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I do not come from a family of gardeners, but I always had dreams of a tangled English garden gracing my front stoop or perhaps a collection of intricately manicured bonsai trees in my living room window (this may or may not have been inspired by Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid). While my horticultural talents are still quite modest, I have discovered how to grow houseplants with some measure of success….and now I LOVE growing houseplants in my home! For me, houseplants inspire creativity, provide beautiful, natural decor and are a sight for sore eyes in the middle of a gray, slushy January afternoon. They also provide health benefits by absorbing formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that compromise the indoor air quality in your home (here’s an interesting article about this topic).
Right now I have ten houseplants in my home that are flourishing, but I admit, more than a few have ended up in the compost pile in the backyard throughout the years. Here are a few tricks I’ve got for growing houseplants:
- Don’t buy a plant if you don’t have the right growing conditions. I killed a large, beautiful pot of English ivy because I didn’t have it in a sunny-enough window. Pay attention to the growing instructions…the first step to growing success!
- Underwatering is better than overwatering. I’m definitely more of a plant-neglector than a plant-micro-manager, but usually that’s good for easy care houseplants…..and make sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom so the extra water can drain out!
- Make sure your plants are non-toxic or placed in a safe spot if you have pets or small children. Some plants are downright poisonous, others have toxic qualities if they are ingested….it’s better to be extra careful!
- Start with an easy, impossible-to-kill plant. Once you get used to caring for one easy plant, buy another one, or get something that is more finicky if you want a challenge. All the plants in this post are easy to grow, and all but one are very safe for kids and pets.
I bought my very first plant, a Jade plant, during a paint-supply shopping trip to Lowe’s eight years ago. It was a nostalgic purchase as my grandmother always had a huge Jade plant in her front window….and I also think their succulent leaves are very beautiful. I placed Bob (yes, I named my plant Bob!) on top of our TV armoire and watched him grow from 3 inches to 2 feet tall in height. Jade plants need a lot of sunlight but keep growing even if you don’t water them for weeks….I know this from experience!
If you want an easy impossible-to-kill plant, go buy a Pothos right now! I actually have three Pothos plants (also called Devil’s Ivy); they can grow in almost any condition, including the dark corner in your TV room and can survive on bi/tri-weekly watering. You can grow them up a post like the one pictured or let their fast-growing tendrils trail over a hanging basket or along the top of your kitchen cabinets. Pothos are also on the list of plants that are especially good at cleaning the air. One caveat: The leaves can cause mild illness if ingested so keep them away from little hands and paws.
My African Violet plant is gorgeous and just keeps blooming! African Violets are one of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow if you follow a few simple steps. Most importantly, African Violets grow best if you water them from the bottom up and avoid getting water on the leaves (there are special “African Violet” pots you can get if you want). Here’s a very informative article on how to grow African Violets, but in my experience, they grow well with minimal care.
I received a small Hoya plant cutting from a friend several years ago and, like my Jade plant, it has grown into an impressive vining plant with thick, waxy leaves and clusters of star-like flowers that look “other-worldly” to me. My Hoya plant is in a sunny spot next to the sliding glass door in my kitchen and requires minimal watering and fertilizing. It blooms several times throughout the year and always surprises me when the pink stalks begin to form. The flowers start as pink hexagons (pictured below) and then quickly turn into delicate, variegated flowers.
My husband salvaged this Ponytail Palm from his former office building before they were relocated and it has become a nice addition to my plant collection after a little TLC. Again, this plant requires a bright window but minimal watering. It’s non-toxic so I feel okay about it sitting on the floor vulnerable to curious toddler fingers (and they are curious as you can see in my photo).
A few other plants I have grown:
- Spider plant – Excellent air-cleaning abilities, non-toxic, indestructible and will eventually reproduce and supply you with little spider plant babies to grow or give away.
- Peace Lily – Requires too much watering for my lifestyle but it has pretty green leaves and white flowers. Not safe for children or pets.
- Snake plant – Another one that will grow with almost NO sunlight or water! Somehow I still managed to kill mine because it was sitting in a rarely used room and I just forgot about it.
- Orchid – I actually have one growing in my bathroom right now but it’s not in bloom so I didn’t include a photo. A beautiful and surprisingly easy plant to grow! It does need a special orchid potting mix and weekly watering.
- Umbrella tree – I loved this easy care plant but we just couldn’t fit another pot in our car when we moved across the country a few years ago!
- English Ivy – Once I learned how to care for English Ivy it grew beautifully, however, it is not safe for small children so I gave my plant away. It is also an excellent air cleaner.