Which houseplants are best plants for beginners? Which houseplants are easiest for beginners? When you walk into a garden centre to buy your first houseplant, the amount of choice can be overwhelming, where do you start? Many people buy a plant because it looks nice and they think it will look great in their home. They place it near a sunny window, water it once a week and feed it a general plant food once in a while. A few months later and the plant is dead or slowly dying and they don’t know why. They give up and think houseplants aren’t for them. What most beginners don’t realise, is that all plants have different needs, some plants HATE direct sunlight, and most plants shouldn’t be watered on a schedule (the soil should be checked regularly and depending on the plant, soil should either be kept moist or allowed to dry out fully before watering it again). Some plants don’t require any plant food at all and some plants need a very specific plant food. So, before you buy any plant, research its requirements.
I’ve said it in previous posts but it is so important; always go back to a plants roots to find out its needs. If a plant comes from a hot sunny dessert, it will not do well in a cold dark room. Likewise, a plant that lives in the undergrowth of a rainforest, it will not do well on a hot sunny windowsill. Dessert plants are used to going for extended periods without any water at all, they will not appreciate a twice weekly watering session. A plant that thrives in the humid and wet conditions of rainforest will not appreciate being placed beside the dry air of a radiator. So, look for a plant that you like, find out where it came from, and try to replicate those conditions as best as possible and there will be a good chance your plant will thrive.
Having said all that, there are some plants that are simply easier than others to care for. Some plants are particularly fussy, even when given the care they need, they can still throw a fit. Nerve plant (Fittonia) can be very fussy. It likes to be kept moist (though not wet!) at all times! If it dries out it literally has a ‘fit’ and droops. It likes a humid environment, most living rooms in homes in the UK are probably too dry for this plant, it would need a steamy bathroom or maybe a laundry room to thrive. Ficus are much the same, if you move them about too much, they will through a fit…find a home for a Ficus and DO NOT move it, otherwise it may drop all its leaves! String of pearls, as beautiful as their green beads look cascading down the side of bookcases or hanging from pretty baskets, if they do not have full sun, forget it! They die off very easily without lots of bright sunlight.
If you are just starting out with houseplants, there are a few that aren’t fussy at all. There are some that actually thrive on neglect. Put these easy-going plants in a spot suited to their needs then leave them to it, water only when soil has completely dried out.
My top five plants suited to beginners would be:
1. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – One of the most forgiving plants in terms of light, watering and feeding. This plant will thrive in a sunny spot or in a shady spot. They don’t mind a varied watering routine and they can do ok without fertiliser for a good while. They don’t demand to be re-potted too often. AND they should give you lots of plant babies…which can be easily propagated to give you lots of new plants! What’s not to love? You can’t go far wrong with a good old spider plant.
2. Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – This easy-going plant is a popular houseplant as it will put up with a shortage of light and dry air. It isn’t too fussy at all. Water it moderately so compost is moist then allow it dry before the next watering. They grow to around 1 metre tall, so a good-sized houseplant but compact enough for a palm.
3. Aloe vera (Barbadensis) – This succulent comes from Africa; it loves direct sunlight. If you can provide a nice sunny spot, it should do well. Water it well then leave to dry out before watering again. This plant can even be used to heal cuts and soothe burnt skin; just slice off a mature leaf and open it lengthwise to scoop out the gel. Cool!
4. Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) – All desert cacti are pretty easy to care for and therefore great for beginners. They don’t require too much watering and will certainly forgive you if you forget to water them one in a while. They do require good amounts of sunlight though so a windowsill is often a good option. Golden barrel cactus is ball shaped with ribs along the sides, where strong sharp spines grow from. Water moderately once a month in summer then very sparingly through winter.
5. Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) – These plants are known for their ability to thrive in pretty poor conditions; they don’t mind poor lighting or sporadic watering. They are very popular in offices; they grow well under fluorescent lights plus they are said to be lucky and bring good fortune. They can be grown in soil or water; they look great grown in a vase of water with some pebbles to support the roots. Just change the water once a week and fertilise once every few months. They don’t like chemicals in tap water though, so make sure you leave water out for 24hrs before watering to allow chlorine to evaporate (or you could use bottled water).
These are just a couple of suggestions, there are plenty more easy-going houseplants. Remember to find out what your plant needs in terms of watering, feeding and sunlight….and they should do well.
If, like me, your plant collection quickly grows, it can be quite difficult to keep track of how to care for them all. When I first bought plants for my home, I didn’t realise that each plant has such different and individual needs. Like that, one of my favourite plants, the Prayer Plant, likes to be kept moist all the time, but that my Aloe Vera plant doesn’t need much water at all through winter! I didn’t know each likes different types of soil, temperature, direct/indirect sun, fertiliser etc. I spent loads of time reading and learning about each of my plants needs, but by the time it was time to water them or feed them, I would forget what each plant needed.
To keep track, I researched each of my plants needs and made an easy to read table. Every time I buy a new plant, I find out what it likes and doesn’t like and add it all on to the list (I have a LOT of pages now, but I don’t need to refer to them very often anymore. Though when you’re just starting out it can be of great use). If I forget which plant needs lots of water or which need misted often, I can refer to my list. I keep a photo of the table on my phone too so I can access it easily.
It really is amazing that every plant has such individual needs. Even if you just keep a note of your plants needs in terms of preferred amount of sunlight and watering, it will help you greatly.
If you need ideas for plants for specific spots in your home, say you have a low light room or if you’re unsure which plants would suit a sunny windowsill, please see my other posts…
So there you have a few easy plants to begin with. If you have success with these houseplants you can always build your collection. It is better to get used to looking after easy going plants before purchasing the more demanding type. Once you gain confidence you can go for any plant you like….as long as you always remember the golden rule….find out where the plant came from, eg. rainforest underground or desert and replicate the conditions of where it came from. So, keep the rainforset undergound plant out of direct sunlight and ensure the desert cacti gets full sunlight.
If you can find the correct spot for your plants and water them with the same consideration to where they have come form (ie. keep the rainforest underground plant moist most of the time and the desert cacti on the dry side), your plants should do well.
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Disclaimer: None of the information shared should be used as a replacement for seeking medical attention.