One of the first ways I wanted to improve our apartment was through the addition of houseplants. They add softness and warmth to a space and can also help purify air, creating a more enriching environment. I was, however, at a loss as to where to begin and what to buy.
I did a lot of internet searching, mostly sticking to queries such as, “common houseplants” and “easy plants to keep alive indoors.” I don’t necessarily have a black thumb, but I don’t have the most promising track record either. I wanted to start slow and take it easy; I initially thought I would buy a snake plant, which is well known as the easiest plant to keep alive.
Well, as of today we have 12 houseplants, including a cactus who is biding its final adieus to us as we speak, and I have only killed four plants since we moved in. In eight months? Not bad!
Or is it? I really have no idea. Two were grocery store plants that just didn’t get enough light on the kitchen table, one got a moldy virus that completely dried it out and turned it a charming gray color, and the last one was woefully overwatered and was living in a swamp by the time I figured out what had happened. When I went to take the last one out of its pot it literally disintegrated in my fingers.
I thought that since I’ve found blogs and forums to be founts of growing tips and recommendations I would share a few plants that are working well around here. To note, we have eastern and western facing windows only. We’d be making a killing selling oxygen if we had one of the elusive south-facing apartments in our building, but with the particular sunshine we do get our plants seem to fair well. Of course, adjust accordingly to suit your optimal growing conditions.
Before I share all the plants I must confess that a lot of these plants were purchased before I read extensively about their care and maintenance regimen (i.e., you’ll see a lot of tropical plants). I was wooed by their beauty and couldn’t resist buying them. So you might find that they don’t really make sense here, but alas they are mine and until they die I’m going to try mightily to take care of them.
Sunlight: Bright, indirect
Water: Once every week during the growing season, about half that during dormant periods
Temperature: They like it warm and humid, do not allow temperatures to go below 60 degrees F
This umbrella tree is pretty happy here in our dining room. With the curtain pulled back it receives indirect sunlight nearly all day long thanks to generous reflections from the apartment across the lawn. I moved it from its initial spot in the family room because it was dropping leaves like mad (literally 5-10 every day) and it is faring far better in this brighter room.I haven’t done it yet, but it’s been recommended to put this guy in the shower and give it a healthy rinse. It helps mimic the tropical climate in which the plant thrives.
Sunlight: Low to medium light
Water: Once a week, or every two weeks if the plant begins to droop
Temperature: 60-75 degrees
This is the Mall Plant. It is in every mall you’ve ever been to and it’s living its best life there. This plant is easy going and low-maintenance, making it a great first attempt. It sits in the window of our living room because it was really sad next to the record player where it used to live. I found that it needed more light than was initially recommended and since it’s been getting extra vitamin D it’s been thriving. Pretty regular misting also helps. Every other week I take it outside and mist it with a spray bottle and that seems to do the trick. NOTE: This plant is highly toxic and can cause irritation to lips, mouth, and throat if chewed or swallowed by both humans and pets.
Water: Heavy watering necessary; keep soil moist and mist 1-2 times per week
Temperature: Warm, up to 80 degrees
This plant is high maintenance in terms of its need for regular watering. I find I water two or three times a week and mist it as much. You can read its needs by the leaves, which droop when it’s been too long between waterings. I love the bright colors and stiff leaves in contrast to the other greenery on the plant stand. NOTE: this plant is also poisonous and harmful if chewed or eaten by humans and pets.
Light: Low, indirect
Water: Check the soil, let it dry out on top, but ensure the bottom soil is still moist; do not let sit in water; mist regularly
Temperature: 70-85 degrees
This is one of those plants that I probably shouldn’t have but do. It loves the tropics and should really live in a greenhouse, but I just think it’s so cool looking! I think it will be alright in its small container for a while, but it might need to be repotted semi-soon. This plant gets a misting once a week, though it could use it more often. If you do repot it, add in bark or wood chips to promote drainage. Orchid compost mix works well here also.
CREEPING FIG–WHITE SUNNY
Light: Bright, indirect; will tolerate low light, but not direct sun
Water: Water thoroughly when potting soil is dry 1-inch down
Temperature: 55-85 degrees
I’m not a huge ivy fan but I like a little creep in my life. This guy would do well in a basket and I’m tempted to move him outside under the shade of the above balcony. It would also be cool if I trained him to climb down the plant stand, so we’ll see. This might be the easiest of all the plants…
Light: Medium, Indirect or dappled shade
Water: Water regularly and keep soil moist; mist 1-2 times per week; can keep in a tray of pebble with water if environment is especially dry
Temperature: 60-75 degrees
The Boston Fern loves humidity. I should probably just take it to Bali when we go there this fall because it will most likely not be satisfied here. I’ve had it for a month and so far it’s stayed alive, but I’m not sure it’s in the right spot. A few pictures up you can see that it’s not even in the right size pot but, to be quite frank, I’ve been too lazy to do something about it, presumably figuring that it’s about to implode. Give this guy plenty of water and do not let it dry out. While it looks most at home in a country or cottage style abode, I think it looks smart when kept to a smaller size.
DRACAENA MARGINATA (sometimes DRAGON TREE)
Water: Allow soil to dry between waterings, though not completely; do not let it sit in water
I bought this plant the second week we lived in the apartment and it hasn’t changed AT ALL in the last 8 months. Literally, hasn’t grown an inch. But, it hasn’t died either so I’m counting it a win. It’s incredibly easy to take care of, very hardy and drought resistant. I like the spiky leaves and think it makes a good accessory in the bedroom corner. Unfortunately I planted this in a pot without any drainage holes, which may end up being an issue. There are rocks at the bottom that can trap water, but since this plant is highly susceptible to root-rot it would be better to plant it in a pot with drainage holes.
^^there’s a dresser in here now…
FIDDLE LEAF FIG
Light: Bright, filtered (can take full sun if in an eastern-facing window)
Water: Keep steadily moist but do not let it sit in water; wait until soil is dry about 1-inch down
Temperature: Warm, 70-85 degrees
Ah, the design world darling. Everyone wants a fiddle leaf and it’s no wonder since they are such beauties to look at! If only they weren’t so temperamental. Some people consider these low-maintenance plants, but I think they require some work. The watering is the most important and precarious aspect. It might take you a few weeks to figure out how much water and how frequently, but be mindful that overwatering is the number one way to kill this guy. Brown spots on the leaves indicate that you are drowning the poor thing. Since the leaves are so large they catch quite a bit of dust. Wipe down leaves every week with a damp cloth so their pores remain unobstructed (see, picky). Rotate the plant once a week as they will grow aggressively toward the light and you will soon have a sexily leaning plant in the corner of your room if you don’t keep ahead of its movements. Once you find a spot for the plant keep it in place. It does not like relocation and will suggest as much by promptly dropping all its leaves. As I mentioned, there are a number of factors at play when attempting to keep this plant alive but it adds great drama and interest to a room and I think we could all use a little more glamour at home.
^^that’s a real life working desk, my friends
SNAKE PLANT (sometimes MOTHER-IN-LAW’S TONGUE)
Light: Bright, with some sun; although, this plant is very forgiving and can tolerate low light conditions
Water: Let soil dry between waterings; monthly water should suffice; water only around the edges of the pot
Temperature: Anything above 50 degrees, though they prefer the warmth
Contrary to the fiddle leaf, the snake plant could survive in a closet if need be. This is the toughest of all house plants and perfect for anyone just getting started with flora and fauna. The stiff, upright leaves are just as dramatic as the oversized fiddle leaves but, again, much easier to care for. You can easily split one plant up into several groupings around your house, but I like the impact of a big plant. It wants a lot of light, and will even flower if it gets enough, but as stated above it can tolerate low light. Just be prepared for it to stay pretty stagnant, much like the dracaena. I think it looks best in a minimal basket or pot.
Light: Bright, filtered; can tolerate morning sun
Water: Keep steadily moist; mist weekly or bi-weekly
I’m really excited about this tree, but it’s not so happy here. Right now it lives in the guest room but it doesn’t get enough sun, which is causing the leaves to turn slightly yellow and droop. I’ve been playing around with it in the living room (eastern-facing) and I think it will do better in there. I love the big, glossy leaves and bright red vein that goes down the back. Like the fiddle leaf, this tree can grow to be 40-50 feet in nature so it’s really more like a topiary when grown indoors. Find a nice bright spot for this guy because it’s supposed to be a fast grower, rewarding you with hearty leaves and a gorgeous fullness.
Not plants, of course, by foliage nonetheless. I have really enjoyed having both permanent houseplants and fresh flowers around the apartment. They lift my mood and add dimension and warmth to our home. The trick is to find the right plants for your space and lifestyle, a trick that I am obviously still learning.
To note, I didn’t share all the plants we have going on over here. There’s the aforementioned cactus that could die at any moment and a zee zee plants that’s quietly ticking away by the sofa. It’s a good little plant that barely does anything, but a bigger size promises more action and style. Note that this plant is also toxic and poisonous if consumed.
So, what kinds of plants do you have? Live? Silk? Imaginary? I would really love any tips or suggestions because I’m always looking for ways to create a more homey, rich environment. Happy gardening!