Why do your house plants keep dying?

If you clicked on this article chances are a plant (or few) has died in your care.

You love them dearly – especially how they look in that scandi pot on your windowsill – but you can’t seem to give your house plants what they need to survive.

Whether you’re neglectful or overbearing, it always ends the same way – with you sweeping up black leaves and making a promise to NEVER buy another indoor plant.

Lyndall Keating from Garden Society shows us how you can turn your black thumb green and keep your indoor plants alive.

The right plant selection

If you choose the right plants for indoors then you won’t experience a lot of the issues that people often complain about when tending indoor plants, Keating says.

On trend, hardy and low maintenance indoor plants include fiddle leaf fig, the rubber plant, creeping epiphyllum, dracaena and mother-in-law’s tongue.

Not all plants were meant to be brought indoors.

Related8 low-maintenance indoor plants you will love


Many of the plants we refer to as indoor plants, including the popular Swiss cheese and jungle cactus plant, were originally semi-shaded or under canopy plants that we have brought inside to decorate our homes.

“There is no such thing as an indoor plant in Mother Nature,” Keating says.

“They don’t require a full position under the sun, which is why they can survive indoors.”

Keating says low light or filtered sun environments are best and suggests a position that is well-drafted for air flow with bright, filtered light – tabletop planters and bathrooms that are airy.

Some indoor plants, such as the crown of thorns or aloe plants, require more sun and will thrive next to a window in direct sunlight.

Certain plants can do well in a well-ventilated bathroom.

Water – too much

“The biggest killer of indoor plants is too much love or overwatering so the key component is drainage,” Keating says.

“I would suggest that even if your indoor pot plants sit on a saucer, remove them from the saucer and water them in the kitchen sink until they drain thoroughly. This will help prevent overwatering and underwatering. Do this once a week on the plants I have mentioned (see above) and I guarantee you won’t kill your indoor plants.”

Succulents and cactus plants actually prefer dry soil so overwatering will harm them – once a week is more than enough.

Water – too little

Like all living things, plants require water to survive. Some indoor plants will be able to survive for 10 days without water, some will last up to two weeks.

Every plant is different so you really need to check the labeling of your plant or ask the expert at your plant shop to tell you how often you should be watering each plant. Then you need to be diligent about following the instructions.

“Set yourself reminders if you think you can’t remember,” Keating says.

“A plant does let you know when it is thirsty and it will wilt its leaves, so look for signs of yellow or wilted leaves. That’s the plant talking to you saying it’s thirsty.”

Also, remember to adjust your watering schedule to the season. Heaters in winter can dry out your indoor plants, as can the sun and air-conditioners in summer.

Parlour palms will stay compact and neat – perfect for a mini garden. Picture: Getty

Taking plants outside

Because many indoor plants are under canopy plants that prefer shade, taking them outside can actually get them sunburnt.

“If you think your plant needs a little boost make sure it’s in a shaded position and you will avoid that browning that will occur when placed directly in the sun,” Keating says.


Plants need to be fertilized, as well as hydrated, to stay alive.

“It’s very important to fertilize your indoor plants,” Keating says.

“That can be done with a liquid fertilizer in spring or summer or a slow release granular fertilizer which will give them a longer protection all year round.”

Osmocote is an example of a slow release fertilizer – “a little handful in each plant and it will break down over three months to continually feed your plant”.

RelatedThese are three of the best easy-care miniature plants


Plants need clean leaves to filter the air so it’s important to dust the leaves on your plant.

You can do this with an old rag, duster or leaf shine product.

“Think of it (dust build-up on plants) as their pores getting clogged,” Keating says.

Devil’s ivy

Giving up

The final piece of advice is to not give up on your indoor plants.

“Don’t be discouraged by a little bit of yellowing or spotting on the leaf – a plant is a living being that is hardy and can be brought back with the right TLC, fertilizer or watering,” Keating says.

Originally published as Why do your house plants keep dying? by Alice Bradley. Author at realestate.com.au.