When it comes to caring for house plants, some folks are born with a green thumb while others swear they could kill a cactus. As a member of the latter category (or so I thought), I understand the hesitation that goes along with becoming a plant parent. I loved the idea of filling my space with the best indoor plants, but I was scared to end up with a bunch of dead foliage.
Then two years ago, a friend (who is also a gardening teacher) brought over a plant clipping to my apartment. She helped me settle it in a pot and shared advice on how to care for it. That gifted plant ushered me into the wide world of indoor greenery—my collection has grown to 11 house plants spread over three window sills—brightening my home and offering fulfillment along the way.
For aspiring plant parents who feel apprehensive about embarking on their own plant journeys like I once did, know that there are plenty of great indoor plant options for every skill level and environment. I sought out the advice of a few notable plant experts: Eliza Blank and Erin Marino, founder and marketing director, respectively, of The Sill; Christan Summers, CEO and co-founder of Tula Plants & Design; and Summer Rayne Oakes, founder of Homestead Brooklyn and Plant One On Me. They not only shared their extensive flora wisdom, but they also offered their picks for the best indoor plants, for beginners, less than hospitable conditions and beyond.
Check out their recommendations below, then read on for their expert tips on how to care for all your indoor plants.
- Best Low Maintenance Indoor Plant: Marble Queen Pothos
- Best Indoor Plant For Low Light: ZZ Plant
- Best Indoor Plant For Small Spaces: Snake Plant
- Best Flowering Indoor Plant: Anthurium
- Best Indoor Plant for Clean Air: Parlor Palm
- Best Indoor Plant For Pet Owners: Bird’s Nest Fern
- Best Indoor Plant to Build Confidence: Philodendron
- Best “Next Level” Indoor Plant: Monstera
Best Low Maintenance Indoor Plant
Known to be one of the easiest house plants to grow, the Marble Queen Pothos has lovely heart shaped leaves and growing vines that will quickly fill your plant shelf with beauty. Because it can thrive in low-light environments and with less-than-ideal watering practices, this very undemanding species is excellent for beginners or for anyone who is less than diligent about their plant care.
Best Indoor Plant For Low Light
The Zamioculcas zamiifolia, better known as the ZZ plant, is another reliable house plant option for beginners. It can withstand all sorts of less than ideal factors, like infrequent watering or dry air. And, most importantly for apartment dwellers or those who live in other shady spaces, they can easily tolerate low light environments. Attractive as a standalone or grouped with other plants, the ZZ plant is a happy option for the kitchen or bathroom.
Best Indoor Plant For Small Spaces
Available in a number of different varieties, this cheery succulent grows straight up, which makes it a great choice for people with small spaces. Snake plants are also said to purify indoor air, so some folks like them for their supposed purification qualities too. Group a few in different sizes near a bedroom window and you’ll have a nice arrangement to bring a little green to your sleeping space.
Best Flowering Indoor Plant
Known for their lipstick red (or dusky pink) lily pad–like blooms, anthurium are gaining traction on the list of best house plants. “They have a retro, ‘Mad Men’ vibe to them,” Marino says. “And the flowers are actually a modified leaf so the plant is in bloom year round.” Use your anthurium as an entryway or living room centerpiece, or add it to a green collection for a pretty pop of color.
Best Indoor Plant For Clean Air
The Parlor Palm is a tropical choice that’s often touted for it’s ability to clear out benzene and trichloroethylene, two chemicals that are commonly spread from furniture off-gassing. It’s also really low maintenance, thriving in indirect to low light and only requiring watering once every one to two weeks, and pet-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it locked up away from your fur babies.
While the science is still out on whether or not plants really purify the air—one study says that you’d need to have about 93 of them to really notice a significant difference—there’s something about being surrounded by greenery that just makes things feel cleaner and fresher.
Best Indoor Plant For Pet Owners
While ZZ plants and snake plants are inarguably great choices for beginners, they are unfortunately toxic to animals. “If you have a curious kitty or doggy, then I would recommend keeping those plants away from them,” Oakes explains. Instead, choose a Bird’s Nest Fern, a tropical houseplant with ruffle-edged leaves that provides a splash of green while being safe to furry friends.
Best Indoor Plant to Build Confidence
There is nothing like a healthy, quickly growing plant to amp up a new plant owner’s confidence. Philodendron vines deliver on this front, sprouting robust trails of vines dangling with heart-shaped leaves. “Philodendrons are easy to propagate, so before long you can take a cutting and make another plant,” Summers says. “Getting that positive affirmation makes you feel like a pro.”
Best “Next Level” Indoor Plant
Once you unlock your inner house plant mojo, Blank recommends graduating to a Monstera. The vibrantly green leaves are speckled with natural holes and lend a tropical vibe to the room. “They are still relatively easy but have a wonderful texture,” Blank says.
How to Care For Indoor Plants
Each expert I spoke with began with the same basic mantra: Light is food for plants. “Fertilizer offers extra nutrients and water helps, but your plant needs light to survive,” says Marino. She suggests standing near the window in your house or apartment around noon and noticing how hot and bright it feels. “You should be able to estimate if your apartment is relatively low light, medium light or high light at midday,” she explains. Assessing your home’s light situations serves as a guide for which plants you should choose to populate your sill (or mantle, shelf or desk).
“We think of plant buying a bit like matchmaking,” says Blank. We want your plants to fit your home, your style and your lifestyle.” Set yourself up for success by starting with low maintenance plant varieties, like a Marble Queen Pothos or ZZ plant, that can withstand a little accidental neglect while you travel up the learning curve.
Plants need good care in order to thrive, but new plant parents have the tendency to over-care for their plants. “Over-watering is the easiest way to kill your plant,” says Blank. “It’s easier to bounce back from under-watering than from over-watering.” Marino adds, “some people go into diagnosis mode the second they see a browning tip or yellowing leaf.” Her advice: don’t panic. “Just prune it right off and know that shedding is a natural part of the growth process.”MORE FROM FORBES14 Easy Indoor Herb Garden Kits, Plus Expert Tips For Growing SuccessBy Rachel Klein
Summers, meanwhile, advises against repotting plants too frequently. Some plant owners see a plant growing well and think that’s the time to switch it into a roomier pot. But that well-meaning impulse can backfire. “Repotting disrupts the plant’s root system, which means it has to focus on reestablishing its system instead of on new growth. You’re making it work harder than it needs to,” she says. Instead let your plants thrive in their current pots. “When you’re getting absolutely no growth — especially in spring and summer — then it is time,” Summers says.
Just because some plants don’t need frequent watering doesn’t mean you should forget about them for too long. Take some time each day to touch base with your plant babies. “Developing a routine and ritual is important,” says Oakes. “If you get up to check on your plants when your coffee is brewing or tea is steeping, then you’re on the right path.”
From YouTube and gardening books, to walking into a shop and chatting up the staff, there are endless sources to continue educating yourself about the house plants in your life. For those who can’t make it to a store, Tula offers robust educational resources like a plant care library. The Sill offers online workshops that answer burning plant care questions. And Oakes recently launched a 12-part mini course called Houseplant Basics that teaches the fundamentals of plant care.
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