The road to plant-parenthood is rocky, but if you get these house plants first, you might be able to make life easier for yourself.
These indoor plants were chosen by their ability to tolerate shade, infrequent watering and accessibility. I know in my house, I can only keep houseplants which will forgive me if I forget to water them for a couple of weeks and tolerate shady spots. Any houseplant that requires me to change the humidity or light level of my room goes out the window (or more realistically, to another plant parent).
I’ve put together a list of my favourite easy houseplants to keep at home.
Indoor plants that like shade
No plant can live without any light, but some can survive in very shady spots. It's important to react when you see your houseplant struggling with low light - the symptoms include leaves falling off or yellowing. If your houseplant isn’t happy in the shade, move it to a brighter position until you find the perfect spot.
How often should indoor plants be watered?
Watering depends on so many factors, we covered this in a completely separate article:
… But if you use the “finger method” you’re off to a good start. Stick your finger into the soil next to the plant and see how moist it is a few centimetres down. Water each plant according to its preference, and they will thank you by growing healthily.
Another good watering method is to lift the pot. Hear me out; it will make sense! The more water a pot has, the heavier it is, so if you start lifting them now, you will soon learn to tell what they need, simply by knowing how heavy the pot is. Too light? Needs watering. Depending on the size of your plants, it doubles as an excellent workout as well.
Probably the most Instagrammable shade-loving plant, the pinnacle of millennial plant parenthood, the perfect starter plant: Monstera Deliciosa Swiss Cheese Plant. This houseplant lives happily in full or partial shade, however, it will grow faster in bright light. Monstera like to dry out between waterings, which means less effort and less stress for you. Allow lots of space for this guy as it can grow up to 3 meters tall; hope you have high ceilings!
Fun fact: Native to tropical rainforests, this plant climbs using aerial roots and is classified as an epiphyte - which is an organism that doesn't require a water or soil substrate to grow - surviving on the branches of trees and gleaning nutrients and moisture from the air and immediate surroundings. Does well potted in an airy, well-draining soil mix - moss and perlite can be added to achieve this.
This simple but popular houseplant is really forgiving if you put it in a shady location. It may even flower in the darker corners of your room! More light leads to more flowers though, if flowers are your thing. The Peace Lily is somewhat of a drama queen and will droop its leaves as soon as it needs watering. It practically shouts at you to water it. Give it a big soak in the sink and the leaves will perk right back up.
Fun fact: Native to northwestern South America, this attractive foliage plant seems to thrive even when it’s neglected. It also absorbs certain contaminants, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air (but in such small amounts that you’d need a forest in your living room to make an impact!).
Prayer Plants are known for moving their leaves up and down throughout the day, so if you see your plant’s leaves drooping, don’t worry; they’re just bowing in front of their Plant Gods and will perk up by the evening.
You definitely don’t want to put this houseplant in direct sunlight, as the leaves can easily get “burnt” and crisp up. The watering of this plant (really, all plants) is a balancing act, so I would recommend checking out the watering article I linked to earlier.
Prayer plants don’t grow very tall, but they do spread quite a lot. Mine is hanging in the living room right now and it’s loving it.
Oh the ZZ Plant, everybody’s favourite “no light” plant. Of course, it won’t survive forever in a pitch black room, but it can happily live with very, very limited light. It is a real survivor as it needs barely any watering, only when it completely dries out.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a funny plant, as the more you neglect it, the more it will love you. When it truly thrives, it can grow up to a meter tall!
Fun fact: ZZ Plants often break their pots if left too long before repotting; their roots cannot be contained for long!
The last of the shade-loving plants, English Ivy is also known as Common Ivy, or, you know, just ‘Ivy’. It’s a popular plant grown outside, but if you decide to grow it indoors, keep the soil on the drier side. They are excellent trailing plants; if you have a bare wall you would like to green-up, I would recommend Ivy.
Fun fact: Ivy is another one of those fun plants that produce differently shaped leaves depending on age; juvenile leaves are typically lobed, developing to a more rounded shape with maturity.
Plants for bright spaces
There are many common houseplants which thrive in bright spots and need loads of light just to survive. However, too much light can cause leaf burn or cause the plant to go dry and crisp up.
To avoid this, try not to put plants into strong sunlight. Except for succulents, few houseplants love direct strong sun on their leaves (and even succulents can get burnt if they’re in too much sun).
In summertime, try to water your houseplants in the evening, after the sun has gone down. This will give the water a chance to percolate down to the roots, avoiding evaporation which can make your room feel like a rainforest at the height of summer!
Aloe vera loves a good bright spot in your house. They require very little watering, like most succulents, and overwatering can cause problems, so check the soil regularly and only water when it has thoroughly dried out.
If it’s happy, your Aloe will start growing little babies next to the mother plant - these are adorably named ‘pups’. When they get big enough, you can separate them and gift them to friends, but that’s a whole other article!
Fun fact: Aloe vera is a very common houseplant, popular for its practical uses (hand creams, toilet paper balm), but there’s lots of related species of Aloe; around 574 to be exact! Not all of these plants are good for you, some Aloe species are toxic.
You’ve probably seen this plant in shopping centres or restaurants. That’s because they are so low maintenance, even those busy places can keep up with them! Their roots are thick and fleshy - perfect for storing lots of water. Because of this, you only want to water them every now and then, but thoroughly. Pop them in the sink to soak it up next to the Peace Lily and they will be happy.
Fun fact: Spider Plants produce offshoots on spidery stems; these can be used to make more plants!
You wouldn’t be able to tell as a beginner plant parent, but these Money Plants are actually succulents.
Money Plant care is actually really easy, fitting the obvious theme here. They are prone to root rot if overwatered, so you should allow the soil to thoroughly dry out between waterings. You can check this with the finger method I mentioned earlier. If you have a light bathroom, it would be very happy in there, and won’t take up much shelf space. They typically grow no larger than 30 cms tall.
Fun fact: Despite being a succulent plant, it really enjoys high humidity.
This plant is happy wherever. The Snake Plant can handle partial shade and full sun, but it will grow taller the more light it gets. It’s also a succulent in disguise, so only water it little and infrequently.
Be careful with its sharp, pointed leaves! I have mine placed in a corner, as I would not want to walk into those spikes in the middle of the night!
Fun fact: Snake Plants use a different form of photosynthesis, called CAM, standing for Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (catchy, right?!). It is an adaptation to dry environments and involves absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen during the night. Most plants do this during the day, when their leaves are absorbing sunlight.
This colourful queen likes to sit in the middle of the room, catching everybody’s attention. The stronger the light is, the more colourful the leaves. Like the previous plants, they also prefer to dry out between watering, so use the finger or pot-lifting method to check.
As it produces beautiful long vines, I have mine in hanging pots, trailing across the ceiling on some beams. They would look great trailing down your staircases or bannisters!
Fun fact: In the wild (or under great growing conditions) the mature leaf size of this plant is around a metre long and they can develop fabulous leaf splits like those typically found in Monstera plants.