This week I’ve really been working to focus on how I can grow (pun intended) during quarantine. Go for walks, stay active, call my friends, maybe learn to sit with my thoughts (I’m not great at this) and even pick up a few new hobbies. Now more than ever I think we are all realizing the importance of organization and creating a space we really enjoy being in. For me, that’s meant a few simple things like moving rugs around, cleaning out my closet, pantry organization and my newest goal, adding some greenery in to brighten up the space. My right hand girl, Audrey, happens to not only be a huge help when it comes to keeping this site running for you guys but also a pro (via passion and perseverance) at all things plants, so I thought it would be fun to have her write a guest post on today’s topic; indoor plants for beginners.
I for one, can’t wait to learn. Take it away, Audrey.
Audrey here, taking over to give you the 411 on beginner houseplants and 5 easy ones to start with. With many of us spending a significant time in our homes it’s the perfect time to dive into a new hobby, or if you’re already a plant enthusiast, give the plants you have a little more attention.
Let me start this by saying I’m no expert, a few years ago my fiancé would go as far as to say I had a black thumb, but with a little persistence and a lot of patience I finally kept a plant alive. Fast forward and I now have about 35 indoor houseplants and they’ve actually become a favorite part of my day.
The first 30min of my day is “me” time — I make a cup of tea, walk around my house, check on the plants, and open up all the blinds. It’s relaxing and gives me that quiet time to get myself in the best headspace for the day. This is major key : start your day off doing something that brings you peace, whatever that may be, and I promise you will see how great the rest of your day unfolds. My morning plant check ins weren’t always so great though.. When I first started this morning routine I would water each plant every morning. That’s what you do right? I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my plants weren’t looking too hot, and I kept thinking “they need more water!”. Looking back I now know I was pretty much loving them to death lol…and that leads me to my first tip.
Tip #1 : Don’t over-water your plants.
Over-watering is the leading cause of indoor houseplants’ early demise. Sounds weird right? They need water to live don’t they? Yes, but they also need air. When you overwater / the soil is consistently wet, that reduces the amount of air around the roots and stresses the roots out. This puts them at risk for developing root rot. Each plant has different watering needs and I’ll break that down below, but a general rule of thumb is to do a soil check. Stick your finger tip in the soil about an inch and if it’s dry your plant could use some water. Water needs will also depend on how much light your plant is getting. Plants in bright light will tend to need to be watered more often than plants in a low light setting.
Tip #2 : Pick a plant that works with your homes natural light.
When you go to pick up a houseplant they’ll likely have a tag that specifies bright light, medium light, or low light. This is important to pay attention to. If you only have low light in your home, don’t purchase a plant that says bright light. Pick plants that fit what your home has to offer. You may have a spot in mind for your plant, but the reality is your plant will pick its own spot based on its needs, and this will take a bit of experimenting and moving around on your part.
Bright Light –
This means direct sunlight. You’ll want to place your plant in a bright room that has a southern or western facing window and that receives sunlight most of the day. If you place your plant super close to the window (on the sill) be sure to filter the light as sunlight coming through glass can give the plant a sunburn. A good test for a rooms lighting is to check out the shadows in that room. A room with bright light will produce a strong well defined shadow on the wall.
Medium Light –
Indirect, partial, or filtered light. An ideal room for a plant with this type of lighting needs would be one with a South, Southeast, East, or even West window. A plant with medium light requirements would not need the full day of sun that a bright light plant would need and they can tend to be put a bit further away from the window.
Low Light –
This doesn’t mean no light. A general rule of thumb that i’ve read time and time again is if it’s too dark in a room to read a book then it’s too dark to have a plant. Rooms that have a North facing window would be good for plants with these needs. Rooms with South, West, or East windows can still work if the windows have shaded trees blocking direct light, buildings, etc…
Tip # 3 : Let your plant acclimate before repotting.
When you bring a new plant into your home you may want to shower it with love (water) and re-pot it into a new pot but just wait.. please. Your plant will need a week or so to acclimatize to your home. The best thing you can do is set your plant in the spot you plan to keep it, and then just chill. It’s super exciting to repot your plant into a more aesthetic pot than the nursery one it comes in but your plant needs a second to gain its bearings. Instead, place the plant (still in the nursery pot) inside the decorative pot. I actually keep my plants like this until they grow out of their nursery pot. That’s just me, but it makes it way easier for me to water my plant thoroughly, and I am able to select pots that don’t have drainage holes since they are just the sleeve for the nursery pot. This is also MAJOR key —when repotting your plant out of the nursery pot at any point, always pick a planter with adequate drainage holes.
Now to the fun part! I tried to select plants that gave me the most grace while I was learning. These 5 really are each very versatile in lighting needs which makes them great plants to start with, and gives you the most flexibility with where you would like to place them in your home.
My Top 5 Beginner Houseplant Recommendations :
Epipremnum Aureum – “Pothos”
Hands down one of the easiest plants to care for in my household. There are SO many variations of the Pothos : Marble Queen (Pictured), Jade Pothos, Neon Pothos, Golden Pothos and more. This plant is not temperamental and can do well in low light. I have the Golden Pothos and I’ve placed mine in bright indirect light and it grew SO fast. This is such a fun plant to grow. When the Golden Pothos is happy it will grow quickly and you can gift your cuttings or propagate them in water to create an entirely new Golden Pothos plant.
Light – Low light to bright indirect light.
Watering – Dry out almost completely before watering again. Watering needs will change based on lighting.
Sansevieria – “Snake Plant”
Ok wait. Maybe this ones the easiest??? My snake plant has been through it all. Lowest of low light, to extremely bright direct light where it grew like a weed. I love all the variations of snake plant there are and it’s an amazing plant for decor. I currently have two and in each room they are a major statement. Main tip : leave it alone. This plant is pretty independent and the main way you won’t succeed with it is overwatering.
Light – low light to bright light. This plant will grow slow in low light, but will grow quickly in bright light.
Watering – Dry out completely between watering. Water more frequently if in direct light and less if in low light setting.
Scindapsus Pictus ‘Exotica’ – “Satin Pothos”
The Scindapsus Pictus is not actually a part of the Pothos family, but this plant is commonly referred to as a “Satin Pothos”. By far my favorite plant of ALL time. This was the first plant I was able to keep alive and the plant that started my obsession. The foliage cascades down and is such a pretty addition to any room. The care of this plant is pretty hands off. It has been happy in many places where I have had it in my home. I always err on the side of under-watering this plant (I’m sorry) because I am terrified of losing this one to root rot.
Light – Medium light. Prefers bright indirect light as direct light will scorch the leaves. I place mine hanging in a Western window and it did very well, but I kept a sheer curtain covering the window at all times.
Watering – Water thoroughly and allow the top inch to dry out completely before watering again.
Philodendron Hederaceum – “Heart Shaped Philodendron”
Really any Philodendron is a favorite of mine. I currently have a Philodendron Brasil that has been the happiest in my office, which is the darkest room of my house. The best thing about the Philodendron is how flexible they are with lighting requirements. This plant will grow slowly in low light, but will produce many more leaves and grow quickly in medium light. This plant is a super easy one to take care of because it pretty much tells you what it needs. You will see the leaves begin to droop when it needs watering, and once watered they’ll perk back up.
Light – Low light to bright indirect light. This plant is in my office where I have three North facing windows but a large tree covering them. She grows very slowly but is still growing!!
Watering – Water thoroughly when the soil is dry halfway down the pot.
Pilea Peperomioides – “Friendship Plant”
This one is called the friendship plant for a reason. The momma plant will actually produce “pups” that sprout up beside it within the pot. Once big enough these pups can be repotted in their own pot, or gifted to a friend! While tons of people may not think this plant is a beginner plant, I’d have to say give it a chance. If you are good with succulents this one will be a breeze.
Light: Bright light.
Watering: Dry out completely between watering. This plant is prone to root rot so the key is watering as needed and having a cactus type soil with good drainage.
A big question I had when I started getting interested in houseplants was where to shop for them. Under normal circumstances, I love to go in and shop on the weekends at some local spots like Succulent Native, Frond Plant Shop (you can shop online!!) and The Great Outdoors (even spots like Home Depot can have a good find). But right now, that’s not possible in Austin, so I’ve started shopping online. A few of my favorite online spot are : Urbanstems, The Sill, and Bloomscape.
If you liked this and want some more plant content let me know! I also would love to hear some of your favorite plants, and tips + tricks to add to my toolbox.