Houseplants are definitely having a moment. Living rooms, instagram feeds, and even our supermarkets are being brightened with more and more greenery.
And it’s no surprise that indoor plants are regaining popularity. Caring for plants has demonstrated benefits for our wellbeing, and with more time spent at home, bringing a little bit of air-purifying nature inside has huge appeal - particularly for those who live in cities.
If you’re a complete beginner, the choice of houseplants on offer can seem a bit overwhelming. And often some of the more ‘fashionable’ options are the more difficult to look after (fiddle leaf fig, we're looking at you).
It definitely takes a bit of practice, and a bit of trial and error to figure out the best houseplants for you - but don't be put off! Most indoor plants are quite forgiving, and with some basic know-how, will be a beautiful addition to your home.
Before you get your heart set on a particular houseplant, it’s important to consider some logistics.
Think about your home environment: how much light do you get? Do you have any south-facing or north-facing windows? Do you like to have the heating at 20 degrees, or do you always have the windows open?
Consider what sort of plant carer you are / might be: Are you likely to be a bit overzealous with the watering can? Are you looking for something a bit more low maintenance? Are you interested in pruning or propagating? Or, would you prefer a houseplant that grows a bit more slowly?
Picking plants that like to live in the same sort of habitat as you do will not only make them significantly easier to care for, but will encourage the best results (in terms of growth, flowering, fruiting).
Over the past year or so, there has been a huge growth in the number of places you can buy good quality, and budget-friendly houseplants.
Garden centres & speciality stores The traditional first choice for plant buying needs. Garden centres usually have a large selection of indoor and outdoor plants - and many now also deliver. If you're interested, garden centres are usually a good place to go if you're curious about how and where your plant has been grown. So, if air miles or chemical fertilizers are something you’re keen to avoid, a garden centre might be the best choice for you. If you go in store, you’ll be able to talk to experts about the best houseplants available too.
Markets The UK is lucky to have a number of flourishing markets, many of which specialise in flowers and plants. Places like Columbia Road Flower Market in London are ideal for picking up a good deal on high quality houseplants. However, it’ll be a bit of a lucky draw with which indoor plants are available, depending on what time of year you go. Our recommendation is to go early in the day to get the best houseplants before they’re snapped up.
Supermarkets Less traditional, but easily accessible and increasingly good quality - though you’ll have less control over how the plant was grown. Many larger supermarkets now stock a range of easy to care for houseplants. If you choose to buy your houseplants from a supermarket we’d suggest checking the health of the plant carefully before you decide - more on this later.
Do a bit of research first to find services that are backed with expert knowledge. Or consider social enterprise options like, The Glasshouse, who offer horticultural training to female prisoners. Many community gardens also run small scale delivery operations too.
If you’re looking at houseplants in person, there are a few things you can do to check how healthy a plant is.
You may feel a bit weird looking at the bottom of the pot, but roots can tell you a lot about how well a plant is doing. You should be looking for strong white roots. Avoid plants with stringy, black, or brown roots, as this can be a sign of root rot.
Take a look at how much the roots stick out of the pot too. If they’re coming out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot - or showing at the surface of the soil - the plant will need repotting into something larger as soon as possible.
Once you’ve made sure the roots are looking good, take a closer look at the plant's leaves. Brown or white spots, dry patches, or brown leaf tips, can all be signs of larger problems. A slight wilt, on the other hand, likely just means the plant is a little thirsty.
How often you’ll need to water your plant will depend largely on what type it is.
A general rule is: if the soil is dry when you stick your finger into its first joint, your plant probably needs a water.
The best way to water an indoor plant is to place it in the sink, and let the water drain through. Let it sit until the water has drained through, then dribble slightly more water through. This will ensure that the rootball is thoroughly moist.
Most houseplants don’t like standing in water, so make sure the water has thoroughly drained through before placing the pot back.
Some plants, such as succulents, will need a lot less watering than this, so tailor your routine according to the houseplant you’re looking after.
If you start seeing lots of little flies, or mould growing on the surface of the soil, it’s likely that you’re giving the plant too much water - or you’re watering too often and it isn’t draining through properly.
Now we’ve gone through the basics of selecting and buying your houseplant, it’s time to get to the fun part: the actual types of plant. Below we list some of the best houseplants for beginners, along with the type of environment they thrive in. Whether you’re looking for an easy to grow leafy showstopper, or some delicate floral decoration: we’ve got you covered.
Note: Many houseplants aren’t suitable for consumption. If you have any furry friends that might nibble the leaves, make sure to double check which plants are pet-friendly before you buy.
Dieffenbachia (also known as: ‘Dumb Canes’): If you’re looking for the best houseplant for a slightly shaded spot, this attractive plant is a great choice. Dieffenbachia do best with ‘filtered’ light - for example next to a sheer curtained window.
Sansevieria (also known as: ‘Snake plant’): Perhaps one of the most popular houseplants for beginners, because of its reputation for hardiness. A snake plant will do best in bright but indirect light - but they can grow well in shady corners too. Make sure to let your sansevieria dry out completely between waterings.
Crassula ovata (‘Jade Plant’): Considered to be a symbol of good luck, this bubbly little plant is the perfect addition to a sunny desk or windowsill. They need full sun in order to grow properly indoors, but otherwise jade plants are pretty low maintenance - just give them a good water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.
Cyperus Papyrus / Cyperus Alternifolius (Umbrella Grass): if you’re an overly keen waterer, this plant is for you. Umbrella grass is actually a pond plant, so it’s well-adapted to having its roots completely surrounded by water. It’ll grow just as well indoors, as a houseplant, as long as you keep the roots constantly wet.
Otherwise umbrella grass is remarkably easy to care for - it’s able to grow in a range of light levels, and can be easily propagated (if that’s something you’re into!)
Hates lots of water
Succulents and cacti (various types): if you have a sunny spot, and not much time for lots of plant care, succulents and cacti are the ideal indoor plant for you. These playful plants come in a wide range of colours, styles, and sizes, and will do very well with just an occasional water. If in doubt, only water when the soil, or potting mixture, has dried out completely.
Monstera (‘Swiss Cheese Plant’): If you’re looking to make a big statement, you can’t really go wrong with a monstera. These instagram friendly plants with famous paddle-shaped, green leaves can grow up to 3 metres indoors (though you can get much smaller versions too). They thrive in medium indirect light, and only need watering every week or so, when their soil has dried out.
Although flowering house plants have a bit of a reputation for being difficult to look after - particularly orchids… - many are actually incredibly easy and beautiful, making them perfect for beginners.
Remember: Many flowering houseplants only flower at certain times of year or for short periods of time. However, many have pretty lovely looking foliage to compensate.
Low light lovers
Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily): Peace Lilies are a perennial favourite of houseplant lovers. Not only do they have beautiful jewel green leaves and striking white flowers, they are natural air purifiers, making them a particularly beneficial indoor plant.
Peace lily plants are low maintenance. Find them a spot with indirect light, and water once their top soil has dried out.
Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose): Named by the Royal Horticultural Society as the best houseplant for ‘year round flowers’, this pretty plant with trumpet shaped flowers is the perfect addition to any sunny spot in your home.
For best results, place in a spot that gets bright light (but not directly in hot sun), and water regularly. Don’t allow the pot to sit in water.
Phalaenopsis (Orchid): Despite their reputation, there are some types of orchid that are quite easy to care for. Phalaenopsis have long lasting flowers and can live for years with very little attention. Put them in a bright spot and water once a week - until the water drains out of the pot. Reduce watering during the winter months, when there’s less light.
Hates lots of water
Schlumbergera (Christmas Cacti): Foliage lovers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the hardiness of succulents and cacti. This flowering cactus makes a dramatic and colourful addition to any home.
Jasmine (various varieties): with delicate, white flowers, jasmine is an incredibly covetable houseplant. This trailing plant can grow as large as 3 metres tall, and often needs some form of structural support. Many garden centres will sell jasmine attached to little trellises or in a wreath. If you want the beautiful jasmine smell, look out for jasmine polyanthum.
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