Somehow, I manage to kill every single houseplant I purchase. They all look healthy for the first month or so, and they slowly begin to deteriorate. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong, and I always have high hopes that the next plant I bring home will make it. It appears I’ve got it all backwards, and I’m not the only one! Here are 4 tips on how to keep houseplants alive:

1. Watering – we tend to either overwater or underwater our plants. The best way to check if your plant needs water is to stick your finger a couple of centimeters into the soil. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. If you feel moisture, you’re okay for a couple more days. After a few weeks, you’ll get a feel of how often your plants need to be watered and begin to follow a schedule. When you water, make sure you saturate the soil – about 1/10 of the water you pour into the pot should be coming out of the bottom. It’s great to have a saucer to catch the water under the pot, but make sure you remove it after an hour or so as it can cause the soil to mold (this has happened to me, and believe me, it’s gross).

2. Light – the amount of light a plant gets can be a deal breaker. Before buying a plant, make note of how much light the plant requires. Full sun usually means the plant should be placed in a south or west facing window (for those of us that live in the North Hemisphere). For plants that require partial sun or shade, a northern or eastern facing window is best. One thing to keep in mind – if you have to move your plant into a new environment (a new room with significantly less/more light), the plant needs time to acclimate so make sure the changes are gradual.

3. Drainage – even if your pot has holes on the bottom, it may not be enough for your plant. It’s a good rule of thumb to place rocks or drainage material at the bottom of the pot so that the roots don’t rot.

4. Deadheading – remove dead leaves or faded blooms, it gives the plant an opportunity to produce new flowers.