Looking to cheer up your living room? Houseplants are a happy choice; they’re lovely to gaze on, usually inexpensive, and they clean the ambient air of chemicals. Don’t be intimated if you’re not a seasoned gardener; some houseplants are virtually impossible to kill. Many of the sturdiest plants around are gradual growers—they react very slowly to changes in their environment, instead taking a full shock at once, like wildflowers do.
1. Boston fern
Ferns are some of the oldest species of life on earth; they’ve been around since the early dinosaur days. Very hardy plants, they can live indoors for decades if properly cared for. Boston ferns prefer an environment similar to their origin time; if you mist a fern between waterings, it will respond with new growth. Ferns dig medium to strong natural light (they’re natives of the forest floor), and they do well in hanging baskets, with lots of space to stretch out into.
Aglaonema is grows unhurriedly in the tropics, and also in thousands of malls and offices. A common indoor landscaping plant, it’s also known as Chinese Evergreen. Reaching twenty-eight inches at most, it’s a fine choice for cleaning indoor air (another reason it’s grown in malls and airports). A six to ten inch pot is a good choice for aglaonema; medium light is recommended.
3. Snake plant
Sturdy plants that come in many varieties, the snake plant and its sister mother-in-law’s tongue” are pretty indeed. Snake plants do best with ample light, and restrained watering. These plants grow to be forty-two inches high, but can be repotted before then. The main mass of leaves and roots can be separated, and you can start a new plant with a good-sized clipping. Snake plants are sold at chain stores, supermarkets, and, preferably, garden shops. If you’re shopping for houseplants, it’s best to go to a garden store, where the lighting, watering, and general standard of care are tailored to every plant?not so in a big box store.
4. Fiddle leaf fig
A pleasing choice for a quiet study or a bedroom the fiddle leaf fig has dark green, tough textured leaves and a filled out mature form. This plant thrives with medium to strong natural light, and gentle watering; let the top to mid soil dry out fully before watering again.
5. African Violet
At home on the plains of Africa, these tiny violets bloom all the time, in purple, yellow, blue, white, or pink. Give this plant moderate watering, from the bottom of the pot (this mimics the savannah), and let the soil dry completely before refilling. Steady, indirect light is preferable, like a sunny spot in a dining room or lanai.
6. Ficus plants
This houseplant is in actuality a tree, and quite old—ficus trees are written about in the Bible. Give this plant a lot of room for its root—at least a twenty-four inch pot, and offer indirect sun with average watering. This pretty tree will grow slowly, eventually filling a corner in the library.
A jungle plant by birth, bromeliads grow showy and fragrant blossoms. This plant loves warm environments, humid air, and indirect light (just like a jungle). A little challenging to groom indoors, bromeliads like regular watering at their base, and some plant food when buds begin forming there (these you can replant in a new pot).
Some of the hardiest plants on this list, succulents grow wild in deserts. These very gradual growers have thick, spongy leaves that hold large quantities of water. And so they don’t need much watering indoors; a well-drained pot is also a must. Aloe vera is an excellent succulent for starter gardeners; its sweet juice is a salve for minor burns and skin irritations. Succulents need lots of light and warmth; a kitchen windowsill is a good spot for a jade or sage plant.
Also from the desert, the cactus family is highly varied; some are button sized, others are forty feet tall. Lately cacti have been showing up in garden and grocery stores more often; they only require strong light and occasional watering (once a month is enough for most species). Cacti do need well drained and aerated containers.
10. Spider plant
A real toughie, spider plants will take off with steady light and adequate water. Given enough room, a mature spider plant can grow four or five feet wide. Variegated spider plants are the most common (and, possibly the most common houseplant); they’re outstanding air purifiers, filtering out many common household toxins. Weekly watering and, if you like, occasional organic plant food, will encourage a spider plant (Chlorophytum) to grow flowering plantlets which you can easily transplant—just let the baby sprig put down roots in a glass of water before replanting.
11. Lucky bamboo
Dracaena sanderiana is popular all over the world; its other name is lucky bamboo. This south Asian plant lives on and on in environments where other plants cannot—offices with poor air and bad light, for instance. Bamboo can grow in rocky soil with sporadic watering; this is not to say that this its preferred climate, it’s just a really hardy plant. Many people think lucky bamboo raises the level of chi (basic life energy) in its environment.
12. Rubber plant
A staple of home and office decor for decades, rubber plants have great shining leaves, built to drink in the humidity of the tropics. Rubber plants can be pruned down into shrubs, or allowed to reach up into a tree-like form. These plants do best in medium to high indirect light, with mild watering. Milky white sap leaks out from an injury to this plant—this sap is what we make into rubber.
13. Golden pothos vine
Another plant that comes from tropical regions, golden pothos vine have large yellow and green leaves. This vine can overtake whole trees; indoors, it will careen out of a planter with ease. You can repot golden pothos vine from a young sprout, first letting it root a bit in a glass of water. If you give this vine more care, like a good organic food source, it will grow huge, beautifully patterned leaves.