I hear it all the time in person and in comments online. A lot of you do not feel confident in having houseplants and swear you have a black thumb. I am here to tell you that there is at least one plant out there that you can keep alive. Getting a houseplant is like dating. Sometimes you have to try a few different ones before you find “the” one.
When I was in high school and college I loved ivy. I even had white bedding with pillows that had an ivy print on them and forrest green carpet. When Shane and I married I was determined to have ivy plants all over our apartment. You guys, I could have paid the rent at least one month with the amount of money I spent on buying those poor plants. I researched and found out they needed filtered light so I bought sheer curtains so the light would be just right. I am not sure why, but I can not keep an ivy plant alive! But I kept trying for the first 3 or so years. It was like the really hot guy you date but he is dumber than a box of rocks. You want it to work out so bad because he’s so pretty, but you just can’t do it. Once I gave up on the ivy fixation, I had more success which gave me more confidence.
After almost 17 years of buying and having house plants, here are my favorites that are also easy to care for.
Bird’s Nest Ferns
This is probably my all time favorite house plant. The first time I saw one I didn’t know what it was called and there wasn’t a tag with it so I bought it on a whim and hoped for the best. I nicknamed it the lasagna plant since the leaves curl on the edges like lasagna noodles. I later looked up online and found out the name. Luckily for me, they are easy to care for. I am obsessed with ferns, but they are hard to grow here in dry ‘ole Utah. This one requires less watering and is okay with the low humidity.
There is another variety that doesn’t have as skinny or as ruffley of leaves but it is still awesome. With both plants I love watching new leaves uncurl from the center. Speaking of the center, when you water these plants, avoid watering directly on the center part (the rosette) since it could cause it to rot. Water the edges of the pot instead.
Pothos are an excellent starter plant. I have never killed one, even in my newly married days. I am a serial plant relocator. I like to move them around as I rearrange other home decor accessories and even when I move one and forget where I put it for a month or more, it is still kicking. It may look a little limp, but I water it and it perks right up.
The other cool thing is that if you accidentally break off part of it or you just want another one of these plants, if you stick the cut part off in water, it will grow new roots. Plant it in a new pot and keep it watered well while the roots take hold and you have yourself a whole new plant! I usually wait until the new roots are a few inches long before repotting.
There are different variations of the pothos plant. I have a spotted one and a golden yellow one. Both are growing in my wall planter in the hall.
This is the other plant I recommend for beginners. It is often confused with the pothos above, but has a more heart shaped leaf. It is just as easy to care for as the pothos. Both are vines and will eventually drape or climb if given something to climb up. I like how it hangs in this beaded planter!
Believe it or not this is also a philodendron. It’s lacey leaves may throw you, but it really is! It will eventually need to be staked as it gets taller. My kids call this the dinosaur plant because they leaves are pretty big and it looks like something they would have eaten long ago.
This is my newest houseplant addition so I have had it less than a year. So far so good!
I do not currently have any bamboo but it was one of the first plants I bought after my ivy phase. I had a neighbor in our second apartment that was obsessed with them and got me on the bamboo bandwagon. It is SUPER easy to care for and is commonly sold. We moved a lot in those early years so not all my plants made it in all our moves. I had to give some away. I need to go on the hunt and find a big plant like the one pictured here.
Again, I had some early on but ended up getting rid of them as we started having curious toddlers. The kids and I were just talking the other day about how we can finally get some as long as we put them up on tall surfaces or in tall planters so Kevin, our dog, won’t get poked. There are so many variations that it would be fun to get several and group them like this picture!
I have two of these. One is all green and one has white stripes. One I have had in my hallway for a few years and one was a gift from this past summer. The one I got as a gift, I put it on my office prop shelves and forgot I had it. I think I spaced it because I didn’t lovingly pick it out, buy it myself, and name it (kidding…). I “found” it later, much later, and it has a few brown crunchy leaves at the base but all in all, it looked pretty darn good.
When they are young they are bush and as they get bigger some variations can get woody trunks and resemble a ponytail palm.
I threw this one in here even though I have never had this plant because growing up I swear everyone had one! They were the “it” plant of the 70’s and 80’s. They were (and are) popular because of how easy they are to care for and because they are non-toxic unlike most other houseplants. The little baby plants at the end of the vines can even be repotted for new plants!
It wasn’t until the last 5 years or so that I could appreciate the more architectural plants like the aloe vera. I had been more drawn to the more full and lush plants. I think it is good to have a mix of styles not just in home decor, but also in plants. This is a plant that is recommended by many as a good plant to have in your bedroom since it puts off so much oxygen. It is suppose to help you sleep better. Plus, this one comes in hand if you get a burn!
Norfolk Island Pine
I bought this one several years ago because my kids thought it looked like a mini Christmas tree. They wanted it in their room. You guys, if you want to talk about forgetting a plant, THIS guy right here get neglected more than any other plant we own. My boys never water it. I never even remember we have it since it’s usually at least partially covered in dirty laundry. This little guy is a trooper. He only gets watered about once a month and he is still going strong. He has not had a lot of growth. He would probably grow more if we actually took care of him.
As I have gone around speaking at home shows or at events promoting my book, Natural Accents, I have heard more than once that people buy succulents because people say they are fail proof, and then they end up killing them. I will admit to killing some myself. There are certain types I can not keep a live. See the spiky one in the white bowl? I have bought three and the longest one lasted was 6 months. I do better with thicker ones.
I have found through talking with people that the common problem is over watering. Water it enough that the soil gets wet and don’t water it again until the soil dries out.
They need a lot of sun. Try putting them in a sunny spot (south facing away from the window or right by the window east facing).
There are SO MANY varieties and they are all so different! That is what is so fun about them.
Z Z Plant
Z Z, easy peasy. I know this whole list is “easy to care for plants” but some are even easier than others. This one, my friends, can withstand neglect and very low light. If you have a room that doesn’t get a ton of light, this is your plant. It is so shiny and rubbery that it almost looks fake. Some say this is a slow growing plant but I have found that they grow pretty fast. In this photo by the typewriter I had only had it about a year. Now, a few year later, it is 2 1/2 feet tall.
Remember the laundry room I did for my friend? I bought her a ZZ plant because the laundry room only gets natural light when the garage door is open. This was back in July and it is so tall now that it doesn’t fit on her shelf. It is on her table and has about doubled in size. And for the record, my friend swore she had a black thumb.
This was another plant I bought on a whim because I had never seen one before and I thought it was pretty. I lucked out again because it is very easy to care for. It resided in my laundry room for about 3 years and I always forgot to water it. It would occasionally drop some leaves but it always remained bushy and pretty. This is another plant that you can propagate (cut off and put in water to grow new roots).
This guy is in the same category as the ZZ plant as far as neglect and low light. I swear it is indestructible! I have had two of these guys for several years and just bought two more for my office closet. Yep, a closet. You can put these guys just about anywhere!
Such a fun and funky plant! I had not tried one out until a couple of years ago but love them! They literally do not need any soil. I just soak them in lukewarm water every couple of weeks for about 20 minutes. If you live where it is humid you could get away with soaking them in water every 3 or 4 weeks. The downside is that your kids will want to play with it and they may lose it. I still can’t find one of mine! He is probably still alive….
Remember in the movie, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when they had a love fern? Well, Shane and I had a love ficus. Even before the first ivy plant, we had a ficus tree. I can’t even remember if we bought it or if it was a gift, but it was our first plant together. We had it for seven years. It survived grabby toddlers who constantly picked off leaves and tipped it over. Buy sadly, it did not survive our move in the back of a moving truck across the desert. I should have packed it in the minivan, but hey, we had a lot of good years. I really need to get another one!
I would love to hear what plants you have had luck with! Are any of your favorites not on the list? List them off in the comments :)
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