You know the best plants to keep in your bedroom for better sleep. You know which plants are best suited to survive the humidity of a bathroom. But what about the kitchen? Between the heat and food spatters that come from cooking and the risk of potential smoke if you’re not exactly Ina Garten, it might seem like a finicky environment in which to raise a plant.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. When you pick the best plants for a kitchen (an exercise apparently not as restrictive as one might think) and strategically position them in a safe location, the possibilities of a greenery-filled home are endless.
We asked Andrea Strauchler, the garden lead at NYC and Chicago-based plant shop Sprout Home, and Chris Satch, The Sill’s head of plant education, to share their tips on how to turn any kitchen into the houseplant nursery that dreams are made of. Keep reading to see what they had to say, and scroll to the end for some of our favorite plant-filled kitchens.
What’s the one thing people should know about putting plants in their kitchen?
Strauchler: The natural light that comes into the kitchen will ultimately determine what plant will work best for the area. A sunny, well-lit kitchen will allow for the option of greens you can cook with (basil, mint, thyme, or rosemary, to name a few); there are few things more satisfying than harvesting a plant that you have grown yourself.
Kitchens that have less light may not work as well for herbs, but there are plenty of plants that thrive in lower-light situations like Sansevieria—otherwise known as “snake plants”—and ZZ plants.
Is there anything about a kitchen environment that plant owners should pay particular attention to?
Satch: Yes, definitely! Although the kitchen is more humid than other rooms in the house, it’s also the room in which the temperature swings the most… be wary of your plants’ watering schedules. It’s best to just check plants every few days and water accordingly instead of sticking to a set schedule. The heat of cooking may make some plants dry out faster.
Also, note that many kitchens have tile floors—in the winter, they can get colder than other rooms in the home because of that. Any plant on the floor should be elevated during the colder months.
Be aware of putting plants too close to the oven or stove, where the heat from cooking may be a bit much! A few feet away from the stove or oven should be fine. Generally, by the kitchen sink and window is the best place for plants.
What are the best plants to keep in the kitchen?
Strauchler: Air purifiers! NASA completed a study for plants that can clear toxic chemicals such as ammonia, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. Sansevieria, Anthurium, Dracaenas, and Spathiphyllum all have wonderful air purification capabilities.
Satch: Herbs can double as fresh ingredients, so they’re always the best be. Kitchens tend to be rooms with higher humidity in the home, so houseplants that thrive in moist environments, like ferns, orchids, and air plants, are also great picks. Air plants are especially great if you’re limited in counter space; you can string ‘em up and let them hang around, or make use of wall space with air plant holders that attach to your walls. And don’t worry—they won’t spill your sauce’s secret ingredient to your guests! They’re great listeners but not great talkers.
How do you recommend displaying kitchen plants?
Strauchler: We love the look of trailing Spider plants, Burro’s Tail, String-of-Pearls, Pothos, and Philodendrons spilling over a shelf or hanging from the ceiling in a kitchen corner. For very bright kitchens with direct light, a variety of succulents (which require very little watering) or herbs grouped on a windowsill can also be quite beautiful.
Satch: Kitchens get crowded with too many cooks too easily. Opt for plants in hanging baskets or on stands so that you can see them and don’t bump into them. If you are blessed with ample counter space you’re good to put your foliage on display there. If you’re not, try a vining plant like a Pothos or Philodendron trailing down from the top of your kitchen cabinets or the fridge.
Open cabinetry in lieu of open shelving makes the welcome excess of greenery in this little kitchen feel more contained. Bohemian vibes rule in this space, and we love the variety of having potted plants mixed in with things like a single monstera leaf or cascading vines.
This open kitchen-dining room makes use of every nook and cranny, garnishing even generally unused areas—like the top of a fridge—with plenty of greenery. Take a page from this space and frame a window with a vine instead of curtains. It might not be as practical of a window adornment, but who wants to keep natural light out of a kitchen with bulky drapes anyway?
Justina Blakeney can do no wrong—and after all, her blog is called “the Jungalow” for a reason. Greenery is present in more ways than one (emerald green subway tiles for the win), but we love how she curated her open shelves with a mix of functional kitchen tools and decorative plants for a vignette that’s just as much a design statement as it is utilitarian.
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Worried about cramping a smaller kitchen by over-infusing it with plants? Keep them stored up high to draw the eye up and make your ceilings look taller than they are. Open shelving helps with this, and the look of cascading leaves spilling over the side is quite aesthetically pleasing.
If a professional chef has okay-ed keeping plants by where she cooks, it must be fine. We love that she wasn’t afraid to go big with her potted plants, opting for a few larger planters instead of a smattering of small ones.
See more of our favorite plant-filled spaces:
Hacks We Learned from Our Favorite Plant-Filled Homes
One Couple Turned a 650-Square-Foot Rental into a Plant-Filled Boho Oasis
A Historic Cotton Mill Converts into a Plant-Filled Dream Loft