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Caring for Houseplants - Houseplants - University of Illinois Extension

Caring for Houseplants


Container Size

The right pot size is important. Do not over-pot by placing a small plant into a large pot, because the soil will remain too wet for too long. Poor growth or root rot may result. Instead, move up one pot size. This means selecting a container that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter.

Container Drainage

When choosing containers, make sure there is adequate drainage. Containers with drainage holes are the best for most plants. Plants grown in pots without drainage holes pose a greater risk of developing root rot and other disorders associated with poorly drained or waterlogged soil.

Potting Mixes

When re-potting a houseplant, use disease and pest free potting mixes. Houseplants will perform best in a sterilized mix that provides good drainage. Many choices are available. Generally, a mixture of 1/3 soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite works well for most houseplants. Some plants require a very specific soil type and should be matched accordingly.

Soil-less Mixtures

These mixes contain organic materials, such as peat moss and perlite and ground bark, but no soil. Since there is very little nutritional value in these mixes, proper fertilizing is important.

Garden Soil

Using soil from your garden is not recommended, unless it has been sterilized and also amended with peat moss, perlite or vermiculite to improve the drainage. Garden soil alone will not provide adequate drainage in a pot. Also, it harbors disease and insect organisms.

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