Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve killed more plants than I care to count. I promise I’ve changed. Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips about finding the best types of houseplants to fit your lifestyle and how to care for them. I have one piece of advice for you when it comes to indoor plant care: moderation is key!
Why Should I Have an Indoor Plant?
Houseplants add a certain level of beauty to an indoor environment. In addition, their production of oxygen and absorption of CO2 makes for a healthier living space with air purification! NASA has found that houseplants can remove up to 87 % of air toxins in 24 hours. Studies have proven that indoor plants can increase productivity and concentration by up to 15%, in addition to boosting your mood and reducing stress. What’s not to love?
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, the following tips will help keep your indoor plants alive and thriving all year long.
1. Don’t Over-Water.
Most of the time, people are concerned they aren’t watering enough, when in fact they are over-watering. The best assessment of a plant’s need for water is by testing its weight. Most plants would rather be a little drier than a little too wet. Before watering your plant, check the soil. It should be dry about 2” down, not just on the surface. One of the most common causes of indoor plant death is root rot and lack of air pockets due to overly moist soil. Plant roots need air just as much as they need water and nutrients. Your plant should NEVER be standing in water. During the winter months, a plant only needs watering a few times a month. Also, a light misting with a spray bottle once or twice a day can be beneficial. This can help mimic the plant’s natural environment.
2. Use the Right Soil.
Here’s where I’ve gone wrong in the past. I’m notoriously bad at changing my plant out of the soil bought in. When buying a new house plant, research what kind of potting soil it requires! If we’re trying to mimic the conditions of the plant’s native habitat, think of how different soil can be from one area to another. Contrary to my former opinion, it’s not “all just dirt.” A good rule of thumb is that houseplants need a growing medium that is loose enough to allow the roots to easily grow and water to travel through but still packed enough to stay rooted in the pot and provide adequate drainage.
A typical indoor plant potting medium includes a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. The use of peat moss has been somewhat controversial recently for the destruction of natural peatlands having a negative environmental impact. However, there are plenty of peat-free alternatives on the market!
Re-potting the plant is a great way to give it some new life. A lot of plants can get a little “leggy” in the low light of winter, so late winter is a good time to prune. Remove the plant from its container, trim the roots, and put it in a clean pot the same size with fresh potting soil. If it is really pot bound, break up the roots a bit and re-pot in a container a few inches larger.
3. Don’t Forget to Fertilize Your Indoor Plants
Plants often need a little more than photosynthesis to carry out growing processes. Providing fertilizers to your houseplants helps them stay happy and healthy. An important thing to remember: fertilizers should only be used during the growing season. They don’t need it in the winter and often are dormant. Late February is generally a good time to start using fertilizer and watering more as the days are getting longer.
4. Keep Your Indoor Plants in the Right Environment.
Almost all houseplants need a minimum room temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to keep plants away from areas of cold drafts in the winter. A warmer temperature means happier houseplants! Ideally, choose a spot for your plant that has good airflow. Most plants like to be rotated every once in a while so every side can get some love. As the seasons change, notice how the light or drafts change in your house and adjust your plants accordingly. Look up what kind of humidity it likes. If you already have a humidifier, your plant may benefit from being in the same room with it during the dry air of winter.
5. Pick the Right Spot for Your Indoor Plant.
Sun is one of four things a plant needs to grow, and my first plant mistake was assuming the more bright light, the better. Then I was confused when all of my plants were fried to an absolute crisp. Many of these easy-care plants listed below require bright, filtered light, and don’t like to have it all day. You can also check the plant’s preferences in terms of which direction the window should face.
6. Pick the Right Home for Your Indoor Plant.
When choosing a container, make sure you pick one with at least one drainage hole in the bottom for excess water to escape. Place a tray beneath the plant’s container to catch the excess water. If you have a pot that is really beautiful but lacks proper drainage, you can use pebbles in the bottom before you add soil. Make sure your plant has a pot that’s the appropriate size (some like to feel a little more constricted than others), and re-pot if it begins to outgrow its home.
7. Keep Your Indoor Plant Clean.
This is another one I tend to forget. Plants collect dust just like other surfaces in the house, and no living thing wants to be coated in dust! Grab a rag and wipe it down with warm water every couple of weeks. You can also put it in the shower and rinse it off. This is also a great way to remove any unwanted bugs or pests from the plant. Make sure to remove any brown or dead leaves to prevent any disease from spreading.
Our Picks for the Best Indoor Plant
Okay, so you’ve read this article. But, your plant kill count is still way too high for you to have confidence in your abilities to sustain plant life. For you, low-maintenance plant parents, I’m here for you. We’re in this together. I have some plant suggestions that may help you beat the odds.
Commonly known as “air plants” these little (or big) guys are 650 species of evergreen, perennial flowering plants native to the mountains, forests, and deserts of northern Mexico and southeastern United States. I discovered them while on vacation in Florida in college, and I was immediately skeptical. A plant with no soil? Get real. However, I’ve fallen in love with them, mostly because they only require minimal watering. If you have dry air, submerge them in water for 2-3 hours every two weeks, give them filtered light, and they’re happy!
An interesting tip I received from a sales associate at a plant shop was to use the leftover water from the dog’s bowl to submerge them. He said the plants really like the microbes in the dog’s saliva. Listen, I’m no biologist, but Mr. Plant Man seemed to know his stuff. I’ve been doing it ever since. Use air plants to spice up your decor, since they’re so small, versatile, and portable!
These plants are easy to take care of, attractive, and they have the added bonus of utility! Apply the extracted juice topically to relieve pain from scrapes, burns, and cuts. Find a place with bright, indirect light, a south-facing window if you can. Mine thrives in my bedroom window nightstand with filtered light streaming in. Aloe vera is a succulent so make sure to use a well-draining potting mix, not just soil. A good potting mix usually contains perlite, lava rock, granite grit, coarse sand, or any mixture of them. While they’re resilient plants, the main cause of death is often wilting or rot due to lack of drainage, so make sure you pick a pot with drainage holes! Water them deeply, but infrequently. Every three weeks should do the trick. Fertilize once a month at the most and only during the spring and summer.
Listen, I just picked it up at Lidl one day because it was adorable and had care instructions attached to it. Little did I know how much I would grow to love him, pun intended. It’s also known as “devil’s vine” or “devil’s ivy.” Pothos like bright, indirect sunlight, so it hangs out next to my aloe by the West-facing window. As an added bonus, Pothos is one of the best breeds of houseplants for purifying chemicals from indoor air. A beautiful decoration that’s air-purifying? Sign me up! My pothos plant likes to be misted daily and watered twice a week with tap water.
Snake Plant (Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
This easy-to-grow plant seriously deserves a medal. I have certainly put it through more than any plant should handle, and it’s come out the other side victorious. With their sword-like leaves, snake plants add height and drama to any living space. They’re pretty content with low light and resilient to humidity. The main idea is to give them free-draining soil. If you’re really feeling generous, you can give them a little bit of general-purpose fertilizer, but if you’re like me, that’s probably not going to happen. This sword-shaped plant has been my constant companion for about two years, and he’s not going anywhere.
This plant has beautiful, smooth, waxy, dark green leaves and has many qualities that make it perfect for homes and offices. They tolerate drought (and the occasional neglect), and low-light conditions. It grows slowly and only to 2-3 feet, so no need to worry about it outgrowing its container too quickly. According to a NASA study, it improves air quality by removing large amounts of xylene, toluene, and benzene from the air.
The Peace Lily is so elegant, and it’s perfect for that spot in the room that needs a plant but just doesn’t get that much light. Some have even been known to survive in rooms with no windows at all! The other great thing about Peace Lillies is they let you know when they need a drink. Their leaves start to droop a bit when they’re dehydrated, and even if you neglect them for a bit, you’d be surprised how quickly they can be revived.
More Great Indoor Plant Ideas
Some other low maintenance plant options include:
- Red–edge dracaena (Madagascar dragon tree)
- English Ivy:
- Chlorophytum (Spider plant)
- Jade Plant
- Rubber Tree
- Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen):
- Areca Palm
- Fiddle-Leaf fig
Succulents are another great low-maintenance option, and one you don’t have to water too much. Do some research and find something that will work for you and look great in your home! The key is picking a plant that matches your lifestyle.