Here's how to get your houseplants off to the right start.

By Katie Holdefehr
July 28, 2020
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Introducing a new houseplant (or 10) to your home is an exciting moment full of hope and possibility. When most of us are at the nursery or plant store picking out a new rubber tree plant and contemplating leafy parlor palms, we're thinking about how great they will look in our living rooms—and promising ourselves that we won't let them meet the same fate as that neglected fiddle leaf fig. The problem: there are a few things to keep in mind before buying a new plant. A little research before and during your plant-shopping excursion could save you from the disappointment of losing (yet another!) fern three weeks from now. Here are five things to keep in mind, from sunlight, to humidity, to potting soil, when welcoming home new plant babies.

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Your Pets and Children

One factor that's easy to forget when plant shopping is how the new plant will get along with your pets and kids. Fortunately, there's an easy way to check if plants are poisonous to dogs or cats: just search the ASPCA's extensive database. Depending upon the toxicity of the plant, even a nibble on a leaf can make your pet sick. Play it safe by checking each plant on the database before bringing it home. 

If you have young kids at home, carefully consider plant placement. You might want to avoid a large, floor-standing plant—which might tempt your toddler to dig through the potting soil—but opt instead for trailing ivy that can be set on top of your kitchen cabinets. 

Philodendron plant in pot
Credit: Jon Shireman / The Sill

The Sunlight Each Room Gets

Before you start shopping, think about where the plant might live. If you have a sunny living room or a low-light bathroom, let the amount of sunlight in each area guide your plant picks. If you have a shady spot that could use a little greenery, check out some of our favorite low-light houseplants, like the philodendron ($14, 

The Humidity in Your Home

Depending upon where you live, your home's heating system, and whether you keep a humidifier running 24/7, homes can have very different humidity levels. Keep this in mind when choosing houseplants. Tropical plants, like monstera, love some moisture in the air, while jade, a type of succulent, can tolerate dry air. 

If you have your heart set on a certain variety that doesn't match your home's humidity level, misting the plant often or investing in a humidifier or dehumidifier can help. 

RELATED: 7 Humidity-Loving Plants That Will Thrive in Your Bathroom

Your Commitment Level

Consider your schedule. If you barely have time to tackle your to-do list now, do yourself a favor and stick with easy-to-care-for houseplants. A low-maintenance snake plant will survive even if you forget to water it on occasion, plus it's bug-resistant. 

Woman repotting house plant in pot
Credit: Getty Images

Potting Soil (and Drainage)

Investing in high-quality potting soil is perhaps even more important for thriving indoor plants, since they won't be able to absorb nutrients from the surrounding dirt like outdoor plants can. Most standard potting mixes are a blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite (these last two help aerate the soil and slow down the flow of water). Especially if you're starting with a potting mix without fertilizer, you'll want to begin a routine of fertilizing your houseplants (check the care label for how often). 

While you're repotting your new houseplant, make sure it has adequate drainage. Look for a pot with a drainage hole, and place a saucer underneath to protect your furniture. Alternatively, a layer of rocks or pebbles on the bottom of a pot can help elevate the roots above any standing water, helping to prevent root rot.