A beginner’s guide to indoor plants
The benefits of bringing a little bit of flora into your home are astounding – besides the good vibes a spot of greenery or colorful flowers can bring to your mental well-being, houseplants function as natural air purifiers, reducing carbon dioxide and dust levels in their environments. But before you buy an exotic bonsai or struggle through the pronunciation (let alone care) of a calathea ornata, it makes sense to start your green thumb adventures on a small scale.
Here are three common houseplants as simple to care for as they are aesthetically pleasing.
Bromeliads are colorful additions to any home, characterized by long, waxy green leaves surrounding a tropical center bloom that can range from bright yellow to dark red. These cousins of the pineapple are perfect for beginners because they are relatively low-maintenance and grow in proportion to the pot they’re planted in so your collection can range from desktop babies to patio-planter giants.
They like bright light, and so should be placed near a window or close to a lamp during the darker months. Keeping bromeliads in a “double planter” (a smaller, porous pot inside of a larger, solid pot, much like a double boiler) allows these little guys to be self-watering. Fill the base pot about a quarter of the way full and make sure to swap out the water every week or so, to reduce root rot and keep from attracting bugs.
These durable little plants hold their water in their thick, waxy leaves, which grow into a near-endless variety of eye-pleasing shapes and patterns that can brighten up any room. Succulents, unlike their cactus cousins, do not have sharp spines and will “blush,” or change color, when exposed to too much of a new thing (sunlight, water, humidity, and so on).
While some species of succulent need lots and lots of sunlight, certain breeds like zebra plants and aloes thrive in low-light conditions (meaning they make a great desk or kitchen-counter friend). Succulents are hardy and can be housed in their own small planters or in large containers with other plants. They should be watered regularly but not daily, with a complete soak of their roots and soil every 1-2 weeks, when the soil has had the chance to dry out completely.
The saying goes that only the worst gardeners can kill a cactus. While it’s true that these desert dwellers are tough survivors, it’s all too easy to over-water or otherwise doom a cactus if you’ve never taken care of one before. These spiky plants grow in all manner of shapes, sizes, and colors, with spiny stalks ranging from the lightest greens to the deepest browns. Some sprout flowers, some split into branches, some simply sit there and look fearsome. For cacti more so than succulents or bromeliads, a few minutes’ research is necessary to understand what species you’re working with and how best to take care of it, but there are some general rules to keep in mind.
Like bromeliads, cacti tend to grow to fit their environment, so it’s up to you to decide how large of a collection you want. Like succulents, they need watering only when their soil is dry—which can take 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the size of your cactus and its root system. Many novice gardeners praise cacti for their versatility, not just their durability, as some thrive in low-light conditions while others will soak up as much sun as possible.