The Best Plants for Beginners Aren’t What You’d Expect
Look beyond the pothos.
Published Aug 3, 2020 12:00 AM
Ask someone to recommend a plant you won’t accidentally kill, and their answer will be pretty expected. Those who need something truly foolproof will do well with a snake plant, and anyone who wants the satisfaction of long, trailing vines will be happy with a pothos. But these are far from the only plants for beginners—even if you have less-than-ideal light and you’re still learning from your last overwatering mistake.
An unfamiliar plant can inevitably be intimidating, but that’s no reason to not step out of your comfort zone. So we asked a few experts to share their favorite plants for beginners, along with their tips for keeping them not just alive but thriving.
If You Want to Upgrade Your Average Pothos: Cebu Blue
Recommended by:Brielle O’NeillWhy it’s great: “It’s a beautiful vining plant, and it’s known for its silvery blue foliage. The cebu blue is a part of the Epipremnum genus, so it’s extremely easy to care for, much like a pothos.” Key care tips: Place it in bright, indirect light; let soil dry out fully between waterings; and to give it an extra boost of nutrients, fertilize with a fish emulsion two times a month in spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing.
If You Want Some Extra Decoration: Ardisia Crenata
Recommended by: Summer Rayne Oakes, host of Plant One on Meand author of How to Make a Plant Love You Why it’s great: “I just saw them being sold more in the houseplant trade and in the supermarkets within the past couple years, and I’m not sure why they’re not more popular, because they are relatively nonfussy plants. It’s probably because they have nondescript leaves, but the plant eventually gets bright red, pink, or white ‘berries’ on it, which makes it look very decorative.” Key care tips: Set it in bright, indirect sun and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
If You Want Something a Bit Different: Dioscorea Elephantipes
Recommended by:Morgan Doane, author of How to Raise a Plant and Make It Love You Back Why it’s great: “Caudex plants are underrated and underrepresented in plant shops, but they should definitely get more attention as beginner-friendly plants. They are capable of going without water for longer periods of time because of the amount of water they can store in their bulb-shaped bases.” Key care tips: Plant it in a succulent-mix soil and place in a brightly lit spot on a windowsill. Many of them can be trained to grow along a trellis, too.
If You Frequently Forget to Water: ZZ Plant
Recommended by: Danuelle Doswell and Mignon Hemsley, founders of GroundedWhy it’s great: “The ZZ plant has a rather unique-looking root system. Beneath the plant’s soil there are thick, potato-like roots known as rhizomes. These store water, which is why the plant can often be subject to overwatering but does well during droughts and places where frequent watering is not always easy. It thrives with little effort and is a great choice for frequent travelers, those who occasionally forget to water, or the office.” Key care tips: Place it in indirect light and water every one to two weeks—it’s best to water too little than too much.
If You Want to Start a Mini Forest: Variegated Moonlight Dwarf Umbrella Tree
Recommended by: Ryan Lee, cofounder of Rooted Why it’s great: “It’s easy to grow and low-care—it’s okay if the soil gets bone-dry or stays slightly moist.” Key care tips: Water once every seven to 10 days and keep in bright, indirect light—but it can handle a few hours of direct light per day.
If You Want Something Fancy: Orchid
Recommended by:Phoebe Cheong, founder of Welcome to the Jungle Home Why it’s great: “Orchids come in so many different colors and species. They are epiphytes, which latch onto trees in their natural habitat, so giving them medium-to-indirect bright light will keep them happy. And with proper care, orchid blooms can last up to four months.” Key care tips: Give it a good drink once a week or every other week by putting it in the sink and letting the water drain out of the pot.
If You Want an Even More Major Monstera: Monstera Adansonii
Recommended by: Maryah Greene, founder of Greene PieceWhy it’s great: “I give the title ‘beginner plant’ to houseplants that are forgiving in nature and don’t need more care than once every seven days. Stick to a watering schedule and place them in a pot with a drainage hole, and you’ll be good to go! It seems like everyone is and was obsessed with monstera deliciosas. The monstera adansonii also has holes in its leaves, but it grows long and viney like a pothos.” Key care tips: Keep it in medium-to-bright indirect light and water once every seven to 10 days.
If You’re Interested in an Extra-Leafy Green: Prayer Plant
Recommended by: Kristin McLaughlin, founder of Soft Opening Brooklyn, Soft Opening West, and Soft Opening DesignWhy it’s great: “It constantly churns out new leaves, so it’s a really rewarding confidence booster. It shows you in real time that you’re doing a good job.” Key care tips: Keep it in bright, ambient light and water every five to seven days.
If You’re Craving a Floral Touch: Anthurium
Recommended by: Erin Marino, director of marketing at The SillWhy it’s great: “There is a whole world of incredible anthuriums out there that have these insane colors—they’re not flowers but actually modified leaves, so it can be ‘in bloom’ all year round.” Key care tips: Keep it in medium-to-bright indirect light and water once a week—a little less in the winter.
If You Want a Tropical Feel: Burgundy Rubber Tree
Recommended by:Hilton Carter, author of Wild at Home and Wild Interiors Why it’sgreat: “It’s the lesser fussy ficus, unlike the fiddle leaf fig, but it can have the same effect in an interior space. It instantly makes a home feel more tropical. If given the right light and room to grow, it can reach up to 25 feet in height indoors.” Key care tips: Only water it when the top two inches of the soil are completely dry, and use lukewarm water when you do. Ideally, place it in bright, indirect light—but medium light is also fine.
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