Houseplant Tips That Will Help Your Houseplants Thrive

by | Sep 25, 2019 | 7 comments

I made a video today which you can watch over on YouTube or Instagram. I give you three houseplants tips that will help your houseplants thrive, especially as we enter the shorter days of fall and winter. Here’s what I covered.

#1 Drainage

The first thing that I want to talk about is so-called “drainage material”. Many people believe that drainage material in the bottom of a pot is necessary. Yet, it is not. Putting gravel in the bottom of a pot is not helpful and has been proven that it may actually be detrimental to the plant. Water does not drain easily from the potting mix to the gravel below, resulting in a too wet potting medium above the gravel. Pot shards have also been used in the past for drainage,  covering the hole to keep the soil in, but let the water out. Also unnecessary. If the curved part of the pot isn’t the part covering the hole, it may obstruct the drainage. So what is the answer?

Gravel used for drainage

Gravel used for drainage, though not necessary


Pot shards and screening

Screen AND a drainage hole

I simply put a piece of screen over the drainage hole, which allows the water to escape and the potting medium to stay in. That all being said, the most important thing is to make sure there IS a drainage hole in your pot. If I have a pot that doesn’t have a hole, then I get out my diamond-tipped drill bit and drill a hole. If you don’t want to drill a hole, I suggest you use the pot as a cachepot, leaving the plant in the utilitarian nursery pot, taking it out to water and drain, and then putting it back in the pot with no hole.

#2 Humidity

Humidity is the next thing we will talk about and how to elevate it around your tropical, humidity loving, plants. Many people reach for a mister, but unless you are doing it constantly, it really isn’t doing a whole lot for your plant. If you like to mist your plants and it is comforting, go ahead and continue that. There is a better way to help your plants. Use a pebble tray. What is that? It is simply a larger saucer than the one your plant is sitting on, filled with pebbles and water. Place your plant on the tray in its smaller drip-catching saucer, and the evaporating water from the pebbles will rise up and keep your plant humid. Keep the pebble tray filled with water.

fern on a pebble tray

Fern on a pebble tray

Another small item to help with the humidity is a heat deflector. How does it help? By directing the air from the heat vent across the floor instead of it blowing up directly on your plants, it keeps the dry air away from your plants.

#3 Up-Potting and Re-Potting

The third tip is about up-potting and re-potting. There is a difference. At this time of year, we are normally ONLY re-potting. We’ve bought a new plant and would like it in a different pot, but it doesn’t need a bigger pot, so we just RE_pot it into a decorative, same sized pot. IF though, your plant looks like the one below when you get it out of the pot, then you could UP-pot it at this time of year. When up-potting a plant, only move up to the next size pot. When the days get shorter, the plant’s growth slows and so does its uptake of water, so if you were to up-pot a plant now or use a too-large pot, it may not be able to use all the water in the excess potting medium. Dead plant.

Rootbound plant

This ZZ plant is terribly root bound and needs to be UP-POTTED

Below is an example of a plant just being taken out of its utilitarian nursery pot and being re-potted into a decorative pot of the same size.

If you aren’t sure if your plant needs up-potted at this time, wait until spring.

I hope discussing these three aspects of plant care helped you become a better plant parent. Lose the gravel, the mister, and go out and pick a nice, correct size pot for your plants. Most importantly, make sure you have plenty of green friends around you to help get through the long days of winter.

Remember, if you do these things I’ve said not to do, and it works for you, by all means, keep doing them. Whatever works for you and your plants is always the way to go. But if things weren’t going well, and you were doing these things, I hope this helps! Happy plant parenting!

Note: There are affliate links in this post. If you purchase a deflector, a few cents will come my way. Thanks!

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  1. Marie

    Before reading your blog yesterday on these topics I brought up a mister for 2 fern plants that I felt needed this, but will try the pebble tray! Pilea is one of many new plants I have bought.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Try the pebble tray and if you like to still mist your plants, go for it!

  2. Shari Harniss

    I also put a used dryer sheet in the bottom of the pot to cover the drainage hole. Works like a charm.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Shari. I hadn’t thought of using a dryer sheet. You’ve never had a problem with the scent hurting your plant. I know that the sheet is used so most of the scent is gone, but wondered if your plants have ever suffered ill effects?

      • Shari Harniss

        I haven’t noticed any ill effects.

    • Sharon

      I use a basket-type coffee filter in the bottom of my pots. Water can drain through but soil can’t.

      • Lisa Steinkopf

        Hi Sharon. That’s a great idea! Thanks!


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