Here's how to keep those fickle creatures alive. 

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated July 24, 2019
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Sometimes, even if you stick to the most carefully planned plant-watering routine, your temperamental house plants simply refuse to survive. As it turns out, there's more to caring for house plants than setting them in a sunny window and giving them a little water every week. Simple things like misting your fern or fertilizing your ficus can be the difference between a plant thriving and dying. To give your fickle house plant the best shot at being happy in your home, first make sure you're covering your bases: give it the right amount of sun and make sure you're watering it properly. From there, keep in mind the plant care tips below that go way beyond watering.

Mist Your Plants

You've probably seen the fancy plant misters at the local nursery and wondered: Do I really need that? No matter if you splurge on a stylish mister or stick to a basic plastic spray bottle, many house plants are happier when they're misted. Particularly during the winter months or if you live in an area with low humidity, misting your plants works to boost the humidity in the air. While most house plants except for those with fuzzy leaves (such as African violets) benefit from misting, some plants, such as ferns and philodendrons, really thrive in the humidity misting provides.

Remove Dead Leaves

Removing dead leaves from a plant doesn't just make the plant look better, but it can actually encourage new growth and fresh blooms. Just be careful when removing the spent parts of the plant—and if the leaf doesn't fall off with a gentle tug, use a pair of scissors to snip off the leaf to avoid tearing the healthy stem of the plant.

Fertilize Your House Plants

As plants extract nutrients from the soil, fertilizer helps replenish these necessary nutrients. As a general rule, house plants should only be fertilized when they're actively growing, typically between March and September (many house plants go dormant during the winter). To start, dilute the fertilizer and use only one-fourth the amount recommended on the label. For the best growth, fertilize your house plants every one to three months.

Dust Your Plants

Besides helping your fiddle leaf fig tree's leaves look fresh and glossy, dusting your plant can actually help it get more sunlight, while removing any pests at the same time. To prevent accidentally tearing the leaves, support the underside of each leaf as you use a soft wet cloth to wipe away dust.

Check for Pests

If your formerly-healthy house plant suddenly looks like it's on its last legs, it could have an infestation. When you dust your house plants, take a quick glance at the top and bottom of the leaves, checking for bugs like aphids. If your plant is dealing with an infestation, spraying it with an insecticidal soap from your local nursery can help.