5 Trouble-Shooting Tips to Keep Your Houseplant Alive

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iStock

Maybe you’ve heard that houseplants can help improve indoor air quality. Perhaps you’ve read that looking at plants can help you focus. Or maybe you just really like how that ficus looks in your living room. But buying a plant and keeping it alive are two different things, and the answer to your botanical woes isn’t always “don't forget to water it.” Here are five green-thumb tips to make sure your plant stays as leafy green as it was the day you bought it.

1. Don't overwater your houseplant.

You don’t want to neglect your plant, but it’s easy to go overboard with the watering can, and that can be just as harmful as forgetting to water your plant for weeks. A watering schedule can help you keep track of whether or not your plants need attention, but you shouldn’t water just because it’s Sunday and that’s when you usually do it. Before you go to water your plant baby, make sure it actually needs it.

Your plant’s water needs will vary based on the type of plant, its location, how old it is, and plenty of other factors, but there are a few rules of thumb that can put you on the right track. Lift the pot. If it’s heavy, that means that the soil is full of water. If it’s light, it’s dry. Dig a finger into the soil around its roots, making sure to feel beneath the surface. Still damp? Hold off. Dry? Grab the H2O.

If you really struggle to strike the right balance between too much and too little water, consider a smart plant system. And regardless of how often you water, make sure to use a pot with good drainage to prevent root rot.

2. Watch the temperature of the room your houseplant is in.

Be aware of where your plant is situated in the room, and whether there might be any temperature extremes there. Is your fern sitting right above the radiator? Is your peony subject to a cold draft? Is your rosemary plant stuck leaning against a window during a snowstorm?

As a rule, most houseplants can handle temperatures between 58°F and 86°F, according to a bulletin from the University of Georgia. The ideal range is between 70°F and 80°F during the day, and between 65°F and 70°F at night. Below 50°F, sensitive plants can suffer damage to their leaves. However, as with most plant advice, it depends on the species—tropical plants usually do well in higher temperatures, and some other plants are happier in colder rooms.

If your sad-looking plant is sitting in the middle of a cold draft or right next to the heater, consider moving it to a different spot, or at least a few inches away. If it’s near the window, you can also draft-proof the window.

3. Maintain humidity for your houseplant.

Be mindful of the kind of ecosystem that your plant comes from, and know that keeping it happy means more than just finding the right amount of sun. A tropical plant like an orchid won’t thrive in dry desert air. According to the Biology Department at Kenyon College in Ohio, a dried-out plant will look faded and wilting. You can immerse it in water to help it bounce back quickly. (Warning, though: A plant that’s getting too much moisture can look that way, too.)

If your home gets dry—say, when you have the heater on full blast in the winter or the AC on constantly during the summer—you’ll need to find a way to keep your plant refreshed. Your can buy a humidifier, or create a humidity tray by placing the pot on a tray of pebbles soaked in water. The plant will soak up the humidity as the water under the pebbles evaporates. You can also get a spray bottle and mist your tropical plants periodically with water. (But don't mist your fuzzy-leafed plants.)

Not sure how humid your house is? You can get a humidity gauge (known as a hydrometer) for less than $10 on Amazon.

4. Look out for bugs on your house plant.

Even if you do all of the above correctly, you can still struggle to keep a plant healthy due to infestations. Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, which will leave brown or yellow spots on leaves or make the plant’s color dull. If you discover these tiny mites (you may need to use a magnifying glass), wash your plant immediately with water to knock off as many mites as possible. Wash the plant with an insecticidal soap, too, but make sure the label says it’s effective for mites.

5. Repot your houseplant.

Healthy plants often outgrow their homes. if you notice that there are roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot, or that water sits on the surface of the soil for a long time before draining down, or that your plant’s roots are coming up out of the soil, it’s time to upgrade to a bigger pot. Signs of a “root bound” plant whose root system is too big for its container can also include wilting, yellowed leaves, and stunted plant growth.

No matter what the size of your plant, it’s good to repot it once in a while, since the nutrients in the soil deplete over time. Repotting creates a fresh nutritional start and can help perk up unhappy plants.

If your plant looks unhealthy and you're still stumped, try consulting the website of a university horticulture department for other signs of plant distress and potential solutions.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Surprising Uses for Coffee That Don’t Involve Drinking It

Coffee is not a one-trick pony.
Coffee is not a one-trick pony.
RyanJLane/iStock via Getty Images

For the people who manage to make it through each day without tossing back cup after cup of Mother Nature’s deliciously bitter bean water, coffee might seem totally useless. And even if you do run on java, you may not realize how useful those leftover grounds can be. From fertilizing your garden to making boxed brownies taste homemade, here are 10 ways to make the most of coffee without drinking a drop.

1. Fix furniture scuffs and scratches.

You can claim the scuffs are what give your coffee table its character, but would you say the same if you knew how easy it was to get rid of them? This DIY stain from PopSugar calls for your leftover coffee grounds, 1/4 cup of warm water, and 1/4 cup of vinegar; shake the mixture, let it sit for at least an hour, and then rub it into furniture blemishes with a rag (you may need to apply a few layers for darker shades of wood).

2. Make an air freshener for just about anywhere.

Funnel some dried coffee grounds into an old pair of pantyhose and tie it off at the top for a simple air freshener that will neutralize funky smells in your fridge, car, gym bag, or any other place that has you wrinkling your nose.

3. Eliminate lingering odors on your hands.

hand scrub with coffee grounds
Soft, stench-free hands, courtesy of coffee.
iprogressman/iStock via Getty Images

The natural deodorizing property of coffee can help when you want to get a stubborn stench off your hands, too. Mix a pinch of coffee grounds into your soap and scrub until your fingers no longer smell like onions, garlic, or whatever else you’ve been chopping.

4. Exfoliate your face.

Finely ground coffee is gentle enough to use as a facial exfoliant, and it’s also packed with antioxidants that are great for your skin. This recipe from Nyakio Grieco, founder of the skincare line Nyakio Beauty, is a mixture of coffee grounds, brown sugar, avocado oil, and coconut oil, with additional options to modify it based on your skin type.

5. Fertilize your garden.

coffee grounds as plant fertilizer
Plants run on coffee, too.
MonthiraYodtiwong/iStock via Getty Images

According to Healthline, coffee grounds release nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals that stimulate plant growth—and they also repel insects that might damage those plants. You can sprinkle coffee grounds directly on the soil, or you can add them to your compost and work it into your garden once everything’s decomposed.

6. Clean your fireplace.

Cleaning out your fireplace can fill the air with ash, making it a pretty miserable task even for people without respiratory issues. Sprinkling a thin layer of coffee grounds on top first will prevent the ash from rising when you sweep it up.

7. Enrich your baked goods.

Coffee-flavored cakes, muffins, and other desserts are delicious to anyone who loves a good cup of Joe, but coffee can also take certain baked goods to the next level without making them taste like moist, fluffy espresso beans. According to Lifehacker, this works best for chocolate desserts like brownies and cakes, especially if you’re using a box mix. Just substitute brewed coffee for whatever amount of water the recipe calls for; the coffee will add richness and complexity to the chocolate flavor, and your guests will think you made the dessert from scratch.

8. Fill a homemade pincushion.

cupcake pincushion
Let's put a pin in it.
anskuw/iStock via Getty Images

Filling your homemade pincushion with dried coffee grounds will keep all your pins in one place and make your sewing box smell delightful. Here are step-by-step instructions to create your own from the Queen Bean Coffee Company blog.

9. Enhance your fish bait.

There’s not much scientific evidence that coffee does indeed attract more fish, but plenty of seasoned fishers vouch for its efficacy—there are even coffee-scented bait products on the market. Gone Outdoors recommends letting worms wriggle around in coffee grounds for a while before putting them on the hook.

10. Dye some fabric.

You’re one large pot of coffee away from nailing the natural prairie look. Dyeing your clothes fifty shades of tan really just entails soaking them in brewed coffee for varying lengths of time, but these additional tips from The Spruce Crafts can help you get your desired results. (Even if you’re not interested in revolutionizing your wardrobe, using coffee as dye can come in handy if you need to dirty an item for a Halloween costume or upcycle an already-stained kitchen towel.)