Plant Killer, eh? How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive

My friends often ask me, “How in the heck do you keep your houseplants alive?” It’s a fair question as I’ve amassed quite the glamazon over time (70+ plant bbs and counting). It’s time I broke down my five key principles to effective houseplant care:

  • Invest in tough-as-steel indoor house plants
  • Determine specific plant care needs
  • Put scheduled waterings on the dang calendar!
  • Water mindfully (like humans, most house plants don’t want to drown either)
  • Give them plant names
How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive | Best Indoor House Plants | Gardening Tips | Jessica Brigham | Magazine Ready for Life

Do you think you’re up to the task? I’m rooting for you, my budding hoarderculturalist. Everyone romaine calm. Lettuce wet our plants together.

BONUS! There’s a list of excellent indoor house plants to choose from at the tail end of this here post.



Consider your home environment. Ask yourself these few questions before you head out to your local nursery (wildy enough, my favorite spot—the local Home Depot):

Can you dedicate 5–20 minutes to watering, 1–2 times a week?
Time varies on volume.

Do you have a low light or abundance of light situation?

Where will you be placing your new indoor house plant?

And lastly, for chillier climates:
Do you have radiant heat or warm-formed air (very dry) in the winter?

For example, my home has high, indirect sunlight that, in the winter, is a gosh darn desert due to warm-forced air. I water my plant bbs twice a week—with a liiittle extra water to bide the wintertime.

PRO TIP: Overwhelmed already? Start with 1–3 plants and slowly grow your way up the plant totem pole.

How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive | Best Indoor House Plants | Gardening Tips | Jessica Brigham | Magazine Ready for Life


Once you’ve defined your soon-to-be plant habitat (or in my case, a conservatory for 70+ and growing), then you’ll determine what level of plant care you’re prepared to take on.

Does the plant require light or heavy watering?

Does the plant require direct or indirect sunlight?

Does the plant appear to have good drainage?

If you’re on a tight schedule, you’ll want to seek out plants that do not require regular, heavy waterings (like carnivorous plants).

You’ll want to ensure the plant will thrive where it’s placed. Some houseplant leaves will scorch/brown in direct sunlight, such as pilea, majesty palms and fiddle leaf figs. Read your plant care tags carefully.

PRO TIP: If water sits on the surface of the soil for more than a few seconds, cautiously use a butter knife to break up the soil and improve drainage. For larger pots, a long and skinny metal rod will do the trick.

That or repot it; but ain’t nobahdy got time for that.


Don’t know ‘bout you, but if I need something done it’s got to be on the dang calendar. Scheduled waterings will, over time, become a instinctual, plant-lovin’ ritual as opposed to an obligation.

So get it on there. Do it. Water. Love. Repeat.

I water my houseplants every Tuesday and Saturday. Typically, Saturday is the fuller of the two waterings, leaving Tuesday as the supplemental day for my thirstier varieties.

Once you get to know your environment, you’ll be able to nail down the best timeframe. You might lose some plant soldiers along the way, but it’s OK. It’s happened to the best of us.

How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive | Best Indoor House Plants | Gardening Tips | Jessica Brigham | Magazine Ready for Life


The BIGGEST mistake most people make that kills houseplants is overwatering. Most plants are just looking for a good-sized gulp. Excess and standing water leads to root rot.

Listen here, Shirley; your plant bbs are trying to save you time. Less water, less time.

PRO TIP: Whence you purchase said plants, review the plant care tag. Take out a piece of (digital) looseleaf and write down the recommended water dose. Evaluate your plant bbs state on your next scheduled watering day and amend as needed.


The truth is, you gotta love those plant bbs as such: babies. Nurse them. Talk to them. Listen to their needs. Give them plant names. It’s not just gobbledygook, people.

This might sound like balderdash, but according to my original green thumb mentor—my Mother—and some extracurricular reading on the internet, studies have shown talking to your plants helps them thrive. #believer #plantcore

Got bad, plant-eatin’ pets?

Well, then make sure to review this list of 10 Non Toxic Houseplants that Won’t Kill Your Pretty Kitty with a fine-toothed comb.




  • Sago Palm
  • Ruffle Fern
  • Snake Plant (or Mother-in-Law Tongue)
  • Pothos (or Devil’s Ivy)
  • Heart Leaf Philodendron (not to be confused with pothos)
  • Peace Lily
  • Spider Plant
  • Pilea (or Pancake Plant)
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • ZZ Plant
  • Dracaena Massangeana (or Mass Cane)
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Aglaonema


  • Fiddle-leaf Fig
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Monstera (or Swiss Cheese Plant)
  • Dragon Bone Cactus
  • Succulents, varied
  • Air Plants, varied
  • Carnivorous Plants (i.e. California Pitcher Plant)
  • Aloe Vera
  • Elephant’s Ear
  • Yucca
  • Jade Plant
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Majesty Palm
How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive | Best Indoor House Plants | Gardening Tips | Jessica Brigham | Magazine Ready for Life

OK my budding hoarderculturalist,
are you ready to take the leaf?

Tell me your wins. Tell me your woes.
Then share this with your favorite green thumb.

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  1. Mistiaen Seija says:

    Great post! And I do name all my plant babies, it does help! I try to give them names after ‘species’ . For example:
    pepperomia: is called Mia and Romy (I got two)
    Fittonia: Tony and Tonya
    Ficus: (So)Fie
    two spiderplants: Anansi (African spider god) and Peter Parker (duh)
    two eucalyptus plants: Jack and Joey (they are from Australia)
    garlic plant: Gary
    rosemary: Rosy
    an ivy plant called Phil (chlorofyl)
    and 3 mother in law tongues called ‘the ladies’

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