The best houseplants for absolute beginners
Even if you treat them badly, these resilient plants will forgive and forget
words Heather Gwyther
Plants are everywhere, aren’t they? In the sea, up mountains, by the side of the bloody road, in our homes – if you can envisage the place, you can envisage the plant (even if it’s fake). The plants in our homes saw their numbers rise during the pandemic. As lockdown life plodded along, so too did we by finding things to entertain ourselves with. While some of us reared young of varying species, others became obsessed with plants. It was fun, but in the post-pandemic world we simply have less time for that sort of thing. This doesn’t mean we love plants any less, though – we just need ones that are easier to care for! Cue our green-fingered edit of that kind of houseplants that look good, help you feel good and are very difficult to kill...
A plant called ‘Monstera Deliciosa’ sounds terrifying until you realise that’s just the proper name for a Swiss cheese plant. Legendary and lovely, a Monstera Deliciosa can live in both low and bright light conditions (though growth will be slower in the former). Watering-wise, let its soil dry out before drenching it again. This will generally resemble a weekly (probably fortnightly in winter) watering schedule. And don’t forget to give it the humidity it craves with regular misting, either!
Desert Candle Cactus
If you have finally come to terms with how forgetful you are, invest in a cactus. You can leave weeks in between watering them for most of the year, with this becoming a once-a-month requirement in winter. Too much water and you run the risk of root rot, after all (something you can curtly tell people who question whether you’re a suitable cactus caregiver). While lots of light sees most house plants scorched to death (the wimps), a cactus will thrive in bright indirect light or direct full sun. Predictably given its origins, cacti should not be placed in humid places like bathrooms.
Snakes have had a bad reputation since that business that went down in the Garden of Eden, but if there was a snake-related thing to fix that, it’s the snake plant (if only by name). Oddly considering the fact they have spiked vertical leaves, snake plants are so laidback they’re virtually horizontal. Because they don’t need loads of light, they’re the perfect plant for improving a gloomy room. They only need to be watered once the soil gets dry, too. But their greatest attribute? Air-purifying powers that have literally been recognised by NASA.
With its potent air-purifying powers and thick waxy leaves, the ZZ is a house plant with both brains and beauty. As if that didn’t make it appealing enough, it is also chill, which thus makes us chill. Its easygoing light requirements mean that it can go in a dark corner without making a fuss, despite being so clever and beautiful and whatnot. Watering? Once a fortnight at most. See, we told you it was chill.
A Golden Pothos is golden indeed. With leaves that trail downwards as it grows, it’s the perfect addition to a boring shelf. Not much light? Not much of a problem. A Golden Pothos will do just fine in both low and bright indirect sunlight. In terms of watering, it’s also unproblematic – fortnightly suits it just fine. While it has no hardcore humidity requirements, it appreciates a regular misting as much as the next tropical plant.
Everyone needs a Birkin, right? No, not that kind of Birkin, a Philodendron Birkin, which is basically as good as a regular Birkin, just considerably cheaper. While you should keep this white-streaked plant out of direct sunlight, it’s happy to be in anything from indirect light to dappled sun. If you water it weekly and mist it every few days, it will repay you by growing very fast – a sight for any adoring plant parent to behold!
Chinese Money Plant
You’d think a symbol of abundance and good fortune would be a bit uppity, but the Chinese Money plant is quite the opposite. Although exposure to direct sunlight can discolour and damage its leaves, indirect sunlight makes it happy. It has no strict humidity requirements, but dryer environments can be conquered with regular misting and by placing it near other plants in one big house plant hangout.