If you’re new to indoor gardening, the worst thing you can do is start with a plant that’s tricky to care for. It’s easy to get discouraged and throw in the trowel (see what I did there?) when your shiny new plant starts turning yellow and dropping leaves all over the place. Fortunately, that’s unlikely to happen when you pick a nice friendly spider plant or pothos to start off with, even if you don’t think your thumb has an ounce of green in it. But when you visit the nursery, plants aren’t marked by the level of expertise needed to grow them successfully. That’s where this handy guide to the most popular indoor plants comes into play.
Every week we research new product categories and bring our final picks into the office, where we haggle and decide which ones make the final list. Everything is based on quality, appearance, and price. These are what we would choose for our own home.
When in comes to maintenance, think of these guys as the training wheels of the plant world. Once you got them down, you can move on to plants that require a bit more mastery.
You’d have to actively try to kill a spider plant. Give them a pot of soil, a moderate amount of sunlight, and water once per week, and they’ll be happy forever. In summer the plant sends out long stems capped with white flowers. The flowers develop into new plantlets that resemble spiders hanging from a web. You can cut these off and plant them to increase your collection or give them away to friends.
You’ll always know when your peace lily is thirsty because the whole plant will visibly droop. Luckily, it bounces back quickly once you treat it to a nice long drink. In fact, it’s much more tolerant of drought than overwatering, and some prefer to hold off on watering until they notice the stems going limp. Peace lilies survive well in dim conditions, but if you want yours to bloom it will need a medium level of light.
ZZ plants thrive in bright, indirect light, but they will also carry on just fine when light is scarce, making them the ideal plant for cave-like apartments and offices. But the best part about this nearly-indestructible houseplant is that it can survive for months without water. In fact, the only surefire way to kill it is to water it too often.
Like ZZ plants, pothos will survive no matter where you put it. Direct sunlight may burn it, but otherwise it will do well anywhere on the spectrum of bright, filtered light to low light. Pothos will tolerate a missed watering here and there, though as a general rule, water it when the top layer of soil is getting dry. You can easily propagate pothos by rooting cuttings in water. The cuttings can remain growing in water or be potted soon after the roots appear.
Looking for a bit of a challenge, but nothing you need to fuss over daily? Try one of these plants, which require intermediate level plant skills.
Begonias come in countless colors and patterns, so they’re fun to collect. They’re a bit fussy about water and humidity, but not impossible to please. Light should be indirect and soil should be lightly damp at all times, though it’s best to refrain from watering until you notice the leaves drooping if you’re prone to overwatering.
The beloved monstera is on the finicky side, but not beyond the scope of success for entry-level growers. Monstera’s iconic leaves will scorch if sunlight is too harsh, but may not develop their famous perforations when light is dim, so filtered, indirect light is key. Soil should be kept evenly moist, but not wet; water when the top few inches are dry. Monstera is a climber, so you may need to offer some sort of support for more mature plants. Tuck the aerial roots back into the pot as they grow.
Orchids have a reputation for being especially fickle, but they’re not too difficult to grow once you get used to them. The main challenge is watering. They don’t need a lot of water, and even a little bit of overwatering can kill them. Using ice cubes to water is an easy way to prevent overwatering, but the preferred method is to douse the soil using the faucet for 15 seconds followed by 15 minutes of draining to ensure all excess water runs out.
These plants are for the truly dedicated. Do your research ahead of time so you know what to expect.
This African jungle plant can be a challenge to grow in the dry air of a home that’s air-conditioned in summer and dry and drafty in winter. But it’s not impossible. Fiddle leaf figs need a fair amount of light, but nothing too harsh. You’ll also want to let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering—and then give it a really good soaking until water runs out of the drainage holes. The gigantic leaves tend to collect a lot of dust, so be vigilant and wipe them down once a month so as not to inhibit the plant’s respiration.
Fun fact: Staghorn ferns are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants and trees in the wild. That’s why they typically come mounted on a block of wood. They need protection from harsh sun rays but plenty of bright, indirect light in order to do well. Watering is the trickiest part of growing a staghorn fern and the reason being it is truly an advanced-level plant. Staghorn ferns need regular misting and soaking, and the frequency varies drastically depending on the time of season, temperature, and humidity. You can start with once a week and adjust from there, but you’ll want to do your research.
Growing carnivorous plants is endlessly entertaining but admittedly a bit of a challenge. It’s really important that your Venus flytrap’s roots never dry out—but the catch is that you can only water it with distilled water or rainwater. Tap water has too many minerals for this bog-dweller. You’ll also need to be sure to get it as much bright light as you can and be diligent about shielding it from drafts. Oh, and you might need to feed it insects from time to time!
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