Can you have too many houseplants? Many houseplants in a corner

Can You Have Too Many Houseplants? (And What To Do About It)

Hey plant fans, I hope everything is going well.

So a few days ago it was payday for me, and I don’t know about you but that means I get to buy more houseplants, or pots, or soil, or supports, or height markers, or labels, or hangers.

This time, I also got myself some crazy cute animal decorations, they were super necessary.

You get the point, I think houseplants are the best hobby you can get into, but just like any other hobby, it can quickly turn into an obsession and take over your life.
 
You buy one or two plants at payday. Some of them actually survive so you breed those strong genes. Next thing you know, there, you bought and bred an entire jungle in your house and you don’t have enough money to feed your dog.
 
Being a relatively inexpensive hobby, one thing that surprised me is how expensive and time consuming it can get once you reach a certain point.
 
So, can you have too many houseplants?
 
Yes, unfortunately, you can have too many houseplants. It depends from person to person on how many they can have. Health-related, there is no danger of having too many. However, if you don’t find joy caring for them, if you don’t have enough income, space or time, it means you have too many houseplants.
 
There you go, now I just need to follow my own advice.
 
It goes without saying that we are talking about real houseplants here. Both the benefit and difficulty come from having alive plants.
 
Fake plants, faux plants, plastic plants, or whatever fancier name you want to call them are not alive, so there is really no point talking about them or owning them.
 
When it comes to living plants, how many houseplants are too many depends on a number of other factors like the growing conditions your house offers, people or pets you share your house with.
Picture this, depending on your house and climate you can keep 30 succulents with no problem, but one bonsai can be too much.
 
Maybe your pet has an affinity for munching on your houseplant and you don’t have the time or resources to stop it, or, it could be that you share your house with people that don’t like plants, in which case, kick them out.
 
In all seriousness, the answer to this question can be something entirely different for everyone. Let’s say that after you take a closer look, you realize you do have too many houseplants, so what then? You can’t just throw them away like they’re ‘faux plants’.
 
So, let’s explore everything you need to know and make sure you make a decision you are happy with.
Can you have too many houseplants in your house? Many houseplants in a room.
Have you ever gone to a friend’s house and found it difficult to walk without stepping on the baby toys or pet toys on the floor? Or if you will imagine a messy kitchen, hallway or someone’s messy bedroom.
 
All those things are necessary and each has its own purpose, yet people either go overboard with them or just don’t arrange them properly and their house becomes a mess.
 
Make no mistake, that’s exactly how it works with houseplants.
 
One could spend thousands on the best design choices for a house, but nothing gives a house a splash of life like a big beautiful family on Christmas or 4 dogs tail wagging around the house. Houseplants are like that, they are one of those things that have the special ability to make your house feel alive and make every place look better.
 
But if you happen to have too many houseplants or the ones you have are large and neglected, they will have the opposite effect and can clutter your home, making it feel like an unkempt jungle where you trip each time you try to go to the bathroom.
 
Avoiding that problem can become pretty straightforward if we give it a bit more thought, because the reality is there are only a finite number of reasons why people keep plants and they are generally split between necessity and passion.
 
So, how many houseplants should you have in your house?
 
People usually base the number of houseplants on the following criteria:
  • Have as many as you need to bring you personal satisfaction
  • Have as many as you need to purify your room and house
  • Have as many plants as needed to give the amount of oxygen a person breathes in
The answer to the first one is pretty straightforward as it solely depends on you and no one can tell you otherwise. The last two have a more controversial answer than you might expect, and if you’re curious to find out how much oxygen can plants produce, check out this article.
 
So, let’s dig further into this topic, shall we?

How Many Houseplants Do You Need To Purify A Room?

This is one of the biggest reasons why someone would want to keep a lot of houseplants. What is more important than health, right?
So you could theoretically see how many medium-sized plants would need to purify a room, then the house, and stick to that number.
 
Not only this is hard to pinpoint, but it is also a highly controversial topic. It all started with the famous NASA study showing how effective common houseplants are at cleaning the air of toxins. If you are curious about it and want to read something scientific and boring, click this to go there.
 
If instead, you want a really dumbed-down resume made by yours truly, they put multiple plants in different sized chambers which they seal off and fill with different chemicals at certain concentrations.
 
Then, after 24 hours re-measured the chemical levels and voila, draw some cool scientific conclusions. Depending on the chemical and the plant, big portions of those were filtered, which is amazing.
 
Of course, they did more complex things than that, even coming up with different numbers on how much the leaves, the soil, etc. are responsible for filtering.
 
The majority of information you can find online just regurgitates the study above in some way or another, but what often happens is they exaggerate how few plants you need to clean the air and purify a room. 
 
You will see numbers such as 1 plant per 100 square feet all the way up to 10 plants improving air quality by 100%, but the truth is, that is a severe misinterpretation.
 
The experiment used two different-sized closed chambers, one was 15 cubic ft in volume and the other was 31 cubic ft making the plant/chamber volume very different. Also, the chemical source was finite unlike what a typical room has.
 
Then, if we were to mimic what NASA did in their experiment, how many plants do you need to purify a room?
 
To purify a typical bedroom of 100 square feet (9.3 meters) and 8 feet tall (2.4 meters), you would need at least 50 small plants or 25 large plants with fresh soil.
 
The typical room has manufactured furniture, carpets, cleaning products that constantly add new pollutants into the air, meaning the number of houseplants has to be even higher.
 
When we scale that at a house level and take into account cooking, cleaning products, manufactured products, and other VOC’s (volatile organic compound) producing items, the amount of plants needed to purify the air becomes the pitfall you were hoping to avoid.
 
Unfortunately, you would need to have too many houseplants, a forest in your house really, for it to be feasible.
 
The reality of this remains that houseplants still provide the benefits you were hoping for, they reduce pollutants and VOCs, but if you want to base how many plants you own solely on that, you will most likely end up with too many houseplants.

How Many Houseplants Does It Take To Produce Enough Oxygen For One Person?

We also know that plants purify the air by giving you extra oxygen. I actually have a really in-depth article about debunking a really popular myth that plants can kill you at night. If you are curious about it and think plants can be fatal, click here to check it out.
 
So, humans breathe in oxygen, we clearly need it. Plants help out and they give you extra oxygen, a match made in heaven. Now, we can see how much one person needs and how much the average houseplant gives. Based on those figures, we can come up with a perfect number of houseplants you need to own.
 
The average person (around 180 pounds) needs about 550 liters of pure oxygen a day to be safe, maybe a bit less if he doesn’t eat a lot of calories. Now, the average houseplant’s leaf produces 60ml of oxygen in 24 hours.
 
So, with this information, let’s say you were to completely provide the oxygen one person consumes.
How many houseplants does it take to produce enough oxygen for one person?
 
To produce the same amount of oxygen a person consumes a day, you need around 9166 leaves or about 600 average houseplants. Because plants also consume a part of the oxygen they produce, the number can be even higher than that.
 
Now imagine that for a family of five people, throw a dog in there and you can clearly see they are going to get out of hand.
 
The science and calculus of it it’s fun, at least for me, but let’s not forget the reality of this.
I can confirm from personal experience and a lot of you might think the same, if you have a small room that is poorly ventilated, 10 houseplants will go a long way.
 
If you don’t believe me, just put a few plants in a bathroom with no windows and you will know what I mean.
 
But if you truly want to base how many plants you need on the plants per person ratio, the real number is unrealistic to achieve.
 
So then, what else is there to help you understand how many houseplants you need?
 
Well, enjoyment of course. The way to know how many plants you want and need comes from taking a closer look at your experience with them.

Do You Have Too Many Houseplants?

Now we know it’s not realistic to try to base the number of houseplants to solve air pollution or replace oxygen levels and instead you should be looking at enjoying this hobby.
 
That being said, how do you know when you have too many houseplants?
 
You have too many houseplants if you don’t enjoy the hobby anymore or they start dying off because you either don’t have enough finances, time, space, or you lack the appropriate climate to keep them alive.
 
I want to re-emphasize what was already established because it’s really important. You might have enough money and time to grow 50 cacti, but if you try to grow a single orchid, it can die within days.
 
So, in that case, 50 plants of a certain species are good, but just one of a different species will be too many.
 
Let’s break down the categories to understand better why they are necessary.
 

Time

Picture this, every plant that you have will take some time of your day, your week or month. You will have to water, prune or repot. Sometimes, problems happen and your plants will get sick.
 
What if you have 20 houseplants and you want to go on a nice long vacation, who is going to water them? Been there, done that and it’s not easy.
 

Money

Plants are one of the less expensive hobbies you can have. You can propagate and not even have to buy them. Sure, there are plants that cost thousands, but the normal ones are not that expensive considering you could have that plant for years and years.
 
But as with anything, there are very useful accessories that you will need, even if only once. There are also pots, soil, fertilizer, hangers, cute things that make it look like it has a chameleon attached to it, and so on.
 
I am definitely one of those types of people that buy things on a whim and to be honest, I am completely ok with it but I feel obligated to tell you that plants can be expensive if you want them to.
 
Especially when you are a beginner in the hobby, there is a tendency to buy things you don’t really need.
 

Space

Space I would say it’s the first one of these categories that becomes a problem. You can work your way around it and add hanging plants, but for the most part, you can only have so many until one day you move around, bump into one and it crashes down making a mess.
 
Then you stop and think why the hell was that plant there? The answer is most likely there is nowhere else to put it, there are plants everywhere…
Let me give you a simple example:
 
Let’s say that the average houseplant takes 5 minutes a day to take care of. If you have 10, it won’t take 50 minutes. It will take significantly longer because you might mix species that need more maintenance.
 
Also, the chances of some of them developing problems grow, and the chances of accidents like bumping into one and having to re-pot it grows too.
 
The same thing goes for money and space, they grow faster than the number of plants and it really takes people by surprise.
 
Note: All the things mentioned above are almost impossible to judge beforehand. Not all plants take the same amount of time to take care of. They don’t all cost the same to purchase and maintain, and some are much bigger and grow faster than others.
 
We will ignore the cost of entry for this and just focus on maintenance.
The average beginner houseplant will cost around $15 for a serious houseplant, meaning a perennial that you can enjoy for years to come.

Houseplants Cost of Ownership Table

Number of plants Time/week Money/month Space/sq foot
1 5 minutes $3 1
2 10 minutes $7 2
5 1 hour $10 7
10 1.5 hours $25 15
20 3 hours $60 32
Now, this is a general guide but also fairly generous. If you grow 20 orchids, the time and money will be much more than shown here, so good luck with that.
 
I have a bit more than 20 houseplants in my house right now and I spend more time than this, but I could also be more frugal with my time and money.
 
Did you know that there are watering services that can charge about 20$ a visit?
 
A quick look at this guide and you can easily understand why botany is a full-time job.

Help! I Have Too Many Houseplants

Ok, so we saw how you can tell if you have too many houseplants and what is the actual number you can afford to have.
 
But what happens if you are already in the trench and plants have taken over your life?
 
Naturally, you will have to get rid of them, but before that, try these two things:
 
1. Arrange them differently. You most likely have plants that do better in the living room, in the bedroom, and in bathrooms. Some will benefit from being in the garden if you have one.
 
Shuffle them in a way that makes sense, place each category in the rooms that they belong in, if you have enough space.
 
2. Learn how to keep plants small. Keeping plants short and bushy can make them versatile to place anywhere in your house and it can leave you with some extra free space. I actually have an article that includes a super easy guide on how to keep plants small, check it out.
 
But, let’s say there is no way you can arrange them better or that you don’t want to put in the effort to keep them small. Your house is packed and you are not willing to put up with it anymore, how do you clear out some of your houseplants?
Depending on what the problem is, you can follow these steps to know what to do with unwanted houseplants:
 
If you don’t have enough time to take care of your plants.
Start by giving away those that take the longest to care for, like tropicals, orchids, plants that take the most time to make them thrive.
Also, consider plants that are picky, require special lighting or a lot of trimming.
 
If you can’t afford to keep your plants anymore.
Start by giving away those that require grow lights, humidifiers, distilled water, or liquid fertilizers. If you don’t have the natural climate for those plants anywhere in your house they will add cost quickly.
 
Can you have too many houseplants? Cat walks in between plantsIf you don’t have enough space to keep your plants.
Start by giving away the spiky ones especially if you have pets or kids. Also, those plants that are the biggest or have the potential of growing big and bushy. You can also start with those that are toxic to the touch and if ingested.
 

What to do with unwanted houseplants?

1. Sell unwanted houseplants.

This is my number one recommendation by far, especially if they are tropical or exotic looking. Cactus and Succulents also sell very well.
The market for this is huge and you can make a buck for something really useful that you don’t need.
I recommend Facebook Marketplace as the easiest and fastest, eBay is also good, but there are tons of options out there.
 

2. Offer them to someone as a gift.

Houseplants make great gifts. Hell, I would take houseplants over anything else, like I don’t have enough.
It is also a great way to see how the plant is doing and keep in touch with it, if you give it to friends or family.
 

3. Donate them.

There are tons of libraries, schools, hospitals, shops and offices that would gladly take houseplants.
If you never tried this, take your cactus to the nearest library, they will take it in no questions asked.
 

4. If possible, move some to your office.

Office spaces tend to be colder looking places. They usually could use a splash of green. Besides that, it has been scientifically proven that plants in the office help relationships between colleagues.

We are calmer and happier with plants around and that’s very important at the workplace.
 

5. Recycle your houseplants.

Although you usually can’t recycle the entire plant, there is a big part that you can recycle should you wish.
It is much better than simply throwing the plant away.
How to actually recycle a plant is a bigger discussion. I go into great detail describing how to recycle parts of your houseplants at home in this article, if you’re interested.
 
If you take anything away from this, I hope it is that plants are meant to be enjoyed.
I also hope this helps you understand what to do if you have too many houseplants.
 
Also, don’t try to base that number on the wrong reasons, just enjoy the journey and don’t make a mutually beneficial relationship stressful.

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