How Many Houseplants Is Too Many?

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What I’ve noticed about keeping houseplants as a hobby is that it escalates fast.

I went from having a few sad cacti to having dozens of different plants. And I learned a lot of new words, like ‘variegated’, and ‘sphagnum’, and ‘Sansevieria’.

It’s been a wild ride.

There aren’t many collections you can add to by chopping a bit off one of your original specimens and sticking that bit in a jar of water.

(And have both parts survive, anyway.)

So, how many houseplants is too many?

In one sentence, you have too many houseplants if you have more than you can take care of.

Here are some tips for establishing a plant care routine.

Once looking after your collection becomes more of a chore than a joy, it’s probably time to downsize.

Do NOT feel guilty if you need to get rid of plants. It’s just the ways things go.

I’m not saying that I bounce down the stairs every morning, desperate to nurture my plant babies, or that I’m not guilty of leaving them a bit too long between waterings, but I do make sure to check them at least once a week, and I’m concerned about their general welfare.

spider plant flower

Signs houseplants have taken over your life:

You bring them up in conversation even though your friends have asked you to stop

My friends are really nice and politely listen when I excitedly tell them that my Hoya’s bloomed.

hoya bella flowers

I think I’m trying to make them be interested in houseplants, but interests just don’t work that way.

You can’t force someone to be interested in something, and you certainly can’t do it by boring them with the subject all day long.

But I don’t need IRL friends – I can bore YOU with endless plant talk, safe in the knowledge that I’m just sat here, in my little corner of the internet, typing away merrily about the crap that interests me.

It’s your fault you’re here.

I assume that since you’re here, you care about houseplants, and therefore are interested in blooming Hoya.

If your friends tell you to shut up about houseplants, maybe it’s time to find a like-minded community. I find that Plantstagram is a lovely community, where no one bitches about your tiny spider plant.

Plant YouTube is also fairly tame, but it definitely has its moments of drama. I tend to stick with smaller creators, though Harli G is the GOAT.

I warn you though – it will make you consider selling your granny to get your mitts on a variegated Monstera.

You don’t trust anyone else to take care of them if you go away

Unless you have something EXTREMELY fussy (in which case you made your bed, now lie in it), your plants will be absolutely fine for a fortnight. If you’re really worried, I’d put all the plants that need a lot of moisture in one room with a bucket of water.

If you have someone coming in to check on a pet or whatever, consider asking them to run a humidifier. Or plonk all your plants in the bathroom and ask the sitter to put the shower on for ten minutes. Only in summer though, and only if your bathroom has a window.

Don’t ask non-plant savvy people to water your plants. They’re likely to over water and kill ’em.

I used to lose sleep worrying about my rabbit when I was away, but I know my plants will be fine.

I wrote a post here about what to do with your plants when you go away.

Give everyone a good drink before you go, and all will be fine.

yes, the Monstera leaves are annoying

Your ability to negotiate your house has become compromised

I’ve actually gone all in on this. We moved into a house that needs renovating, and we need to save up to get the work done. In the meantime, my decor is Plants. Just…Plants. Everywhere.

This is my fulltime job, so I can take the afternoon off to care for my plants and still consider it too be work.

Sure, it’s annoying that we have to push past leaves to sit on the couch, but it’s waaay more tolerable when it’s for work.

You can’t afford them

If your funds are being significantly depleted by things like water filters, grow lights, and humidifiers, it may be time to downsize your collection. It’s not worth compromising your financial security for some plants. Harsh but true.

Read my post about why house plants are so expensive.

Plant prices can skyrocket and crumble at the drop of a hat. It is WILD how much, for example, Monstera obliqua used to be. Multiple thousands of pounds. And now look:

monstera obliqua

When it comes to collecting houseplants, you don’t need to rick – just patient. And good at selling plants so you can reclaim your investment.

Your mum tells you/stages an intervention

I tend to wait until my mum tells me to calm down when I have a new obsession. Mums are pretty good at judging things like this.

It may not be your mum who stages your intervention, but if someone you love points out that your houseplant collection is getting out of control, it may be time to have a quick step back and evaluate the situation. Whether you choose to keep the plants or the person is entirely up to you.

I’m downsizing my plant collection. What’s next?

Decide what you want to keep

This really depends on why you’re downsizing.

If it’s due to the expense, then let go of:

  • those with finicky light requirements that need grow lights
  • those that have high humidity requirements – humidifiers can be expensive, and you could sell yours
  • Ones that require filtered or distilled water. They’re a ballache anyway.

If it’s due to overcrowding:

  • Get rid of any that are big and spiky. Massive cactuses, I’m looking at you. This is especially true if you have pets and kids
  • Any that you have multiples of. I, for example, can see myself having to let go of the many Pothoses I plan to propagate because I’ve just learned how and it’s so exciting.
  • Any that you don’t really like/you can’t quite get to thrive. My Dieffenbachia is on thin ice (update: he’s dead now, but of his own accord).

If you’re overwhelmed:

  • Any you don’t really like. I give you permission to get rid of them
  • Any that ALWAYS see to have pests
  • Any that you like, but you find yourself worrying too much about. This is why I don’t buy expensive plants

What to do with plants you don’t want anymore

Sell them

Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great places to sell houseplants. If you have loads it may even be worth setting up an Etsy shop.

Donate them

If you don’t need the money and just want shot of your plants quickly, there are places nearby that would love to have your plants. Think libraries, care homes, restaurants, even schools. Write up a care label and either print off a label or just sellotape it to the pot.

Give them away as gifts

You can get them nice pots and make them some cute labels with care instructions on, and there’s Christmas sorted.

Plants are great to give as gifts because they’re age and gender-neutral. I mean, you may have to match the plant to the person someone, but even a thirteen-year-old *might* find a carnivorous plant pretty cool.

Give the ones with pests to people you don’t like.

Jokes, jokes. Unless…

No. Jokes.

Chuck them out

And don’t feel guilty about it. Thousands of houseplants die every day. Look after you first.

Take them to your work

It really depends on where you work – I wouldn’t recommend taking your houseplants to a building site, for example, but if you work in an office, restaurant or similar, they might brighten the place up a bit.

There’s nothing like inflicting your clutter on other innocent people.

Final thoughts

I’m almost certain that if you’re asking the question ‘how many plants is too many’, then you’ve already kind of made up your mind that you have too many plants.

If you do, then get to work finding them new homes.

But maybe you don’t have too many plants, you’re just lacking in inspiration for arranging them? Or can’t figure out a plant care routine?

In that case, get over to Pinterest and search for things like ‘indoor jungle’ and ‘indoor plant ideas’.

Caroline Cocker

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

12 thoughts on “How Many Houseplants Is Too Many?”

  1. At this point in the game I see no reason not to buy plants. My house is already a jungle, a few mire can’t hurt!

  2. Oh gosh, I loved this post. Absolutely impeccable. I have experienced the touchy feely plants before so I get it. I moved recently across country and was only able to bring one plant with , my beloved Polka Dot Begonia, so I am working on my new collection. I can proudly say that I am now up to 4 again, with a propagated Plumeria branch on the way. (In my defnese I was on amazon at like 2 AM looking for my future plants and didn’t completely realizing I would get a tree, I just love the flower.) So I am aware I am no where near too many plants, just stumbled across the article and loved it. Thank you!

  3. I would LOVE a tree! That’s so cool. I’m far more discerning about bring plants home now, since I’m up to *ahem* 125 plants. There’s a few I wouldn’t choose again, but I’m hanging onto them for sentimental reasons. Whilst I wouldn’t mind being able to start from scratch, I can’t imagine only being able to pick one!

  4. If you’d like a small tree, try a parrot plant….I have two upstairs in front of a skylight. They’re around 12″ tall, the stems look like proper bark and they have like branches loaded with red and yellow “parrots”. Impatiens, so leaves like Busy Lizzies…a bugger for aphids though, so watch out for sticky leaves.

  5. Ooooh, good shout, thanks! Aphids are actually an easy fix for me – we made the aquarium into a terrarium for the frog, and he scoffs all the pests, but aphids are his fave.

  6. Love the article. A helpful and entertaining read. I have a lot of cacti and succulents (100+) and prehouse move feel I need to consider reducing my collection. The new house is smaller and not as favourable compass direction wise for the plants…. I lost the fight over partly buy a house based on if it would be ok for my plants .

  7. After some thought on this, I
    would disagree with your suggestion of getting rid of larger plants. I’ve come to the realisation that older plants can be more rewarding with flowers etc then smaller plants and easier to grown. In my case, because I have cacti, they take so long to grown that the bigger specimens are more sought after and more impressive. So I am choosing to donate smaller plants and multiples to concentrate on the older ones or bigger specimens.

    Donating them via a work staffroom, local fayre or online have worked well for me. I don’t feel guilty passing them on as free gifts.

  8. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

    Totally agree – tiny plants aren’t as resilient as larger ones and can take up waaay more of your time. This is especially true of plants that have grown up in your home and adapted to it. If you have space they also can serve as home decor and look less cluttered than several smaller plants.

    This article was mainly aimed at compulsive people like me that accidentally ended up with tonnes of plants because their new hobby got away from them. I think a nicely curated collection that suits you (and your home) is the goal.

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