So, I have a few houseplants.
Just a few. 😊
28, to be exact.
Photo of “Marguerite,” the Marble Queen Pothos, and me by Gina Zeidler.
Before you call me the crazy plant lady (which I fully accept as a term of endearment!), let me explain. When you buy “one” houseplant at a store, if it has more than one stalk coming out of the pot, it’s entirely possible that it’s actually 2-4 plants in one pot. Growers want to get full-looking plants onto retail shelves, so they sometimes include several little guys in one because they fill a pot faster. If I have a plant that has some brothers and sisters, I carefully separate them when I get home from the store, turning “one” plant into many!
Also, I just really love plants.
They make a space look fresh. I would have 100 plant friends if I had space for them. The copper shelves below make a great space for a plant family portrait with room for everyone.
They clean the air. Plants remove toxins from the air—up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research. Crazy!
They make you feel good. A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants. Cool, right?
Convinced? Want to add a few green beauties to your house but think you couldn’t keep them alive? My friend, I am an unlikely gardener. I did not come out of the womb with a green thumb. Over time, though, I’ve grown to love growing things and tending to them little by little. All this to say—if I can do it, you can, too!
But still, you have questions: How do you pick the best plants for your house? And how do you not kill them?
Welcome to Happy Houseplants 101!
Which houseplant is right for me? It depends on your light, space, how cold or warm you generally keep your home, and the humidity of the space. Sound complex? Here’s a great quiz on Better Homes and Gardens to help you find the right plant for your particular space and climate (the quiz requires that you to enter your email, but you can opt-out of their newsletters!). For example, it’s pretty humid here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and my house stays at about 68 degrees most days. I have several houseplants by our kitchen sink window, so they get some added humidity from the sink and good morning light from an eastern-facing window.
My orchids, a begonia, and my two pink cyclamen , and the money tree that we moved inside from Grace’s fairy garden this winter have been really happy together in this spot (wow, I need to prune the top of that money tree up there—it’s like it is wearing a fascinator!). In my office, I get mostly diffused light and my pothos seem to like the warmer climate (my skylights make it hot in this space!). Decide where you want houseplants to live and match your space up with the right fit. I hope that quiz helps you!
And now, a special note because many people ask me about our winter citrus grove! If you follow me on Instagram or have read Cultivate, you know that come frost time, we have our annual migration of the citrus trees from outside in the garden to my living room, dining room, and wherever we can fit them. They don’t love being indoors away from the heat of summer, but it keeps them alive through the cold and snow. And the best part? Citrus tend to bloom in winter, which is the most glorious perfume at Christmas. I just love it! Having several large pots on our dining room table all winter? Totally worth it! We even decorate them for the holidays. Here is a great article on growing citrus indoors.
More plant-hunting reading:
Where do I buy houseplants? I have found most of my houseplants at local garden stores like For Garden’s Sake and on occasion… Walmart! (Our Walmart has plants from local growers like this one near Charlotte that I reallllly want to visit for a homeschool field trip!) I’ve even found a few mail order plants on Amazon and I’ve gifted plants to friends from ProPlants and Blooming Bulb.
Look for plants that have healthy leaves with no signs of disease (yellow or browning leaves), healthy roots (pick up the pot and if there are roots growing out of the bottom, it might be rootbound), and no signs of bugs (look under the leaves for pests and eggs). Most of all, have fun plant shopping!
A very special orchid above that I wrote about in Cultivate.
How do I NOT kill them? Before you take in a new plant friend, think of this as a mutually beneficial relationship. Plants need light and tending. Even cactus and succulents and aloe need some love now and then. In exchange for your tender care, your plant will generously reward you with its presence. The good news is tending to houseplants is easy!
— Give your plants consistent and even watering. I have killed more plants by overwatering than by underwatering! Like my kiddos, each plant has different nurturing needs. Here are some basic tips to follow. (One note, though: my orchids don’t love sitting in water. A few teaspoons of water does the trick for us! And once a month, I spray them with this magic potion.)
— Make it easy to remember to water your plants. I have a recurring reminder on my to-do app (Things) to water the plants each Tuesday. I also keep a little watering pitcher under every sink in the house to make it easy to get this task done.
— Plants need light for photosynthesis to occur. I try to keep them in brighter spots, but not always. I have a beautiful plant here on my desk that doesn’t get a ton of light. Read the labels on houseplants to find the light requirements. Some need bright window light, and others like being tucked away in shadier spots. Just like you would follow the cooking directions on a recipe, read the labels and they will give you some great info on how to take care of your new plant friends.
— Fertilize! A couple times a year I use these houseplant fertilizer sticks to give my indoor plants a boost.
— I prune my plants when they get crazy (here’s a great article on how to prune).
More plant-care reading:
What about containers? I have found some at Terrain (but only if they are on sale!), on Etsy, Anthropologie, and Amazon has an amazing marketplace for unusual planters. Remember, you can get creative here, too. You can plant things in tea cups, Mason jars, and all kinds of containers!
A bonus tip? Make it fun! I let my kids name our plants. We even have an office mascot named Judy the Neon Pothos! : )
There you have it, friends! Houseplants 101! I hope these basics give you some encouragement and knowledge to invite some green friends into your life. You can do it! And remember, they’re just houseplants! If you lose one, try your best the next time around. Give them love, and they will give back.
Your turn! I’d love to hear: do you have houseplants? Have your eye on one? Any tips that have worked for you? Fill me in! One lucky duck who comments will get a copy of my book, Cultivate, and I’ll send you one of my favorite houseplants, too! : )
P.S. I’d love to know what new product ideas you have and how we can help you cultivate what matters in our Cultivate survey!