Livening up your home with houseplants? It’s a good idea, particularly as the weather gets colder, and sunshine and greenery are in short supply. Studies show that time spent in nature improves our mood, which is one of several reasons why the cooler months can feel so bleak. Forced indoors by the cold, our mental health suffers. Indoor plants help counterbalance this. They also affect our physical health by improving air quality. Still, there’s the matter of caring for your plants. How do you not just keep them alive (a feat in itself), but ensure they thrive?
Unlike people, plants can’t tell you what they need: What if you overwater? What if you under water? Fortunately, there are experts to lend advice. Here’s the 411 on the best indoor houseplants and how to care for them.
Pro Tip: Splurge on Plants in the Fall
Have you ever noticed how many houseplant sales pop up in the fall? You’re not imagining this — there’s a reason. Most home and garden stores offer deep discounts on their indoor plants in the fall because of the change in temperature from warm to cool. Retailers must clear their inventory before plants lose volume and leaves change color. Though this is a natural part of plant health, plants are harder to sell when they’re not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So, if you’re planning on splurging on some indoor houseplants for your home or apartment, early autumn is the best time to do it. In general, garden shops start cutting houseplant prices around September, and those prices will typically stay low until the end of winter.
As for where to find these deals, Google your closest plant nurseries and garden stores and give them a call. The specifics will depend on your location, but know that there’s a store near you that will probably drop prices soon.
Best Indoor Plants for Beginners: Peace Lilies
Peace lilies are a great houseplant option for newbie plant owners. This is because they’ll tell you exactly what they need (unlike most houseplants). Peace lilies thrive when watered around once a week and kept in bright light. Their potting soil should be moist, but not wet. If you worry about under watering a low-maintenance plant like a peace lily, look at the plant’s leaves for your watering cue. They droop dramatically when thirsty and perk back up soon after watering. Once you’ve observed this behavior a few times, it’ll be easy to tell when it’s watering time and when your peace lily is happy.
Aside from watering once a week, your peace lily will also enjoy humidity and indirect light. Consider keeping this pretty plant in the bathroom or kitchen, two rooms where humidity is typically higher than in other parts of the home. Alternatively, you can set the planter on top of a tray filled with damp gravel to replicate the humid conditions of the steamy Bolivian jungle to which the peace lily is native. Try to find a spot that gets lots of indirect light; although peace lilies do well in low lighting, they tend to dry out and burn in direct sunlight. (If you notice the leaves turning yellow, that’s a clue that your plant is getting too much direct light.)
Finally, wipe their leaves clean every so often to remove dust. Dust can accumulate and block light, preventing the plant from photosynthesizing (a.k.a. eating). Remember these steps, and you’re sure to have a thriving and beautiful plant gracing your bathroom counter.
Best Plants for Busy Women: Air Plants
Air plants are unique among houseplants because they don’t require soil to grow. Instead, they get their nutrients from the air (hence the name “air plants”). It’s for this reason that air plants are popular home decor options in places with indirect sunlight and little capacity for caretaking. While they do need some attention, air plants are hardy and flexible, able to grow with infrequent watering in low-light conditions. They’re particularly popular in offices and hotels. If you find yourself constantly juggling responsibilities, are often away from home, or are generally forgetful, these might be the plants for you.
Like peace lilies, air plants love humidity, so keeping them in a kitchen or bathroom window is ideal. They do best within 3 to 5 feet of a window (for indirect light), but they can also thrive under suitable artificial lights. Air plants require watering every one to two weeks (more often if you live in a hot or dry environment). Their watering process, however, is unique. It requires laying the plant face down in distilled water for 20 to 40 minutes. Note how your plant reacts after watering — air plant species vary slightly, and you may find that yours does better when misted (versus dunked). Either way, these hardy plants make the best out of environments other houseplants find challenging, which is why they’re a great option for busy women.
The Most Charming Houseplant: Pothos
When I picture a houseplant, I envision the heart-shaped leaves of a pothos. Their romantic vines and low-maintenance resilience have made them the preferred plant among those looking for low-effort greenery that’s also attractive. They only need watering every one to two weeks; if you notice leaves turning yellow or stems turning black, you’re likely overwatering. While pothos thrive in bright but indirect light, they also do well in low light, making them a beautiful option for north-facing rooms or homes in northern climates that receive less light. (One thing to note, though, is that pothos tend to burn in direct light, so avoid those areas if possible.)
Pothos come in a few varieties, including traditional jade green, golden pothos, and pothos marble queen, which features white marble-like variegation. Any one of these will enliven the home, especially as their vines grow and cascade from their perch (they make excellent hanging plants). Better still, pothos are lauded for their air-purifying abilities — according to a NASA study, pothos remove toxins including benzene, ammonia, and carbon dioxide from the air, promoting a healthier home environment (and a healthier you).
Another Tough Cookie: Snake Plants
You’ve probably seen a snake plant before — easy-going and perfect for small spaces, these elegant, spiky plants are a home and office decor staple. Snake plants are drought-tolerant, usually dark green, and grow sticking straight up, making them a “statement plant” unique among its houseplant counterparts. I especially love them in rustic or desert-themed spaces: Picture these starkly vertical patterned plants alongside a Navajo-print throw blanket or desert-orange wall decor. It’s the picture of quiet cool. One thing to know about snake plants, however, is that they’re toxic to animals. If you have a particularly curious pup or cat, avoid snake plants (or keep them up high, where your animal can’t reach them).
Snake plants are extremely low-maintenance, thriving in low light and requiring little in the way of water or mistings (every two to three weeks is sufficient). Snake plants do, however, appreciate a good cleaning, particularly if they live on the sill or any other dust-prone places. Like peace lilies, snake plant leaves can’t perform the vital process of photosynthesis when covered in dust. Wiping them down once in a while solves for this.
The Best Orchid for Beginners: Phalaenopsis
Phala-what? The phalaenopsis orchid, also known as the moth orchid, is a great choice for beginner houseplant owners who love orchids but aren’t yet ready for the demands of this notoriously temperamental flower. While every orchid has different needs, the phalaenopsis species is relatively forgiving, and it’s more likely to bounce back from any errors in caretaking. (Plus, few plants are as visually stunning as an orchid!)
Moth orchids prefer low-light and thrive in shaded windows. They also do well under fluorescent grow lights. But while most orchids prefer humid environments, the moth orchid likes drier conditions, and can withstand average temperature and humidity level fluctuations. The trickiest part of caring for a moth orchid is figuring out the watering schedule that works best for it. Most experts recommend waiting to water until the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are completely dry. Once done, water your orchid in the sink until water streams from the drainage holes at the bottom of its planter. Allow excess water to drain completely before returning it to its home. If you follow these steps, your moth orchid is likely to thrive. The key, as with all orchids, is to pay attention to how your plant responds to its environment and adjust accordingly.
Honorable Mentions for the Best Indoor Plants
These easygoing houseplants will also spruce up your home:
- The monstera deliciosa’s big green leaves will fill a windowsill or empty living room corner.
- Small succulents are low-maintenance and add texture to any design motif.
- The fiddle-leaf fig, which has massive teardrop-shaped leaves, thrives in medium light.
- Bonsai trees lend dimension and fun to the home.
- Aloe vera plants are lovely — and come in handy when you have a sunburn.
- Low-effort philodendrons, which can range from small potted varieties to massive shrub-like behemoths, are great for new plant parents.
- The dark, distinctive green leaves of Calatheas make a statement.
- The aptly named swiss cheese plant is a monstera variety with holes in its leaves.
- Spider plants, which thrive in moderate light, have a graceful loftiness to them.
- The zz plant (or Zanzibar gem) grows tall with large oval-shaped leaves.
- The ficus, a mini tree of sorts, fits in small corners and nooks.
Green Thumb, Here You Come
Trying to keep houseplants alive can be intimidating, but there are several easy-to-care-for options that will thrive in almost any environment. They’ll invigorate your home with a splash of nature (and purify the air while they’re at it). So, don’t worry if you’re busy or forgetful. Now’s the time to pick up discount houseplants and get moving on your green thumb journey.