Five easy houseplants anyone can grow
Glacier Pathos. Photo by Dee Nash
Houseplants are big. If you haven’t heard, you’re not getting out much, and if that’s the case, a few houseplants would be great company. If you’re new to indoor plants, or you’re just getting back into them, here are a few things to consider before choosing one.
Water: More houseplants are lost to overwatering than under watering. It’s true! Especially in winter when light levels are lower, plants need less water. The type of plants you grow also matter. Tropical plants need more water than succulents and other desert plants. Try grouping plant types together to make watering easier and more efficient. I tend to like tropical plants best, and I water mine every one to two weeks. Occasionally, I also rinse them under the sink to get some of the dust off of their leaves. It perks them right up.
Light: Some plants like direct light and should be placed in a sunny window. If you only have a north-facing window and want to grow light-loving plants, you may need supplemental light from fluorescent bulbs. Other plants like low light. These can be grown away from a direct light source. A prime example of a low-light plant is the peace lily, which isn’t as easy to grow as people might think. It is very sensitive to water changes.
Temperature: Lucky for us, most houseplants like the exact same temperature range we do, so if you’re comfortable in a room, they are too. Keep in mind that plants in a south or west window heat up quite a bit in summer. Those same windows are chilly in winter. Place plants accordingly.
Soil: Use good quality potting soil, and select a cactus soil for succulents. I also top off my potting soil with small pebbles, shells or other inorganic matter to keep soil dry on top.
For five easy plants try any of the following:
1. Mother-in-law’s tongue, Sansevieria trifasciata. My co-podcaster on our Gardenangelists’ podcast, Carol Michel, loves these statuesque plants. She suggests ‘Sayuri’ with a light variegated leaf and ‘Starfish’ which has fat leaves that fan out from a smaller plant. ‘Shark Fin’ has really wide leaves. Some snake plants grow quite large so google a particular cultivar before you buy it.
2. Philodendron spp. are extremely easy to grow and share with others. Some trail and have heart-shaped leaves and other varieties grow upright. Philodendrons usually like indirect light and perform well in office situations. Renewed interest in houseplants means new cultivars abound. Try ‘Neon’ for light green leaves, or ‘Brasil’ which has a chartreuse green band in the center in each leaf. The upright leaves of ‘Prince of Orange’ start out bright orange and turn lime green as they age. It’s a beautiful specimen.
3. Pothos, Epipremnum aureum, devil’s ivy, looks like philodendron’s more refined cousin; they are both in the Araceae family, but they are different genera. With heart-shaped leaves and a trailing habit, pothos are almost impervious to neglect. ‘Marble Queen’ pothos is green and white. Satin pothos, Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’ with its gray variegated leaves, is a beautiful plant and one of my favorites.
4. Jade plant, Crassula ovata, is nearly bullet proof, but don’t overwater this succulent shrub. It likes bright light when indoors and some shade if you take it outside for a summer vacation. Tiny pink or white flowers may appear in spring, but don’t worry if they don’t.
5. Peperomia cover a very large genus of over 1,000 known species. They tend to have somewhat fleshy leaves, but there are so many types that you might be surprised two cultivars are in the same genus. I grow P. obtusifolia, baby rubber plant, and a red-leaved P. caperata, called a ripple peperomia. Both of these are very easy to grow and don’t mind low-light conditions.
Honorable mentions: Good old airplane or spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum. My mom kept one alive for decades. Zamioculcas zamiifolia, better known as ZZ plant, is another wonderful and easy plant to grow. It doesn’t need much light or water either.
One more thing: don’t start your indoor plant journey with fiddle leaf fig even though it is one of the stars of Instagram. It is super hard to keep alive, let alone, thrive.
I am thrilled about the new houseplant revolution being driven mostly by millennial consumers and social media. Houseplants were the first plants I grew, and they launched me into a lifetime of gardening. Let’s hope they do the same for others now too.