10 House Plant Myths That Make My Eye Twitch

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I would insert that gif of Louise Belcher (she has the best eye twitch IMO) but it’ll tank my site speed, so you’ll just have to imagine it. If you have no idea who Louise Belcher is, quickly go and get caught up (there’s fewer than 300 episodes), and we’ll wait.

SO there’s a surprising amount of contradicting advice when it comes to house plant care. A lot is caused by *slight* misinformation that just kept getting repeated, and being added onto, but a similar amount isn’t bad advice per see, it’s just not universally applicable, and can, in inexperienced hands, cause issues.

Misting –/– Humidity

I’m not saying that misting is necessarily bad for your plants. Plenty of people LOVE to mist their plants, and that little bit of attention that you give your plants when you’re misting them can cause you to notice other issues, like dust or dryness.

Misting can also blast dust and tests away, and you can mist with foliar sprays that contain additional nutrients to boost your plants.

It’s not necessary, but it’s also not harmful.

What IS harmful (and repeated so often that it’s annoying) is that misting and humidity are NOT synonymous.

Humidity is the concentration of water vapour in the air. Not the amount of water you squirt into the air. Water is heavier than air, so it’ll start to drop to the ground the second you spray it.

Plants also don’t like getting wet. In fact, some plants, like prayer plants, have evolved to move their leaves to stop them from getting wet at night. During the day, they need to lay flat to maximise photosynthesis. At night, they may as well stay dry.

Gravel –/– drainage

There are a couple of good reasons to put gravel at the bottom of your plant pot:

  1. To weigh it down so it doesn’t fall over
  2. To fill out a pot that’s too big for the plant, so we can minimise the risk if overwatering.

You will still need drainage holes in the bottom of your pots. If you have beautiful pot that doesn’t have drainage holes, keep the plant in a cheap nursery pot, and then sit that pot in the pretty pot.


That’s not a thing.

If you find this all a bit confusing (it’s a very pervasive myth, so I don’t blame you), I have articles going into detail about it here, here, and here.

You can overwater a plant by giving it too much water in one go

Overwatering is giving a plant too much water over time – it has nothing to do with giving the plant too much water in one go.

When you’re watering a house plant, you want to make sure the soil is as thoroughly wet as possible. Once the soil is wet and there’s water draining out of the drainage holes, you’ve watered your plant.

Whilst it’s not a good idea to water your plants continuously for a long time (you end up washing away soil and nutrients), that isn’t what causes overwatering. Overwatering is when you water your plant too often, so the soil doesn’t get a chance to dry out a bit and trap some oxygen.

If you’re worried about wasting water (especially when using nutrient water), try watering into a large pot and reuse the water. I lay an oven shelf over my pot that I can sit the plant pot on:

It’s a VERY boujii set up.

Being rootbound will harm a plant

Ok, this COULD be true. Totally rootbound plants can be very difficult to water and therefore end up suffering. But the roots aren’t going to strangle the plant or damage it.

But a plant being rootbound isn’t really something to worry about – having a plant in to gob of a pot is a FAR bigger issue. If your plant is rootbound (i.e. you can’t see ANY soil, just roots) but you can’t for whatever reason repot it, just be sure to soak the roots often so it can get some moisture.

X plant is a heavy feeder

I found this out when I was researching what plants to fertilise when back when I was a house plant noob.

No one knows.

There are DOZENS of different answers. Don’t waste your time trying to find the right one.

Instead, figure out a fertilising routine that works for you, and do that.

Monthly or every 6 weeks is fine. If they grow year-round, fertilise year-round. If they stop growing, stop fertilising.

Distilled water is best for house plants

Distilled water can be a great option if you have somewhat dubious tap water BUT it isn’t without its problems. Distilled water doesn’t contain most of the micronutrients that tap/filtered/rain water does, so your plant can end up with a deficiency.

If distilled water is your only option, make sure you use a fertiliser that has all the micronutrients plants need – hydroponic fertilisers are best for this.

Variegated Monstera nodes can be bought on Etsy for £10

Nine times out of ten, it’s a scam. They’re just taking cleverly angled photos of Golden Pothos.

Succulents belong in terrariums

I have no idea why this is such an enduring message. It is possible to keep succulents in terrariums, but it’s not ideal. Succulents like bright light and dry air, and terrariums are pretty humid. Air plants will also rot in a terrarium unless you’re very careful.

Stick to ferns and fittonia in terrariums.

Putting plants outside causes pests

Whilst there are more pests outside than inside, there’s also predators too. In fact, when I discover a pest infestation in summer, I put the plant outside until it’s gone.

Putting your plants outside can be a gamble – they can get eaten, burned, or even stolen, but they’re no more likely to get pest infestations than indoor plants.

Final thoughts

If you wish to refute any of these, feel free. Obviously, they’ve come from somewhere so they must be working for a proportion of the population BUT I just wanted to demonstrate how a lot of pretty standard care tips don’t necessarily paint the whole picture.

If you watch Gardener’s World, you’ll be aware that Monty Don mists his house plants. He even said it was to increase humidity. It was a sad day when I saw that.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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