Find Your Ideal Houseplant
Lifestyle factors for thriving houseplants, plus 10 options to consider adding to your home
Erin McGraw O’Malley
Houseplants have some beneficial qualities beyond adding color, life, and a sense of peacefulness to our homes. Indoor plants can be health-boosters: They improve air quality, increasing oxygen flow, and increase humidity in the air in your home, which can help fight off airborne viruses that cause colds and the flu.
There are many types of houseplants, and you’ll want to choose varieties that are best for you, your household, and your lifestyle. While all houseplants are beautiful, they’re not created equal. There are some important factors to consider when picking the best potential fit for your home.
Key Considerations Before Picking Houseplants
Before committing to caring for a houseplant or several, assess the following lifestyle factors:
- Time and Effort: Some houseplants need more care than others. Think about the amount of time you have every day or week to invest in maintaining your plant for it to thrive.
- Home Conditions: Your living space is a critical factor in houseplant health. Not only do plants need the proper space to grow (not all houseplants are small; some can grow up to 12 feet), but sunlight and humidity needs vary for different houseplants, too.
- Family and Pets: Some plants are toxic if they’re ingested or directly touched. If you have young children or pets, you may want steer clear of toxic plants or mindfully place them well out of reach.
With these factors in mind, here are 10 houseplants to consider adding to your home.
If You’re Ready to Give Indoor Plants Tons of TLC
Maybe you’re already an experienced gardener, or you find yourself heavy handed with the watering can. The following houseplants may be a good a food fit for you, as they need extra attention. And the results will be well worth the extra care:
Boston Fern: Cascading oversized fern leaves are the signature look of this houseplant. They can make an especially dramatic statement when placed in a hanging basket or an urn that lets the overflowing, long leaves hang free.
The key to caring for a Boston fern is to check its soil daily and always keep it damp. Boston ferns thrive in a cool environment with high humidity. If there isn’t enough moisture in the air, the fern will alert you it’s in trouble when its leaves turn yellow. Either mist the plant with a spray bottle of water, consider placing a humidifier nearby.
Baby’s Tears: This plant has a distinct lush and moss-like appearance, with small, round green leaves that grow horizontally over flat surfaces. This intriguing houseplant is known for being very “thirsty;” once the top 2 to 4 inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water. If cared for properly, this plant will grow quickly, so be sure to place it where its delicate, flowing leaves can grow over the pot and serve as a whimsical decoration in your home.
For Those Who Need Low-Maintenance Houseplants
Are you guilty of forgetting to water your plants, or do you travel often? Not to fear: You can still partake in the joys and benefits of houseplants. Here are options that do best with very little water.
Ponytail Palm: With its long, thinner, ponytail-like leaves stemming from the trunk, this plant will add a touch of playfulness to your home. Thanks to its bulbous trunk, which stores water, the resilient ponytail palm does best when left alone. Keep the soil fairly dry, and only water it when the soil completely dries out in the spring, summer, and fall (typically every seven to 10 days). In the winter months, the plant needs even less watering: usually only every 20 to 30 days.
Bunny Ear Cactus: Unlike many cacti, the bunny ear cactus is thorn-less. Instead, it has short bristles and flat, circular pads, which makes it look like a bunny. With zero watering required during the winter, the bunny ear cactus is an easy plant to maintain. During the fall and winter, water only every three to four weeks, only when the top inch of soil is dry.
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Houseplants for Homes with a Lot of Light
A healthy dose of sunshine is the best medicine for some houseplants. If you’re looking to spruce up your sunrooms and other well-lit spaces, try these indoor plants.
Aloe Vera: With its unusual shape and stiff, serrated leaves, aloe vera plants have a fun look. They also can also be used in medicinal and health applications, as they have antioxidant and antibacterial benefits. This multipurpose plant enjoys basking in bright light, but not direct sunlight. Most indoor aloe vera plants do well on shelves or windowsills. However, aloe vera is toxic to dogs and cats, so keep them out of reach of pets.
Areca Palm: This plant is larger and has feathery looking leaves, making it a great option if you’re looking to fill a large and well-lit area. Topping out at 6 to 10 feet when grown indoors, the areca palm makes quite the statement and has tropical flair. This plant loves south and west facing sunlight, but direct sunlight may burn its leaves—so keep it at a minimum, if any.
Options for Smaller, Dimmer Spaces
These plants can add natural, earthy elements to areas of your home that don’t get much light.
ZZ Plant: Refresh a space in your home with a sturdy ZZ plant, which has air-purifying qualities. The dark green, wide-leafed plant does not require natural light—extremely low levels of light are fine, making it ideal for a window-less room. Be extra cautious when handling the ZZ plant, as it is poisonous to humans and animals; direct contact can cause skin irritation. Wear gloves when maintaining with the plant and be sure to carefully wash your hands following any contact.
Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue): Another option that thrives in dimly lit spaces is one of the most popular species of houseplants, due to its unique look and easy maintenance. Snake plants, which can vary in color from yellow to dark green, are easy to grow and enjoy part shade and low-light conditions. The snake plant is toxic for humans and pets when ingested, so make sure it’s out of reach of pets and kids.
If You Want Flowering Houseplants
Flowering plants typically thrive outdoors, but there are indoor options that grow fresh blooms. If you’re looking to add a floral touch to your space, try these houseplants.
Peace Lily: With flowers resembling those of a calla lily, the peace lily is an excellent choice for making your home more relaxing. With adequate morning light (keep these out of direct afternoon sun) and moisture, your peace lily will produce white flowers in early summer. However, peace lilies are harmful if ingested by humans and animals, so keep it in a high space and out of reach.
Moth Orchid: The timeless and elegant moth orchid can add sophistication to any home, whether it’s placed on a coffee table, in the dining room, or on a shelf or desk. This plant blooms flowers in a range of pinks, purples, whites, and yellows. And moth orchid blooms are not only beautiful to look at; they also last for months. Keep the plant out of hot, direct sun and be sure to water thoroughly, allowing the bark or moss it’s planted in to dry between.