• Sophia Dunkin-Hubby

Choosing House Plants

If you’ve been following me on Instagram at all you know that I’ve become a bit obsessed with gardening in the last year. Since I’ve run out of room on my balcony I’ve turned my attention to bringing greenery into my home and office with houseplants. I love how they make a space feel alive. Many people that I talk to are convinced they have a black thumb and will kill any plant they touch. Before I started gardening I used to think the same thing. But I’ve found that if you choose the right plant for the location you have in mind, keeping them alive is actually easy. It all comes down to the amount of light you have and how often you water.

If you have a smart phone you can use a compass app to figure out which was a room faces. North facing rooms don’t get as much light as one facing south, west, or east. Do you have sun beams that streak across the floor at certain times of the day? That’s direct light. Is the room generally bright but no sun beams? That’s indirect light. Is the room on the darker side all day? That’s low light. For a room with no windows - what kind of light fixtures do you have and what kind of bulbs are you using? How much of the day do you have the lights on? There are some kinds of plants that can thrive under fluorescent lights. LED bulbs, not so much.

The living/dining room area of the apartment my sister and I share has north facing windows so although the space is fairly bright it doesn’t get direct light. Add to that that all of our lamps and light fixtures have LED bulbs and our space falls squarely in the low light category. The two plants that are doing the best in this area are Pothos (see photo above) and Diffenbachia.

Pothos, not to be confused with Philodendron, is very easy to care for and thrives in a variety of light levels. The one on my dining room table has started to form trails of vines, which the plant is well known for. I also have one at work. My office doesn’t have much natural light, but it does have lots of fluorescent lighting which Pothos also thrives under.

Diffenbachia has lovely variegated leaves. It sits happily on the corner of our TV stand. This one is a little more tropical and likes humid environments which means getting the watering schedule right is important to keep it thriving. Note – it may be poisonous to pets and children if ingested so this one is not for everyone.

My bedroom is on the opposite side of the house. Despite being south facing it is fairly dark most of the day, except right by the window. I went with a ZZ Plant on the window side of the room because it survives well in low light. It’s also hard to kill and doesn’t need much water.

The one area in my home that I have more light to work with is the bathroom, also south facing. There are plenty of plants that like humid areas like Ivy, Orchids, or Bamboo but I chose Air Plants because they fit nicely on the window ledge in my shower.

The other part of the equation is how much to water. It’s tempting to water houseplants more than they need, which causes leaves to turn yellow and die. Unless you live in a very dry place, once a week, or even every two weeks, should be more than adequate for most varietals. (Check online for watering instructions specific to each plant to make sure.) Feel the dirt with your fingers. If the top is moist or damp it’s not time to water. If the top is dry stick your finger into the dirt a little bit. If it’s moist it’s still not time to water. If it’s dry, go for it.

Air Plants (below) are a little different. They’re fairly low maintenance but do need to be “watered” a couple of times a week. You can submerge the plant for a bit or mist it with water. I hold mine under the water stream two to three times a week when I shower, until they’re completely wet and then put them back on the ledge.

If you’re nervous, start with a plant that is very difficult to kill, like a Snake Plant or ZZ Plant. But don’t be afraid to try something new and a little out of your comfort zone once you’ve assessed your light situation. Just add one plant at a time so you can see how it does before going crazy and bringing home a jungle. Trust me, if you are successful you’ll want to. It’s addictive. (Tip - take photos of your plants when you first get them so you can keep track of how much they grow.)

Do you have houseplants? What are your favorite kinds?


© 2016 by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby. doesithaveadragon@gmail.com