I am a houseplant fanatic. When it comes to beautifying my home, plants are my favorite go-to décor. Plants add natural character and texture to a room and infuse a space with a bright, fresh feeling. Apart from looking lovely, house plants possess attractive health benefits too! They have air purifying effects and stress-reducing qualities. House plants are an attractive design element that promote health and wellness while providing eye-appealing aesthetics in any home.
Although I’ve always been an avid fan of houseplants, for a long time I possessed something of a black thumb—the opposite of a more nurturing “green” one. So much so that I garnered a bit of a reputation at home as a plant murderer (I would like to contest these charges by pleading herbslaughter or negligence in the first degree, as these recurrent killings were always accidental.) The death of multiple plants under my care was undeniably discouraging. By the twelfth plant-related tragedy, I had all but given up. I seemed to possess an unwanted ability to transform anything green and leafy into a withered and frail stick near death’s garden bed. This unfortunate pattern was largely due to a lack of knowledge on basic plant care coupled with my misplaced assumption that when it came to plants, there was a status quo in terms of required upkeep—an across-the-board criterion that applied to anything flora-related. I was wrong.
In my naiveté, I saturated my succulents and cacti with generous amounts of H2O, completely unaware that they’re a type of plant that do not require frequent watering. Have you ever killed a cactus? I have, and it’s a saddening sight indeed. I would sigh defeatedly as I chucked another lifeless cactus (appropriately named Spike) in the trash, alongside its recently deceased cousin, an over-watered aloe vera named Larry.
Like any proper nerd would do, I deferred to research; I investigated many different plant species, their unique traits and their care requirements. While I try to avoid houseplants with reputations for being finicky divas, I’d like to think that I now have enough skill and knowledge to keep even the ficklest of fauna alive.
Here is a list of popular houseplants with descriptions on their unique needs and best-care practices to ensure your flora not only survives but thrives!
Spider plants are Mother Nature’s throwback to when macramé plant hangers and the indoor jungle aesthetic adorned many a living room during the 1970s. The seventies are once again on trend, making spider plants an easy way for you to achieve a retro-like vibe. The plant’s long, grass-like leaves are nontoxic to pets and tolerate a variety of conditions. They thrive in indirect light and well-drained soil. As with many plants, waterlogged roots are a death sentence, so plant this lithe-leafed beauty in a pot with proper drainage and allow its soil to dry between each watering.
You’ve likely seen this elegant vine scaling the exterior walls of buildings—adding depth, texture, and color that compliments any style of architecture. When grown indoors, this English beauty craves light and cooler temperatures. To avoid unwanted leaf burn, avoid placing it in sun-intense spots (such as near a south-facing window). English ivy can be grown in regular potting soil with proper drainage and, once again, it’s important that you allow the soil to dry between waterings. During the winter months when the air is noticeably drier, you can lightly mist the plant’s trailing leaves to keep them hydrated.
This popular tree-like plant, with lissome branches and signature deep-green leaves, will rightfully become the focal point of any room. If properly cared for, a rubber tree can grow to an impressive height within just a few years. It thrives in bright, indirect light and requires proper drainage; therefore well-aerated potting soil is recommended. Try to find a potting soil that is one part peat, one part bark, and one part sand.
A hardy succulent, the snake plant, will appeal to the neglectful (aka forgetful) plant parent as it tolerates low light and infrequent waterings quite well. Its spear-like leaves have a sculptural quality while the vibrant greens and yellows of its distinctive foliage compliment any space. Be mindful when you’re watering as too much hydration will lead to an unwanted case of root rot. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings.
Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree
Chances are you’ve stumbled upon the classic silhouette of a fiddle-leaf fig tree while skimming through design savvy Instagram feeds. The fiddle-leaf fig tree is a striking addition to any space and boasts large, deep-green foliage. It tolerates low light well; however, if a space is too dim it may lose some of its leaves. Sizes vary but the fiddle-leaf fig tree can grow up to fifteen feet tall and five feet wide. If this size seems too imposing, you can simply keep its bulk in check by pruning its stems back to a more manageable height and width. Again, be sure to let the soil dry between waterings.
This glossy green beauty is often mistaken for a fake plant because of its strikingly shiny leaves. The ZZ plant is resilient and tolerates low light, and in fact, prefers tempered sunshine. Too much exposure to sunlight can result in “scalding” of its leaves. This plant’s robust profile makes it a desirable addition to any home. It is susceptible to root rot, so be mindful not to overwater. Try potting it with a soil mixture designed specifically for plants like cacti or succulents as those mixes provide rapid drainage.
A personal favorite of mine, this hardy plant with heart-shaped leaves adapts well to low-lit areas. It looks particularly striking when placed on a bookshelf or mantelpiece where its sprawling foliage can trail down and grow to a length of eight feet or longer. This versatile plant can also be fashioned into an upright tower of greenery by attaching its climbing stems to a moss-covered pole, making for a striking, all-natural statement piece. Ensure proper drainage and allow its soil to dry between waterings.
These simple care instructions have helped me to keep my house plants alive and thriving. So much so, that my home now resembles an indoor jungle, much to the chagrin of my dog, Levi, whose turf for lounging is slowly being encroached upon by potted ferns and snake plants. Let my successful plant ownership be a testament that with a little bit of effort, anyone can successfully grow lush greenery in their home!