the water they do not need.
  • If you’re ever unsure of your plant’s needs, or you’ve misplaced the plant tag, there is a plethora of useful and concise information online. Simply google your plant (or a short description of your plant, if you can’t remember the name) and all of the information you could need will be there.

Finally, it’s completely normal to feel deflated if you’re doing everything correctly and your plant doesn’t seem to want to thrive. But don’t be disheartened, there could be a number of uncontrollable factors that have caused your plant to die. Try again and enjoy your home filled with greenery!

Ready to get started? You can browse plants at these Manchester based plant shops.

Glass House – 74 Princess St, Manchester M1 6JD

Northern Flower –  58 Tib St, Greater, Manchester M4 1LG

Flourish Manchester – 8A Tib St, Manchester M4 1PQ

About the author / 

Sara Fisher

Sara | Manchester | Third Year English Student | Lifestyle Editor

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