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Steps to improve your indoor gardening skills.

Purchase healthy, bug free plants: Be picky.  A houseplant at a garden center should look its very best, not like it's on its last leg.  If you gently squeeze the sides of a plastic pot and the soil appears wet like a sponge, look carefully because you will probably see fungus gnats.  Also, if you gently thump the side of a container, you might see a whitefly cloud rise out of the soil.  Avoid buying these plants and introducing their problems into your home.

Keep a holding room:  When you bring home a new plants, isolate it in a room away from other houseplants for up to a month to make sure it's bug and disease free.

Don't overuse fertilizer:  Provide plant food monthly only during spring and summer, and use a diluted 20-20-20 fertilizer.  Remember: Fertilizer makes plants bigger; to much of it can make plants quickly outgrow their pots.

Upgrade pots judiciously:  Only when a plant's roots have outgrown its pots does it need to be bumped up to a bigger container.  Change pots conservatively because many plants, like succulents and cacti, prefer to be a bit root bound.

Don't underwater, and don't overwater:  Plants only need water when they're dry - unless the plant tag specifies otherwise.  To water, fill the container from the top layer of soil to the brim until water comes out the drainage holes in the bottom.  Wait for about half an hour for the plant to drink what it needs.  Remove excess water from the saucer with a turkey baster.

Rejuvenate tropicals with spa days:  Most houseplants are tropicals and enjoy humidity.  Treat them to a spa day by relocating them - one or two at a time - to a steamy bathroom.

Use flags for plant sitters:  When you go away on vacation, place a flag in the pots of plants that need special attention, such as extra water.  This will let your guest waterer know which plants to keep a careful eye on.

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