Choose the Right Houseplants so They Thrive in Your Space

Tempted to buy a new houseplant, but your track record predicts it’ll be dead in a month? Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a “black thumb.” You’re probably just forgetting one important thing.

Research.

And by that, I don’t mean just read the little card that’s stuck in the plant’s pot. Those cards say things like “Medium Light,” which actually isn’t helpful at all. That’s why a new plant shouldn’t be an impulse buy. You’ve got to know what you are getting into in terms of a plant’s lighting requirements, water needs, and more.

So, instead of picking a plant you haven’t read much about yet and then bringing it home and figuring out where it will be happy, consider doing the opposite. Choose a space first, then pick a plant suited to that space.

Start with lighting requirements and then narrow your choices.

First, think about the space and the available lighting there. Then, research plants online that need that amount of light. It’s important to know that some plants like bright afternoon sun whereas that level of light could be too much for others.

Once you’ve got your selection down to a few contenders, check their requirements for the following:

  • Watering, both frequency and amount. And here’s a PSA on this one: cacti, succulents, and air plants do need water (contrary to what someone said once that led everyone to believe that they get all the moisture they need from the air for their entire lives). Some plants also prefer higher humidity, so if you’re looking for a plant for your bathroom, those could be a great match. If they’ll be living elsewhere and need extra humidity, a mister, spray bottle, or bowl of water nearby can do it.
  • Transplanting. Plants usually need to be replanted eventually. Some actually like living with their roots in tight spaces for while, whereas others don’t. Looking into this information will also tell you how large the plant could get, which, when you are highly successful in keeping it alive, it will be good to know whether you can expect it to become a monster.
  • Fertilizing. This is an easy part to forget, but it’s also a really easy thing to do. Your plant can’t get some of the nutrients that it would normally get if it lived outside in its natural environment, so at certain times of the year you may need to help it out with some store-bought fertilizer.
  • Pet toxicity. Some plants are deadly or dangerous if ingested. The ASPCA has a database here.

My husband says I have two green thumbs. The truth is, I’m an avid researcher, so I bring a new plant home only when I know I’ll be able to give it what it needs.

And sure, some plants are just temperamental. Here are a few that I would consider to be “easy care“ if they get the resources they need. (Just note that some of those I mention below are toxic to pets.)

Shade/low light:

  • Pothos
  • Bromeliad
  • Peace lily

Some sun or bright indirect light

  • Baby bunny bellies
  • African violets
  • Spider plant
  • Prayer plant

Bright sun:

  • String of bananas and string of pearls
  • Succulents
  • Hibiscus
  • Monstera

Many plants that like or tolerate bright sun can still scorch in intense afternoon sun, so a translucent shade or sheer curtain may be helpful.

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