Houseplants are a great way to make a living space feel more welcoming and relaxing. There’s psychological research to back this up – plants in the spaces where we live and work can help us feel more calm, clear-headed, and productive. They help purify the air. And as elements of interior design, they are classic and timeless, adding interest and vitality to otherwise static and hard-edged spaces. So even if you’re not an avid gardener, there are plenty of reasons to think about adding houseplants to your living space.
If you don’t have much experience caring for plants, though, it’s easy to choose ones that are less than ideal for your home. Not all plants do well inside, but any nursery or garden center should clearly mark their offerings as suited for outdoors or indoors. Just because a plant is in the houseplant section does not mean it’s easy to care for, though. All plants should come with a tag that includes basic care requirements – these should spell out the amount of light and water they need. Generally, plants that need less light and water will be better candidates for surviving your busy weeks at work and going unwatered during a weeklong vacation.
But there are many other variables, too. Some plants are more tolerant of a range of conditions or other hardships – poor soil, variations in sunlight exposure, dry indoor air, etc. Sharing your living space with roommates just adds one more variable to the mix for houseplant survival. For example, moving a plant across a room can really harm some plants while others won’t be affected.
No houseplant is truly unkillable, of course. But there are a handful of great go-to options for people who want the benefits of plants in their home without the hassle of complicated care.
Here are five great, time-tested houseplants to add to your living space that are known for being low-maintenance, hardy, and reliable. Keep an eye out for these and it’s likely you’ll notice them as staples in homes, offices, and restaurants.
- Sansevieria, aka Snake Plant, Snake Tongue, Devil’s Tongue, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, or Viper’s Bowstring Hemp
These plants are wildly popular in offices and restaurants because of their incredibly low maintenance requirements and unique sculptural appearance. They grow straight up, so sansevieria are great for places where voluminous or bushy growth could get in the way – for example, in a stairwell, or in a narrow patio planter. This is one plant you’ll never have to worry about pruning. You don’t have to do much to keep these plants alive, either: they can tolerate most light conditions and barely need any water (a modest watering every other week is plenty, and just once a month in the winter – let the soil dry out entirely between waterings). Just don’t over-water your snake plant – root rot is about the only sure way to kill one.
- Epipremnum aureum, most commonly known as Devil’s Ivy or golden pothos
This houseplant is satisfying to keep because of its rapid growth and lovely trailing vines that cascade down the side of a bookcase or from a hanging planter, adding a touch of wildness and lots of green to your home within a matter of months. Devil’s ivy requires some pruning and thoughtful placement to avoid it getting in the way.
You can also guide its vines as they grow, using hooks or by simply draping them over objects in the direction you want them to take. Vines can grow to ten feet or more. Devil’s ivy can tolerate most lighting conditions and needs only moderate watering – once a week, or every other week in winter. Just don’t leave the soil soaking.
- Zamioculcas zamiifolia, best known by the nickname ZZ plant and sometimes called Zanzibar gem or emerald palm
ZZ plants are popular for both their stylish appearance and easy maintenance. With their glossy, deep-green leaves, ZZ plants seem to exude extra plant power into indoor environments, while their assertive, rhythmic geometry conjures modern art. ZZ plants make great houseplants because they can tolerate low light conditions well. In fact, too much direct sunlight or heat can burn them, so they do best away from windows. They only need watering once or twice a month and less frequently in winter, and it’s best to let soil completely dry between waterings. ZZ plants can ultimately grow to 3-4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, but under low light conditions, this is likely to take a very long time. They grow more rapidly in moderate lighting.
- Chlorophytum comosum, aka spider plant
These ubiquitous houseplants are fairly tough, relatively low-maintenance and are a lot of fun to grow because they generate babies that can easily be snipped from their stalks, propagated in water and eventually replanted – great as gifts or simply to fill your house with generations of spider plants! Spider plants prefer at least some bright light, but can survive a range of lighting conditions – just avoid very dark corners and hot sun (they can burn), and be aware that more light will help them produce more babies.
Spider plants need more regular watering than the other plants on this list, but are still fairly neglect-tolerant. A good soak once a week to every other week should do it. Try to ensure there’s always a little moisture in the soil. If not, your spider plant may start to wilt. Even if this happens occasionally, if you water quickly in response, your plant will probably perk right up.
- Aglaonema, best known as Chinese evergreen
Chinese evergreen plants are an easy way to add intriguing patterns and colors to your home. Depending on the variety, their distinctive foliage can include intricate patterns of green and white, or mix green with showy splashes of red and yellow. These plants can tolerate drought, dry air and low light, so they’re generally a great beginner houseplant. They can be cold-sensitive, though, so it’s best to keep them away from drafty windows in cold weather – temperatures below 60 can start to harm them. Otherwise, Chinese evergreens offer impressive style with minimal effort.
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