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12 reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants: How to keep indoor plants alive

12 reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants: How to keep indoor plants alive
The guys at Haus of Cruze take the approach more is more when it comes to plants. See the full home tour

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve killed more than one or two indoor plants in your time. Don’t worry, no judgement here… we’ve killed just about every plant under the sun — even cactus plants that are apparently ‘so easy’. But it turns out there are only a dozen reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants!

Let’s run through the list of the top reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants and what you can do about it. The good news is, many come from a place of too much love!

Related article: What is the best soil for indoor plants? I share my houseplant potting mix
Related article: DIY plant trellis: Create your own stylish plant trellis in just 4 simple steps!

1. Overwatering your plants

By far, the biggest culprit is giving your plants too much water.

Many indoor plants only need to be watered once every week or two — and in winter even less frequently — but because we’re trying so hard to keep our plants alive, we can often drown them.

The soil should be dry to touch before watering again. If in doubt, stick your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If it’s still damp, don’t water! Or for a more precise method, you can buy these soil meters from the hardware store or nursery.

Also, it’s better to water in the morning than at night.

Stop overwatering your plants

2. Too much sunlight

Indoor plants are called that for a reason, they should be indoors and not in direct sunlight.

So if you’ve positioned a plant right next to a north-facing window that gets loads of direct sunlight each day and you’re starting to notice dried brown leaves all over your plant — it’s not thirsty, it’s overcooked so find a better home for it.

If your plant has reached a critical point where most of the leaves are gone, consider giving it some time out in your shower for a while. The diffused light in your bathroom, as well as the more moist environment could just rescue it.

3. Poor drainage

Excess water needs to be able to drain away from the plant, otherwise it can cause the roots to rot and before you know it, your plant is goneskies!

Ideally you want to keep your plant in one of the plastic pots you purchased it in from the nursery (you know, with at least 4 big holes at the bottom) and place it in your stylish vessel.

But, if you really want to pot it directly into the vessel, make sure you put at least 2cm of pebbles or rocks at the bottom to provide good drainage.

Reasons why you're killing your indoor plants
Too much water is one of the top reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants

4. Pot too large or too small

Your plant needs to be comfortable so if you keep it in the same pot for too long, it could outgrow the environment.

If roots have grown out through the holes at the bottom, it’s a sign it needs a bigger pot. But, don’t suddenly jump to a much larger size or your plant might die from shock — just a bit bigger is ideal.

5. Wrong soil

Indoor plants like to be potted in soil as similar to their natural environment.

Some like a more sandy base whereas others prefer almost mulch-like soil. Check the preferences of your plant variety — your local nursery should be able to help or you could always refer to Dr. Google.

You can find our recipe for the best all-round indoor plant potting mix here. It offers both water retention and aeration for them to grow and thrive. Or for a more tailored potting mix suited to your plant variety, check out Planthood batch made potting mixes.

Best indoor plant soil mix

6. Moving your plant around too much

Once you find your plant a happy home, leave it there!

We love redecorating as much (probably more!) than the next person but indoor plants can go into shock if they are treated like decor that’s moved from room to room.

7. No friends

Who likes to be a loner?! No one, including your plants!

If your plant is quite literally looking ‘sad’, try placing a few other indoor plants close by. Not only does this create a beautiful urban jungle vibe, it could just give your plant the pep up it needs to keep going.

Plant family reasons why you're killing your indoor plants
Happy plant family in the home of Haus of Cruze

8. Lack of good ‘food’

Indoor plants get their nutrients from soil so it’s important to give the soil a boost at least once a year with quality fertiliser.

Not all fertilisers are the same so check with your nursery on what variety your plant would like best, for example orchids require different fertiliser to ferns — and remember not to over-fertilise!

9. Creepy crawlies

Noticing some weird bugs on your plant or in the soil? Don’t ignore them or they could take over!

Seaweed mulch or spray can help to treat many common bugs. The first step though is to identify what type of insect is attacking your plant and then look for a natural remedy to treat it.

Orchid in bathroom reasons why you're killing your indoor plants

10. Not removing old growth

Many indoor plants, such as succulents, will sprout flowers that then die off and need to be removed. This is sometimes referred to as ‘pinching.’ All you need to do is remove the entire flower from the stem. By removing these dead flowers, you will encourage new growth.

It’s also important to remove dead leaves or branches to again encourage new life.

11. Positioned under a heating vent or too close to a heater

Another poor position for indoor plants is too close to your heater or directly under a vent.

It sounds obvious but the extreme temperature from your heater can kill your plant. Most plants like a similar temperature to us so look for a place where it can enjoy ‘room temperature’.

12. Allowing dust to build up on leaves

And finally, it’s important to prevent dust or dirt from building up on the leaves. Dust and dirt inhibits your plant’s ability to turn sunlight into energy.

Use a very lightly damp cloth to wipe leaves clean once every few months. For plants with small leaves, try using a water spray to mist the plant occasionally.

So there you have the top 12 reasons why you’re killing your indoor plants! Hopefully this advice will help you keep your little green friends alive just that bit longer 🙂

Do you have any other tips on caring for indoor plants? What mistakes have you made with your indoor plants? Please share them in the comments below!

Check out more plant-related articles here

Keeping plants alive in winter
Clean plant leaves with a damp cloth. Or use neem oil for added shine and protection against bugs

This article was first published in August 2017 and continues to be updated with the latest information and images.


  1. As someone who can kill any plant given to me THANK YOU for these tips that might just help me keep the next one alive. Maybe? 😉


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