Plants, like children, have their own particular needs. That said, most can be kept alive easily enough with the right combination of food, water, and a modicum of parental attention

Plant Parenthood 101: The Five Basic Tenets of Caring for Your Plant Babies

Decide If You’re Ready to Be a Plant Parent

If you are a homebody who has ample time for doting on your plant babies, the sky’s the limit. But if you travel frequently or live in a place that doesn’t get much light, you’ll have to narrow your choices or face disappointment. 

Provide a Comfortable Environment

Creative Commons photo by Nico Nelson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Many of the most common houseplants are native to the tropics—this is why they’re able to survive in your home. Think about it: You’re an herbaceous plant growing under all these giant fig and palm trees, where the light is mostly dappled and changes in intensity throughout the day. It stays pretty much the same temperature all year long, and moisture is pretty steady. If you can reproduce a tropical environment indoors, you’ve already got the care basics down for the majority of houseplant species. 

Plants Will Show You When They’re Unhappy

They won’t throw tantrums or start dabbling in risky behavior, but they have their own cries for help. Wilting, drooping, dropping leaves, turning brown or yellow; these are a plant’s way of showing you that they need a little special care—just pay attention. 

Give Them Space

Potted Herbs

Courtesy of Food52

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A little air movement around their leaves is never a bad idea (and will help minimize the spread of bugs, should they appear), but more importantly, plants need room for their roots. Repot plants into fresh soil every year or two, into a pot that’s just an inch or two bigger in diameter than the previous pot.  

They Are Who They Are

You can’t force a desert cactus to love a damp, dark bathroom, but you can certainly grow a tropical cactus that does. Gauge your expectations and allow plants to be themselves, and only then can they truly thrive.