Houseplants are having a moment, aren’t they? It makes sense, they’re home decor you can feel good about because they’re natural, cozy, and can clean the air. Unfortunately, they can also die if you aren’t careful (you definitely can’t say that about pillows and paintings). After many failures and some successes, I’m confident that I know the best and simplest common houseplants you can try.
- Benefits of Common Houseplants
- Where to Buy Indoor Plants
- Considerations Before Purchasing Plants
- Common Houseplants: My Top Five
- How to Care for Common Houseplants
- Love for Common Houseplants
Benefits of Common Houseplants
Aside from the fact that they’re beautiful and interesting, there are many reasons to add a few houseplants into your living or working space.
According to WebMD, houseplants can:
- Provide allergy relief by reducing dust and mold
- Lower anxiety and improve mood
- Improve indoor air quality by reducing VOCs
- Increase focus
- Improve sleep quality by adding extra oxygen to your environment
According to this list, you can’t afford NOT to surround yourself with common houseplants!
Where to Buy Indoor Plants
Fortunately, plants can be purchased in a variety of places.
Home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowes have nice indoor plant sections year-round. Walmart and grocery stores have some plants, but I’m not usually impressed with the varieties or prices.
If you’re looking for a specific type of plant or plants you can propagate yourself, consider shopping on Etsy.
Finally, there are other online retailers, such as Plant Proper, that dedicated themselves to growing and shipping a wide variety of plants. They’ve got the system down to a science and package plants very well.
Considerations Before Purchasing Plants
Regardless of where you decide to shop for your plants, there are a few other areas to consider before becoming a plant parent.
Many plants are toxic to pets (and humans, if consumed). If you’ve got a pet that gets into things, consider a non-toxic plant (see below) or be sure to place your houseplant in a spot where pets (or babies) can’t access it.
Come on, you know this. Plants need light to survive. If you live or work in a space with little to no outdoor light, you’ll need to purchase a plant accordingly. Luckily, there are a few plants on my list that can tolerate low light.
As with any living thing, you need to provide some care to houseplants. Not always a lot of care, but any plant will need at least some care. They’ll need some water, an occasional extra scoop of dirt, and maybe a pot change once in a while.
Finally, consider the cost when purchasing a new plant. It’s astonishing how expensive certain plants can be. If you don’t have a ton of experience with plants, start with the less expensive basics and work your way up.
Plants are usually sold by pot size with 4″ being one of the smallest and least expensive options. The more established the plant, the more expensive it will be.
Common Houseplants: My Top Five
I’ve purchased a lot of plants and I’ve killed a lot of plants. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot along the way. It’s hard to go wrong with the common houseplants listed below.
First and foremost, we have pothos. These are the quintessential houseplant, and for good reason. Pothos are vining plants that are happy to cascade out of their pots or grow onto a trellis, if offered. They come in a lot of varieties and are easy to take care of.
The most common variety of pothos is the golden pothos. They have large teardrop shaped leaves that are a deep, solid green. Other varieties of pothos have variegations (different shades of green and white throughout) that add visual interest.
I love pothos for two reasons:
- The leaves get curled and droopy when the plant needs water. It’s like they’re communicating with you.
- They’re very easy to propagate. When the vines get too long, snip them
Fave (& Least Fave) Pothos Varieties
Throughout the past two years, I’ve been collecting different varieties of pothos. My favorite variety is the Manjula Pothos (pictured below). I’m obsessed with the variegation (streaks of color) on the leaves — every leaf is different and it’s impossible to count how many shades of green there are. Neon pothos is a close second for my favorite variety.
While I have kept N’Joy, Pearls & Jade, and Marble Queen pothoses alive, they aren’t as easy and don’t grow as well for me. I’m not sure why.
Heads Up: Pothos are poisonous to animals, so keep them out of reach. I have them on mantles, tall shelves, and even hanging from the ceiling in a macrame plant holder.
Don’t sleep on snake plants, y’all. They’re so easy to take care of and they are such a fun addition to any room. Snake plants are a succulent, which means they need next to no water. Their long, skinny leaves stick up like giant blades of grass.
Snake plants come in a couple of different varieties. I have some that are over 3 feet tall (pictured above, left) and others that have stayed a foot tall for years (pictured above, right). They are slow growers and only need to be watered once a month – and they don’t complain if you miss a month or two. They are happier in light, but are tolerant when there isn’t much.
The biggest killer of snake plants is too much watering. When you do water, make sure to thoroughly soak the soil and let extra water run out.
Heads up: Snake Plants are poisonous, so don’t eat them and don’t let your furry friends eat them, either.
Along with the snake plant, ZZ (Zamioculcas Zamifolia) plants are happiest when neglected. Also like snake plants, ZZ plants like light but will be okay for a while in darker conditions. ZZ plants also like to dry out between waterings, so don’t give them too much love. Watering every 2-4 weeks is best.
There are three common varieties of ZZ plants: original, raven ZZ, and the zenzi ZZ. I have an original that has glossy green leaves, and a raven, that has dark purplish black leaves. They’re both beautiful and eay to care for!
As with most of the other plants on this list, ZZ plants are toxic if ingested by people or animals.
Hoya – Hindu Rope
Finally — a plant that pet owners don’t have to worry about! Hoyas are another common houseplant that are easy to care for and fun to look at, plus they’re nontoxic! Woo hoo!
Just like snake plants, hoyas are succulents. This means they don’t need much water or attention, but they do like bright, indirect sun.
I have a few hoyas, but my FAVORITE is the Hindu Rope. The vining Hindu Rope almost resembles strands of long, green curly hair. I love how unique these leaves are. The Hindu Rope has smooth, waxy leaves that get a little shriveled looking when it gets too dry.
As with the other plants on this list, when the soil in the hoya is dry, give it a thorough watering. Let any extra water drain out of the pot and dump it.
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Although I’m placing Fiddle Leaf Figs towards the bottom of this list, it’s one of the most impactful plans you can have – if you can keep it alive!
Many people struggle with Fiddle Leaf Figs. When I got my first one, it lost more leaves than it grew for about a year and a half. Once I figured out the special combination of care it needed (it’s not hard, I swear, I’m just a slow learner) it’s been the easiest plant to care for – plus it’s huge!
Fiddle Leaf Figs are more like trees than houseplants. They have giant green leaves and woody stems. They are an amazing way to fill an empty corner — as long as that corner is bright. Fiddle Leaf Figs like light (bright and indirect, if possible). My key to keeping them alive? Once I find a spot they love, I leave them there as long as possible.
Fiddle Leaf Figs won’t lose their leaves if they’re happy. Part of keeping them happy is the sunshine mentioned above. The other part is how often you water them. FLFs like to get dry between watering, so don’t water on a schedule, water when they’re dry. When you water them, give them a nice big drink to saturate their soil, but make sure excess water can drain out of the bottom of the pot.
My Fiddle Leaf Figs spend the summer outside on my front porch. There’s a bit of morning light, but they’re shaded for most of the day. Whenever I bring them back inside, they’re at least a foot taller than when they went out. In fact, my one FLF got so tall (about 7 feet tall) that I just chopped a few feet off the top of him.
A few weeks later, I’m happy to report that I’ve got a branch sprouting!
Fiddle Leaf Figs are mildly toxic to animals. A little nibble won’t hurt, but ingesting a lot will.
How to Care for Common Houseplants
There’s a reason these five plants are some of my favorite – they’re easy to take care of – especially if you follow these directions and use plant food. Plants need regular watering, good drainage, appropriate lighting, and plant food. I know it sounds like a lot, but we’re really only talking one to four times a month, which is the lowest maintenance living thing you’ll probably ever take care of.
The amount of water your plant needs will depend on the plant and the season. I water some plants once a month and others once a week. I use a small drop of my favorite plant food every time I water (more on that below).
The best way to water plants is to fill a tub or basin with water and then place the plants inside. This method allows the dirt and roots to soak up as much water as needed. It prevents plants from being overwatered. If this watering method isn’t possible, that’s okay, but see the next section on drainage.
To see if a plant needs water, I scratch the surface of the dirt with my fingers. If the dirt is dry and moves easily, I water it. If the dirt is still a little moist and sticks to my fingers, I wait a few more days.
My Favorite Plant Food
I had plants for years and didn’t use plant food. They were fine. Most of them survived. I followed an Instagram account called @happyhappyhouseplant and liked what I saw, so I purchased their plant food.
Fast forward a couple years and let me tell you, my plants have never been happier or healthier. My plants were surviving without plant food, but now they’re THRIVING with it.
I use .5 mL of plant food per 1/2 gallon of water – Yes, I specifically bought this watering can so I could measure everything perfectly. A little plant food goes a long way. I have been using the same bottle for over 2 years.
I’m so happy with this Plant Food Fertilizer that I joined the Happy Happy Houseplant Affiliate program. Use the code LIFEWITHLESSMESS for 10% off.
Side note: I also have and love the Neem Oil Kit, but that’s more advanced plant care and we’re taking baby steps here.
Proper drainage is essential for healthy plants. The watering method above is perfect for when plants are in a grow pot inside a larger pot. If your plant isn’t double potted, be sure the pot you’re using has some drainage holes at the bottom.
These pots from Target are my favorite. They’re inexpensive and they have drainage and a reservoir at the bottom.
If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, you need to cut some or repot your plant. A lack of drainage holes can lead to over-saturated soil, which often results in root rot, which will kill your plants.
Finally, we have lighting needs. All plants need light. Some plants, such as pothos and snake plants, can survive in low light conditions, but they all like and prefer spaces with light.
Most plants like bright, indirect light, which means a bright room, but not directly in the sunshine. I do have some plants sitting on windowsills, but not those with southern exposure. The more sun a plant gets, the more often you will need to water them.
Love for Common Houseplants
Common house plants like pothos, snake plants, fiddle leaf figs, hoyas and zz plants are popular for a reason. They’re fairly easy to care for and add a lot of warmth and coziness to your home. While it can seem intimidating to keep them alive at first, if you learn about plant needs and take one step at a time, it will become second nature.
What’s your favorite common houseplant?