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Starting an at-home garden can be intimidating, but there’s plenty of reasons why it’s worthwhile to add some green to your space. Studies have shown that indoor plants can lower your stress levels, elevate your mood and improve your concentration and productivity — all of which is important as you continue to live and work at home.
You don’t need a ton of time, space or even light to grow your own indoor garden, either. In fact, some plants prefer a low level of light and infrequent watering. Low-maintenance plants don’t require daily care or a complicated setup to flourish, said Erin Marino, director of brand marketing at online plant retailer The Sill. “You can bring it into your space, plop it in a spot where it'll receive natural sunlight, water it once a week or so and enjoy,” she said.
If you live in an apartment or home with little natural light or just want something a bit more low maintenance, there are many houseplants for you to choose from. We consulted gardening experts to learn about the best indoor plants for various uses and gathered some tips on how to get your green space going.
Best low-maintenance indoor plants
Ready to start growing? Here are some of the best low-maintenance indoor plants, according to the experts we spoke to, as well as one highly-rated plant we highlighted based on their guidance.
Known for its wavy fronds that grow out of a central rosette, the Bird’s Nest Fern thrives in medium to bright indirect light in soil that is almost, but not completely, dry, said Marino. This plant only needs to be watered every one to two weeks, and it’s considered non-toxic, making it safe to keep around your pets.
The Majesty Palm is a tropical palm with graceful, feathery fronds that tend to grow from the trunk in an erect fashion before arching at the ends to form a large crown. The low-maintenance plant is non-toxic and can grow up to 10 feet tall. The Majesty Palm thrives in bright indirect to direct light with watering every one to two weeks when soil is almost dry, but not completely.
This tropical plant is easy to care for — it’s known to be resilient in indoor conditions. According to Marino, it can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, but it’s happiest in bright indirect light with watering every one to two weeks. Like many of the other low-maintenance indoor plants on this list, the Parlor Palm is considered pet-friendly and non-toxic.
The low-maintenance Philodendron, recommended by Marino, has heart-shaped leaves and quick-growing trailing vines. Its long, lush vines can be easily pruned and propagated in water when they get too long. This plant prefers medium to bright indirect light (though it can tolerate low light) with watering every one to two weeks.
Jean Berg, general manager of Philips Interior Plants & Displays, recommended the Pothos, with quick-growing vines that can reach over 10 feet long. These plants, which can thrive in almost any type of indoor space, prefer medium to bright indirect light, but can also tolerate low light. You can water your Pothos every one to two weeks, and if the vines get too long, just give them a quick prune.
The Snake Plant, recommended by Aaron Steil, consumer horticulture extension specialist at Iowa State University, is a succulent plant that tolerates medium to bright light. It can help purify indoor air by filtering toxins like formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, according to Marino. If you travel frequently, this plant might be a good option: It can go without water for two to three weeks, or until its leaves start to wrinkle.
Steil also recommended the ZZ Plant, a drought-tolerant succulent that’s native to arid environments. According to Marino, the plant has large, potato-like rhizomes that store water to help the plant survive droughts in its natural habitat. You can leave it in a spot that has medium indirect light and water it about every three weeks, when the potting soil is completely dry.
How to shop for the right indoor plant
Before you decide which plants to buy, evaluate your space for factors like brightness and humidity levels, which dictate plant growing conditions. If you aren’t sure how much light your space has, decide which room you’re going to place the plant in and figure out which direction your windows face, how much artificial light there is and if there’s anything outside that could block sunlight, said Berg. It’s also important to determine if the sun will hit the plants directly — such as through a south-facing window — or indirectly.
While you may be spending a lot of time at home right now, you should also think about how often you’ll be away in the future. Like pets, plants need caring for — even low-maintenance ones. Most can go a week or two without water, but if you travel for long stretches, you may want to consider a plant that thrives in dry conditions. Price is another thing to consider: While most indoor plants are relatively affordable, costs vary depending on variety, size, health and where the plant was grown.
When shopping, pay attention to how the plant itself looks. You’ll want a healthy, stocky plant with green leaves along healthy stems, said Steil. Avoid plants with brown spots and excessively wet or dry soil.
How to care for indoor plants
Being a plant parent isn’t easy, so the most important thing is to be patient as you tend to your plants. “When looking to start growing plants indoors, start small and start with those plants that are more common and easy to grow — they are common for a reason,” Steil said. “Once you have success with those plants, you can grow your indoor garden. Remember it will take a few weeks for a new houseplant to adjust to the environmental conditions of your home, so give it some time and don’t be too worried if a leaf or two drops off.”
Once you take your plant home, you'll need to make sure you care for it properly. Marino outlined a few tips for growing plants indoors:
- Underwatering is better than overwatering. Overwatering is one of the easiest ways to kill a plant. You may be tempted to water your plants on a strict schedule, but the best bet is to only water when needed. Always check the soil before watering: If it's still moist, wait to water. Keep in mind that seasonal changes outdoors can throw off your plant's watering schedule indoors. For example, most houseplants need less water in the winter when they're semi-dormant, but if you're blasting your heater all winter and the air is dry, their soil might dry out quicker and they might need water more often.
- Consistency is key. Choose a day of the week to always check on your plants. "Plants like consistency and this way you will hopefully avoid overwatering, which is the demise of most indoor plants,” Berg added.
- Keep the environment stable. Most houseplants, just like us, are most comfortable between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold or hot fluctuations in temperatures can stress them out. Do your best to avoid placing plants near temperature hazards like vents, radiators and exterior doors or open windows, which might create hot or cold drafts of air.
- Avoid overcare. Less is more when it comes to caring for most plants. Plants are more adaptive than we think, said Marino. During the long winter months when most indoor tropical plants are dormant, be prepared for them to lose a few leaves — this is normal. A natural, seasonal shedding process happens when plants don't get enough sunlight to support their current leaves.