Despite having a house full of thriving plants, I must admit that I do not naturally have a green thumb. It took a lot of reading and trial and error to find plants that would flourish in my home and in my life. Now, I am a full-blown plant fanatic.
Houseplants are a staple in my home and have been since I can remember. I have received a lot of questions about how I care for so many plants. So I wanted to give you all some of my tricks of the trade that help me keep my plants alive and happy. I also wanted to share a list of my top favorite (easiest to keep alive) houseplants with some information on each. I rely on books for a lot of my know-how when it comes to new plants. One book I love is The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin. Most of the plants in my top 12 are in this book and I highly recommend it to any new houseplant parent.
When it comes to watering, it’s much better to physically take your plants to the shower or bath or sink and give them a good soak, rather than on the spot watering with a can. I love to get the houseplants outside in a rainstorm because rainwater has great nutrients, adds nitrogen to the soil, and its an amazing way to dust the leaves. If you’re hyper organized, you can keep a watering schedule or an inventory of your plants. But, if you’re like me and not as organized or have too many plants, rely on touch. If the soil is dry, water it!
All plants can benefit from a little bit of fertilizer. I swear by SUPERthrive. If you can get past the smell, I would recommend adding this into your watering routine!
Around Christmas, I accidentally bought a self-watering pot, thinking it was just a normal pot. These majestic pots have little pipes in them and a reservoir of water in the bottom so they only extract the water they need. I have put water in that pot one time since having it and the plant is thriving. I am definitely ordering more of the self-watering pots, since they make it so easy for a plant to thrive. I think it actually saves water, too, since it only takes what it needs!
Another trick for easier watering is to use Plant Nanny‘s in your pots. These little contraptions use gravity to pull water from a bottle (or a wine bottle full of water). Like the self-watering pot, these use less water, help the roots take deeper hold, and save your time by letting the plants essentially water themselves.
I like to use plastic pots so that I can easily take them outside for watering. I am in the process of getting rid of my plastic saucers and using glazed saucers this summer, to protect my furniture and floors and keep the water clearer and smelling better.
When it comes to placing your plants in your home, they all have specific light needs. Its best to rely on a favorite plant book or google them to know what lighting works best for your plants. My house is a 70s contemporary and tends to be pretty dark, so I make sure to buy low-light plants. And the plants that require more light, I style closer to the windows.
When it comes to blending my plants with home decor, clearly I think more is better. I’m not a minimalist regarding plants. I always love a layered look. To achieve this, when I hit the thrift stores, I look for lots of little tables and stools so that I can place my plants throughout my house at varying heights. This is a great and inexpensive way to layer and style plants in your home! I’m also lucky that I have exposed beams that I can anchor little hooks in to hang plants everywhere. For styling, eBay is a great and inexpensive place to find stunning 70s macrame hanging holders as well!
TOP 12 FAVORITE HOUSEPLANTS
12. Prickly Pear
Other names: Prickly Pear Cactus, Rabbit Ears Cactus, Opuntia spp.
Since this is a cactus, it is used to hot, dry climates. I only water mine when the soil appears very dry. The Prickly Pear, when grown indoors in containers, loves direct sunlight. I don’t have many cacti, but I refer to my good friend Cactus Man when I want cactus inspiration or the proper names of cacti that I see!
Other names: Firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Rosea’, Medusa’s Head
The Euphorbia is a relatively small plant and will stay under 3 feet for the most part. I love this plant because it doesn’t need to be micromanaged, I feel the soil and if it’s completely dry an inch in, I add some water. This also grows great potted with other succulents.
Note: They are toxic and should be kept out of reach of children and pets. I keep mine on high ledges or in hanging planters.
10. Ponytail Palm
Other names: Nolina recurvata, Elephant Foot Tree (nickname)
Do not overwater this guy, because the enlarged, bulbous base of the ponytail stores water. The thin, grass-like leaves make this plant a stand out among other plants. It’s a relatively slow growing plant, but sturdy like an ox. Trim the ends of the leaves if they brown. This plant pairs great with Polka Dot Plants and Ferns!
Other names: Dracaena deremensis
Their are 110 variations of the Dracaena, but with bright yellow and white on the leaves, I love its ability to lighten up any space. At most nurseries, these are about a foot tall, but will grow much taller through the years. I let the soil dry in between waterings with mine.
8. Polka Dot Plant
Other names: Hypoestes phyllostachya, freckle face, measles plant
This short plant is as cute as a button, and I used to grow these as a kid. The Polka Dot grows really fast and with its unique pattern, looks good planted under and with other houseplants. For this to thrive, the soil must be pretty moist at all times.
7. Spider Plant
Other names: Chlorophytum comosum
The Spider Plant is a fast growing, wiry leafed, large bodied plant. It sits best right near a window. Because of the long leaves, the Spider plant is often thirsty. This plant does require a little grooming, so I make sure to snip it from time to time to keep mine healthy!
Other names: Asplenium, Athyrium, Davallia, Humata, Nephrolepis, Polypodium, Pteris
There are a ton of different variations of ferns and the majority of them are really easy as long as you are dedicated to watering them 2-3 times a week. I have two massive ferns in my front yard that are shaded by big trees. Ferns thrive in low-light so they work fantastically as houseplants. They do run thirsty, so I make sure to feel the soil in mine every couple days to make sure it remains moist.
This is a stubborn and wonderful plant with heart shaped leaves. It won’t surpass 2 feet, but this fast growing plant will drape from whatever it is planted in. The Philodendron will grow best in moist soil, but will forgive you if you forget for a week.
4. Jade Plant
Other names: Crassula ovate, friendship tree, lucky plant
This succulent plant is a durable little houseplant. It has smooth little dark green leaves on a small frame.
Other names: Mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plant
This pointy plant works best in indirect sunlight and can actually burn in direct light. Most Sansevierias don’t surpass two feet tall. I let the soil completely dry out between waterings because they are so tolerable. This plant is perfect for someone who swears they can’t keep plants alive. Mother-in-law’s will prove them wrong!
2. ZZ Plant
Other names: Zamioculcas zamifolia
This plant is one of the easiest plants to keep alive. All it requires is wet soil and a corner to live in. Although it is slow growing, the ZZ Plant is as durable as they come. Buy one that is good looking to begin with, since its look won’t change for the most part.
Other names: Scindapsus pictus, Epipremnum aureum
Tovah Martin calls Pothos, “virtually unkillable” and I wholeheartedly agree. These durable houseplants are fast growing, forgiving wonder plants. These are the leafy hanging plants covering my living room. They drape down like ivy and lighten up any space. Martin’s favorite type is the Silver Satin, but there are many different variations, and all of them are incredibly long lasting.
Note: The ASPCA marks Pothos as the most toxic plants to pets, so keep them out of reach of your beloved animals.
Note: A lot of the information in this list is from “The Indestructible Houseplant”, for full information on these plants and many others, check out the book!
One of the greatest attributes of houseplants is their air purifying capabilities. The Indestructible Houseplant notes that in a NASA study, second place for Air Purifying plants went to Spider Plants. Other top purifying plants on our list include Pothos and Philodendron. I love that my plants act as natural purifiers for my dogs and me.
While doing some research for this post, I ran to a little bookstore and picked up some vintage books. Growing up in the 70s, houseplants were all the rage and every home seemed full of them. Because of this, there were tons of books on plants published during this time. I found great books in the gardening section for next to nothing.
I hope that this inspires you to start a small jungle in your own home, or at least try your hand at one or two plants. My home feels happiest when it is full of houseplants. I have found that the presence of plants around me has completely changed my life… for the better.