5 Houseplants to Spruce Up Your Space
If you’re looking for something to add both form and function to your home, why not add a houseplant or two? In addition to adding natural beauty to indoor spaces, plants have also been proven to improve the air quality of the buildings housing them. Of course, plants produce oxygen via the carbon dioxide oxygen cycle, but did you know they also help filter impurities from the air as well? Our green friends can absorb toxic gases and compounds into their leaves and root systems, refreshing the airspace around them.
Why is this important? Poor air quality can contribute to a variety of health-related issues, like allergies and asthma. As our buildings become increasingly insulated and sealed up, it’s easy for pollutants like dirt, dust, pollen, pet dander, and other contaminants to get trapped inside. It’s also easy for the constantly recycled air to get stagnant and stale. Other potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene, can be found in cleaners, detergents, air fresheners, perfumes, cigarette smoke, and other products. Having plants indoors can help increase the amount of oxygen in your home, and reduce the amount of airborne impurities.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a horticulturalist to keep houseplants alive. If you’re worried your green thumb is well, brown, you can choose plants that are low maintenance, like air plants and succulents. Check out the list of plants below to see if there’s something you’d like to add to your home!
1. Air Plants
Possibly the lowest-maintenance option, air plants are unique in that they are epiphytes – they don’t need dirt to grow. Instead, their leaves are covered in a special kind of scale called trichomes, which allow them to absorb moisture and nutrients. Their roots anchor them to a structure to keep them stable, and they literally pull their sustenance from the air. And while they do pull moisture from the air, an air-conditioned room doesn’t generally provide them with enough water, even with daily misting. Instead, to make sure your air plant gets the optimum amount of water, submerge the plant in filtered water, rain water, or bottled drinking water (impurities in hard or soft tap water could be harmful). Let it remain submerged for an hour or two every 10-14 days; the plant will only absorb as much water as it needs, so there’s no danger of overwatering this way. You can also use a fertilizer made for air plants, bromeliads, or epiphytes; follow the directions on the package, and mix with the water before your submerge the plant. They do like bright, indirect sunlight, and often do well in places like screened porches and pool enclosures, too.
Succulent plants, like aloe and cacti, have leaves, stems, and sometimes even roots that are thick and fleshy. This is because they retain water in those structures. They’re a great choice for houseplants because they’re very hardy and easy to care for. Succulents come in a wide variety of species, shapes, and sizes. Aloe is a popular plant for many Floridians because the gel produced by the leaves is good for soothing minor burns, abrasions, and skin irritations. Most succulents do like bright light, but some species will wilt if exposed to too much direct sunlight. Most of them do quite well with daytime temps ranging between 70-85 degrees; they do like cooler evening temperatures (which mimic the conditions of the deserts from where they originated). They should be potted in a formula designed for succulents that allows for plenty of drainage. Allow the potting mix to dry out in between waterings, and in the winter months, when the plants go dormant, restrict watering to every other month. Never leave them in standing water, either. Succulents are available at almost every big box stores and local nurseries. Choose an assortment of different plants and create a living arrangement in a large pot or container!
This plant is definitely a grower! In its native jungle habitat, it can grow up to 40 feet or more! Indoors, it could reach up to 30 feet, but usually is limited to 6-10 feet when kept in containers. You may also hear it called devil's ivy or variegated philodendron. It doesn’t flower much, but the trailing vines and heart-shaped leaves are quite lush and lovely. Regular pruning makes for a fuller, bushier plant. Outdoors it does well in shade or partial shade; inside, it likes bright, indirect light, but will still grow well in areas will lower light. It comes in different varietals, like golden, tricolor, and marble queen. Just about any kind of potting soil will do for a pothos – just make sure there’s adequate drainage. It’s important to let the soil dry out between waterings; damp soil will cause the roots to rot. They aren’t heavy feeders, so you only need to fertilize monthly or bi-monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Because these plants grow so well, your pothos will most likely eventually become root bound (or pot bound), where the roots have completely filled the container. If this happens, it’s time to re-pot in a slightly larger container with fresh soil. If you don’t wish to size up, then you can divide the plant into more containers, or simply start over with cuttings. This plant is also considered to be toxic, so it’s important to keep it away from pets and children.
4. Peace Lilies
Another common choice for indoor spaces is the peace lily. Peace lilies are not actually true lilies at all, but rather an evergreen variety of Spathiphyllum. However, with their green and white blossoms, they do often resemble other lily varieties like the calla lily. Indoors, they usually reach about 12-16 inches in height, but outdoor plants can often reach heights of 6 feet or more! Peace lilies are a tropical plant, so they do like warmer temperatures – 70 degrees and above is ideal. They do like bright light; indirect light is best, although they will tolerate partial shade. If your peace lily isn’t blooming, it could mean it’s not getting enough light. They grow well in a multipurpose potting soil mix with plenty of drainage. They can also be grown in water, but make sure the plant’s base is suspended above the water line (either with an insert or small layer of stones) so that rot doesn’t set into the base or leaves. Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. They don’t do well with dry soil for very long. Peace lilies like humidity, so you can also mist their leaves. They don’t need to be fertilized too often, perhaps every 6 weeks or so using a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Peace lilies are great filters, but a word of caution: every part of the plant contains calcium oxalate, which can cause stomach and respiratory irritation if ingested in large amounts. They are considered to be toxic, so keep them out of reach of children and pets.
5. Moth Orchids
Orchids have a notorious rep for being rather high maintenance. But moth orchids, or Phalaenopsis, are actually quite easy to care for, and their beautiful blooms can take any kind of décor to the next level! The most common mistake that people make when caring for orchids is overwatering. This can cause the roots to rot and the plant will die. Never leave your orchid in standing water, either. They should be potted with either moss or bark, or a special orchid potting mix, with plenty of drainage. Only water your orchid when the potting material is dry to the touch, and then water generously (until you see water flowing from the drainage holes in the pot). They prefer bright, indirect sunlight, and they do well in temperatures between 70-80 degrees. If you use fertilizer, make sure you pick up one that is specially formulated for orchids. These gorgeous plants are widely available at grocery stores, big box stores, and local nurseries; they’re also considered non-toxic to people and pets, so they’re safe for people with pets and children.