How many house plants 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.

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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 Calathea’s bloomed. 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 Calatheas. It’s produced about four blooms in all, which I think means it’s happy, but I daren’t google it just in case it means my Calathea will die next week. They’re beautiful and I love them and I will never find another one as cheap again.

I’m pretty sure it was mispriced, but if you hit up garden centres on sleepy Sunday afternoons then you’ll find that they’re staffed by youths who don’t give a shit that they’ve just sold you a twenty quid plant for £3.75.

Anyway, here they are:

Calathea with a bloom

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.

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

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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.

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Your ability to negotiate your house has become compromised

At one point I had a Boston fern, Asparagus fern, and Calathea in my bathroom. All of them loved it in there, but it got to the point where they were so big that they’d stroke you in the shower.

A little unsettling to say the least. Now they live by the boiler and they seem to be doing ok. If anyone looks a bit worse for wear then they can have a week or so in the bathroom, so it’ll be fine.

I do like plants in the bathroom though (and ours has a south-facing window that gets bright indirect sunlight. Hopefully, the orchid, spider plant, Diffenbachia, and Alocasia that are in there at the moment won’t get too big and touchy-feely too soon.

Hmm, maybe I do have a bit of a problem.

All this being said, I’m absolutely sure that my end goal with all this houseplant stuff is to live in an indoor jungle. That’s what all this is for. I’ve explained it to my boyfriend (and showed him the aspirational photos on Pinterest) and he seems to find it equally hilarious and cool, but I don’t think he fully realises that I’m serious.

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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.

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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. Mum’s are pretty good at judging things like this.

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

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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.

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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).

It’s not like you can just throw them in the bin or leave them to die. Well, you could, but that’s kind of cruel and very wasteful.

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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.

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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.

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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 hospital, they might brighten the place up a bit.

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

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Give them away as gifts

Tidy them up, make sure they’re in decent condition, give them a care label and you have a great present for someone.

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, but even a thirteen-year-old boy would find a carnivorous plant pretty cool.

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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’.

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photo of monstera leaf with text overlay

8 thoughts on “How many house plants 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.

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