I am a crazy plant lady just like I am crazy about cats. I’d have to say that my indoor plants definitely outnumber my cats at this point and I am totally okay with that. And the cost of caring for house plants is way cheaper than homing sweet fur babies.
Both plants and cats have one thing in common with me and that’s my love for watching them grown and thrive. They give back ten fold the love and attention we put into them and that brings me joy.
I have plants that now have aged with me! I was gifted several African violets that have stood the test of time. I have adopted cats and orchids that are older than my kids!
With the right care and attention, plants can truly become companions if you bond and form a relationship to care for them and keep an eye out for their wellbeing.
As with outdoor gardening, indoor plants have become a hobby that is primarily self-taught. The first plant that I ever bought was a peace lily from a grocery store florist display. I had moved into my first apartment and was working on designing a cozy and inviting shared living space. Like any “home style” magazine would showcase, a room is not complete without plants to soften the space and bring life to the environment.
The peace lily from that first apartment went on to live for many many years. It was transplanted several times, wilted up in a hot car and came back to life, and eventually grew so big that we put it into a giant pot and donated it to a local doctor’s office.
Those grocery store plants really thrive if you take care of them!
Basic Indoor Plants
So let’s start at the very beginning. There are many types of plants that are great for indoor gardening. There are basic plants like peace lilies, pothos, spider plants, zz plants, ponytail palm (and other indoor palm plants), and snake plants. These plants are low maintenance and require very little besides the basic need for light and sporadic watering.
So if you’re the type of person who forgets to water their plants or travels frequently, these plants are going to work well in your home or office.
Where you choose to purchase your plant from is part of the fun and enjoyment of getting to know what you like and what plant you will choose to bring home. For me, the shopping is a big part of the experience. I have bought plants from the sales rack at Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, Ikea, local garden centers, and charity plant sales in my neighborhood.
Like thrifting and antiquing, I like the thrill of the hunt! I typically scope out the scene and meander around until I find a plant that I like and feel drawn to. I check the tag that is included with the plant and google the plant name on my phone. This way, I can get a quick description of how challenging that plant would be for me as well as find out what conditions it will thrive best in.
Light, Water, Soil
The basic rule of thumb (pun intended) for having success with your indoor plants is to consider these three factors when purchasing a plant and placing it in your home: light, water, and soil.
When reading the tag that is included with your plant, you’ll see information regarding how much light is best for your plant. It’s a general suggestion that is written on the card as direct sun, partial sun, or indirect sunlight.
The difference between the three is that direct sun is exactly that. You can put your plant in direct sunlight and it will not burn its leaves but will in fact thrive (ex. jade).
Partial sun typically means that plants can be exposed to sunlight in the morning, when it’s not as strong, but should be in the shade or indirect light for the remainder of the day. In other words, no prolonged sun exposure.
Indirect light means that your plant can be in a bright room but not in the direct rays of sunshine. These are your low light indoor plants.
This is where being a “google gardener” comes in handy. When you google your plant name, you will find resources that tell you exactly what kind of light your plant will need.
Often times, articles about plants will suggest placing plants in an east or west facing window. Here’s a great tip! Go ahead and pull up that compass app on your phone and figure out what direction your windows face in your home and place your plants accordingly. Typically, west facing windows have the strongest sunlight.
This is by far the most crucial factor when caring for indoor plants.
Always check the soil before watering your plant to confirm how dry or wet it is. Certain plants need to dry out completely before they can be watered again and other plants need to be watered more often.
It can be overwhelming keeping track of it all but if you keep the tag that came with your plant to help your remember, that’s a great way to learn. Again, googling your plant care instructions will also advise you on watering frequency.
When I do my walk around my house to water all of my plants, I give them all the finger test. I stick my index finger into the soil and if it’s damp or dry, I water if that’s what the plant calls for. If it’s still wet/damp then I leave it alone. You never want your plants to be soggy or have standing water on them because that can lead to root rot, bugs, mildew, and other gross soil contaminations.
The kind of dirt that you use in your indoor plants is crucial.
I tend to stay away from potting soils that you can buy from big box stores like Home Depot, Target, and Walmart. They aren’t the highest quality and the conditions to store them and contain them are not ideal. I buy my potting soil in bulk from the local Agway or garden market. They tend to stock smaller quantities and the quality is better because they aren’t stacked in a warehouse or out in the hot sun.
Different plants require different types of soil. I have learned this from experience the hard way! The easy starter plants that I mentioned earlier can use basic potting soil.
Pick up a bag of premium potting soil and keep it on hand and stored in a dry cool spot in your home, garage, or potting porch. This is soil-less blend of ingredients with additional amendments that add nutrients and fertilizer to your plants to help nourish them and keep them healthy. They also contain elements that help retain water for your plant.
Cactus and succulents use a different soil that is rich with porous material that aids with drainage and replicates the soil they would be accustomed to in the desert. This type of soil is a blend of sand, gravel, pumice, and/or perlite. These components make for a less dense mixture that doesn’t hold moisture and aerates the soil so the roots get the air circulation they need.
The main difference between this soil and regular potting mix is that regular potting mix is full of nutrients and fertilizers for “regular” plants that need a good bit of moisture to survive. Obviously, plants in the desert are not exposed to those conditions.
Orchids and African violets have their own speficiations for soil that help replicate the conditions of the native plant. Gardeners new to orchid growing need to understand that healthy orchids don’t grow in regular potting soil because it too dense and does not drain the water well.
Native orchids actually grow in the jungle on the side of trees so the bark-based orchid potting mixture helps give the roots something to cling to.
Great Plants for Easy Indoor Gardening
Here are examples of some of the great and easy indoor plants that you should consider using in your home, especially if you’re a newbie gardener:
Pothos and Spider Plants
Pothos plants are a fantastic beginner plant. This plant in the photo below was $7.99 at the local grocery store!
You can find pothos in many garden centers but you will find them overpriced. For a small pot like this one, $10 is a great price and I wouldn’t pay more.
I kept the plant inside of it’s original pot from the store and put it inside this hanging pot. The advantage of doing this is to let your plant acclimate to your home environment before transplanting it into a new pot.
Succulents and Cactus
Pet Friendly Indoor Plants
If you are a home with fur babies, you need to be aware of what plants are safe for your pets. I’ll elaborate more on this in a future post but for quick reference here are the names of a few indoor plants that are safe for cats and dogs:
- Rattlesnake plant
- Spider plant
- parlor palm + ponytail palm
- African violet
- watermelon peperomia
- prayer plant
Robin Dini (@withincreative)
Smells Like Home Gardening Collaborator
Robin Dini is a Connecticut native and resides in a quintessential New England town on the shoreline. Her love for gardening and all things plants and flowers is rooted in her deep connection to nature and her childhood spending countless hours outdoors. Robin’s gardening philosophy is to grow what you like, experiment with new things, and do your research.