As an old saying more or less goes, the only better time to start growing plants than the past is right now. Plants are critical to our survival, and our brains are hardwired to recognize that. Just having a bit of extra green around you can make you feel better while the plant detoxifies the air, provides sustenance, or simply looks pretty.
If you want more plants in your home, then you should know the qualities of a good houseplant and several of the most common types of indoor flora.
What makes a good houseplant?
While this list will cover several of the most common and popular houseplant varieties, it can’t come close to covering the full list of potential options. Aside from taking recommendations from gardeners and other enthusiasts, you can evaluate a plant for household viability by researching a few variables.
The vast majority of plants use light, water, and nutrients absorbed by their roots in order to create their own food supply and grow their bodies. The first step in choosing a houseplant is making sure you can provide it with those resources in proper quantities.
Check how much light the plant needs per day, how often it needs to be watered, and the quality of soil it needs. Most indoor plants require 8 or less hours of sunlight per day, so a window with a decent amount of sunlight can keep them going. You can opt for plants with stricter needs, but be realistic about your own ability to keep up with a watering schedule for more sensitive plants.
After that, you need to make sure the plant won’t disrupt the environment for the people, animals, and plants inside the house. Some plants are toxic to eat, others are toxic to touch, and others are only toxic to certain animals. For example, you shouldn’t grow tulips indoors if you have cats, since they’re allergic.
Some plants have become common house flora over time due to their resilience. Each is a beautiful creation of nature on its own, but
1. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants will rapidly outgrow their containers if not managed, and they only need to be watered once a week if it’s warm and bright. During the colder months, it can survive for several weeks without water.
The best part about spider plants is taking the pups that grow from the long vines and giving them to loved ones as a gift. Before long, it’ll be the same size as its parent plant.
2. Snake Plants (Dracaena trifasciata)
For those who are barely home for weeks at a time, snake plants can tolerate your wandering lifestyle. A healthy snake plant can go for around 2 months between watering. They can also survive with just a few hours of shady light, so you don’t have to leave the blinds open while you’re gone.
3. Golden Pothos (Araceae aureum)
The hardiness of the golden pothos turns it into an invasive species in many regions of the world, but the indoor variety shouldn’t cause problems, since the immature vines won’t flower. Both cats and dogs are allergic to it, so take care to keep it out of their reach.
Succulents are plants that have thicker leaves and stems. The extra space lets them store more water than a typical plant, allowing most to go for long periods of time without water. Since they can endure long periods of neglect, they make perfect beginning houseplants. Cactii might be the most well-known form of succulent, but many do not have any dangerous and pointy bits to be concerned about.
Note that it is possible to overwater plants, which is the number one way that new succulent owners send their plants to an early grave.
4. Aloe Vera
The true Aloe Vera plant has been used since ancient history for a number of medical treatments, and we still use it today for many of those same purposes. The long, broad leaves contain a gel-like substance that provides a soothing sensation when placed on burns. The gel can also serve as a mouthwash, a protective coating for fruits and veggies, a laxative, and other uses under research.
5. Hens and Chicks, or Houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum)
These succulents resemble a bed of thick flowers as they spread around the area. While gardening experts would recommend about a week between watering, I’ve seen uprooted hens and chicks survive on scraps of soil and zero water for much longer.
Like the Aloe plant, hens and chicks have an internal storage of water mixed with chemicals that can be used for minor medicinal purposes.
6. Alien Egg Succulent (Haworthia Cooperi)
This succulent won’t spawn face-hugging aliens in your home, but it sure looks like it will. The oblong shape and coloration could have come right out of a sci-fi movie’s prop collection. It comes from a hot and bright area of South Africa and had to evolve to consistently bright lights, so it’s happy to get a bit of indirect sunlight in an indoor environment.
7. Living Stones (The Lithops genus)
This genus of succulents can easily be mistaken for colored pebbles. Personally, they remind me of sliced tomatoes, especially the red or green ones. However you see them, the tiny succulents are adorable and beautiful at the same time. Plus, they’re incredibly hard to kill if you forget about them for a while.
8. Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)
For a succulent with more bite, try the bunny ears cactus. The thick blades split apart and lift, often resembling a rabbit. It does have spines, as the cactus in the name implies, and they can be somewhat painful and difficult to remove. As long as the succulent is kept a safe distance away from pets and children, it’s perfectly safe to keep in the home.
Herbs are plants with leaves that can be used in cooking, medicine, and aromatics. Not everything has to be functional, but combining home decor with the kitchen supply can be a seamless improvement to multiple aspects of the household.
9. Scallions or Chives (the Allium genus)
Scallions are the long, tubular leaves that grow from onions. As long as you give the green onions water and light, you can regrow them as often as you’d like from one bunch of purchased onions. They don’t even need soil, though it might lower the quality of the onions over time.
I only ever tend to make it through two or three stalks when I buy green onions from the store, so switching to growing my own really cuts down on food waste, even if they’re inexpensive.
10. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is one of my most frequently used cooking herbs, and growing it at home can save a significant amount of money over time. The perennial plant will stay alive with minimal care, and it can quickly grow larger than your needs if grown outside.
When you want to harvest the leaves, snip off a branch and pinch it firmly at the top. Grab the bottom and pull. The leaves will pop right off for an easy addition to a meal or a batch to dry.
11. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is another perennial cooking herb that blends in with the other plants until you need to pick some leaves for drying or flavoring. It requires less water than many other plants, easily surviving for 2 weeks without watering.
You can use the same harvesting technique as oregano for collecting a mass of thyme at once. Many other herbs with small leaves can be collected the same way.
12. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Another classic cooking herb, parsley, comes in several varieties with slight twists on the leaf shape and flavor. Unlike oregano, dried parsley doesn’t pack quite the same punch, so having a small parsley plant growing on the kitchen window sill is both aesthetically and gustatorily pleasing.
13. Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
A mature ginseng plant looks like it’s attempting to walk out of its pot by the roots. On top of the personality in its appearance, both the roots and the leaves are useful for tea and cooking.
Beyond the flavor, it has proven capable of improving glucose metabolism and improving immune responses. Traditional uses cover a wider range of potential uses, such as a boost of energy or enhancing memory.
The line between regular and medicinal herbs is quite blurry, but herbs that are traditionally considered medicinal may not be the tastiest or have a stronger effect that would carry through to a cooked dish.
14. Lavender (the Lavandula genus)
While it can be used in cooking, lavender is primarily used for its relaxing and very mild sedative effect that can help mitigate common problems like anxiety and insomnia.
Most varieties like as much sun as possible, but you can still manage to grow them indoors with a good window. They can expand quite a bit with enough light and a large container.
15. Mint (the Mentha genus)
The various mint plants have long been a traditional source of relief for various gastrointestinal symptoms. You don’t have to enjoy the flavor to feel the benefit of calming an upset stomach.
Be careful if you transition your mint plant outdoors, as they can quickly begin to take over everything.
16. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
The dainty little flowers on the chamomile plant are usually added to tea mixtures after drying, but you can pop them right off for instant tea if you have one growing at home. The infusions have a soothing effect similar to lavender.
17. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
I love cooking with turmeric, but it’s worthy of sitting in the medicinal section for its numerous uses. Traditional medicines often struggle between modern knowledge and cultural wisdom, but turmeric is known to both worlds as a valuable medicine.
Ferns take slightly more care than a succulent, but they are one of the oldest forms of plant-life with plenty of durability built into their DNA. Most have a fairly similar structure to one another, consisting of fronds made from multiple smaller leaf blades.
18. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
The Boston fern has been popular for home decor for hundreds of years. It has a sprawling, bushy collection of fronds that works well on a surface, on the floor, or hanging from a basket.
Boston ferns are known for being a bit thirsty, but the water requirements aren’t as drastic when growing them indoors. Keep the pot heavy with water, if not overly full. If you prefer the look of artificial ferns, check out this fake one we bought.
19. Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum)
Ferns don’t all have to be green, either. This species of fern has a mixture of pale and deep purples. It has a wider spread and longer fronds than the Boston fern, but the extra splash of color will brighten the room throughout the year.
20. Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum pedatum and others in the genus)
The delicate spread of fronds on maidenhair ferns is like a head of hair falling from a maiden’s crown. Some varieties have shorter blades on the fronds, and they can become quite bushy and large with a large enough container and adequate care.
Vines will climb and wrap their way around obstacles in the environment. With a little care and guidance, you can cajole them into creating hybrid blends of human craftsmanship and nature’s beauty. Grow them up from the floor, or start them from hanging baskets that droop like curtains.
21. Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)
Landscapers love the creeping fig for its sturdy, clinging vines and ability to grow in places where other plants will fail. It’s not a speedy grower, as the name implies, but that’s often a bonus for a houseplant.
22. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
English Ivy is a common sight in decor thanks to its truly British origins. The coiling tendrils will take some time to get started, but they can grow up to several feet a year. The versatile vine can tolerate just a few hours of shady light, too, though it doesn’t mind brighter light.
23. String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii)
The heart-shaped leaves on this vine create an entryway to love when grown around a doorway. Most tend to have green leaves with pathways of lighter color, but some have a pink tinge to the leaves that really enhances the look.
Not many plants can survive with absolutely no sunlight, but they don’t all want a full day’s worth of direct sunlight, either. Plant species that thrive in shade can usually suffice with just a few hours of indirect sunlight, like the natural light that fills a room during the day.
24. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
The ZZ plant has one of the lowest minimum sunlight requirements of any plant. Though it’s amicable to more environmental conditions, care should be taken to keep it away from children and house pets. It isn’t lethally poisonous, but the plant’s chemical protection is potent enough for serious discomfort.
25. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
You won’t have to give too many thoughts to a prayer plant. A couple of weeks between waterings will suffice, and it’s far better to leave it a bit dry than to overly water it.
The broad leaves have intensely prominent veins and markings that spread up and out from the midrib.
26. Cast-Iron Plants (Aspiditra elatior)
Direct sunlight will quickly destroy the leaves on this plant. Beyond that, the plant is nearly impossible to kill, so keep it away from a window that will oversaturate it. Beyond its dislike for too much sun, the plant is incredibly hardy, earning its common name for its durability.
Not all of us exist in homes with limited natural light. If you’ve got wide windows that let in the sun for most of the day, you can try growing more needy plants indoors. Most of the succulents will fall into this category, but here are a couple of other examples.
27. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
Croton’s leaves look like they were designed for a cyberpunk office space. It’s a glutton for the sun, which helps show off the variety of colors along the blades.
28. Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
I love tomatoes enough that growing them is necessary to keep my food budget in the black, but they are greedy about sunlight. Some homes won’t have many great spots for a tomato plant indoors, but a shelf or table next to a broad window can do the trick.
29. Sunflowers (the Helianthus genus)
It’s even possible to grow sunflowers indoors, despite the name clearly telling everyone that the plant loves the sun. As long as you take care to ensure it’s getting a full day of sun, indoor sunflowers shouldn’t be too much smaller than their outdoor relatives.
Plants are adaptable, but many will not flower until they sense that the environment is ideal. Others can’t seem to exist without flowering. If you want more color from your plants, look for ones that are known to sprout and keep beautiful flowers for extended periods of time.
30. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Poinsettias have a strong association with Christmas, but they have a long life outside of the holiday season. Treat yours with care and affection, and it can spread those beautiful red, white, and pink petals for months.
31. Hibiscus (the Hibiscus genus)
Hibiscus is a bit of a thirsty plant with a love for the sun, and it will reward your care with constant bursts of flowers throughout the year. Each flower doesn’t last long, though, so collect them for hibiscus tea or art projects.
32. Candy Cane Oxalis (Oxalis versicolor)
Oxalis might set off warning signals, but it’s actually relatively safe unless taken at much higher doses than can be done accidentally. This particular version of oxalis has a gorgeous white flower with a red stripe that resembles a candy cane. While keeping plants in the home just for green leaves and fresh air is all well and good, I love having eye-pleasing surprises like this mixed into the arrangement.
33. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
Birds of paradise grow to a medium height with broad, oblong leaves that can be more than two feet in length. Although its leaves are impressive, its shining feature is its bright flowers that form bird-like frills in bloom.
34. Bleeding Hearts (the Dicentra genus)
The members of this genus have hanging, heart-shaped flowers that make it easy to remember the name. They don’t like it when it’s too hot, but they can bloom most of the year when grown indoors or in temperate regions.
Space is going at an increasingly high premium, so you may not have room for larger indoor plants in your home. Picking a smaller plant with bright colors in its flowers or a unique appearance can make the most of that space. Many herbs and succulents can fall into this category, as well.
35. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
Lucky bamboo is a small plant that grows sectioned stalks that look much like bamboo when grown inside of a container. It’s actually a different species of plant, so don’t try to feed it to your panda.
Decorating with lucky bamboo has long been a cultural practice in the east. Aside from enjoying the appearance and feeling it brings to a room, people gave special meaning to the number of stalks in their lucky bamboo shoots over time.
36. Forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatic)
With the right sunlight and water, forget-me-nots are fast-starting perennials that bloom into a colorful mix of tiny five-petaled flowers with a button of differing color in the middle. As the name implies, they need a bit more care than other plants, so you can expect to be watering them every other day or so.
37. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
The delicate and dainty flowers of the sweet alyssum are typically white or purple with buttons of pollen in the center. Their rich fragrance is potent even when outdoors, so it can be quite powerful and noticeable when kept indoors. The itty bitty flowers are just perfect for miniature terrariums, too.
Most of the other houseplant categories have featured plants that don’t grow too large. If walking into a sea of greenery is your ideal home decor, then pack a few larger plants like these into the room. As a plus, larger plants tend to produce more oxygen over time for more natural air freshening.
38. Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
Outdoors, this type of fig can easily reach 50 feet tall. When grown indoors, it’s more likely to reach about 10 feet – perfect for the typical ceiling height. They can spread wide, so you may need to trim the leaves now and then to maintain the space.
39. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
A dragon tree is a cousin of the snake plant, and both share a hardy resilience to low-light conditions and minimal watering once a week or less. At full height, they will be taller than the average person with a spread of thin leaves that look like a burst of fireworks.
40. Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Despite their association with tropical climates, palm trees of many types can thrive perfectly well in temperate or indoor locations. The Lady Palm has narrow and long leaves that point out in all directions. When grown indoors, it reaches a maximum of about 6 feet tall.
41. Corn (Zea mays)
Corn, or maize, has been an important part of human diets for several millennia now. The plant grows tall over the course of the growing season, eventually rising above head height.
Although you probably won’t get enough corn to make a whole meal if you grow just one or two plants indoors, they can serve as large showpiece plants that progress throughout the year. Not many people will expect to see corn outside of a field or garden, so the looks of surprise alone will be worth it.
42. Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola)
This little cousin to the larger umbrella plant spreads out into a bushy array of leaves that gets to roughly chest height. The leaf density is thick enough to create a solid bank of green, but the arrangement is spread enough that it’s not a solid mass that’s boring on the eyes.
Productive Indoor Plants
Indoors is not the best place for many productive plants, but there are a few varieties that can provide some extra sustenance while they pretty up the place.
43. Strawberries (Fragaria ananassa and others)
Strawberries are excellent plants to set in hanging containers. On the ground, the runners leave the fruit close to the ground where it can fall prey to insects, pests, or rot much more easily. Hanging a basket with multiple tiers allows for easier harvesting of better berries.
They will need a decent amount of sunlight to be very productive, and you will need to monitor the water much more closely.
Note that store-bought strawberries are not the best for planting at home. Heading to the garden store will give you a wider variety of strawberries to choose from, and even a more expensive strawberry start should be less than the price of a couple pounds of strawberries from the store.
44. Dwarf Citrus Trees (varies)
When kept in a planter, citrus trees like lemons and oranges can stay below ceiling height. They don’t produce nearly as much fruit as an outdoor tree, but they still make enough that you might need to juice or can some of the excess before it rots.
45. Radishes (Raphanus raphanistrum)
Radishes don’t need much time, space, or attention in order to grow. The roots are a slightly spicy and crunchy addition to salads, salsas, root veggie soups, and more. The leaves are also edible, giving you two ingredients for the salad from one plant.
46. Mulberry Bush (Morus rubra and others in the Morus genus)
A mulberry bush can become a massive plant when grown outdoors, but dwarf mulberries can be grown indoors to produce a massive pile of berries throughout the growing season. The quantity might be so great that you need to put a sheet down to catch excess berries before they hit the wood or carpet.
Unique Plant Decorations
These plants may not quite fit all of the criteria for a good houseplant, but they have an eye-catching uniqueness that goes beyond the normal.
47. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The false flowers that spell doom for small bugs are entrancing and slightly frightening at the same time. Small hair-like structures on the leaves detect motion, causing the two halves to snap shut if triggered.
The snapping motion isn’t strong enough to threaten anything bigger than a bug, and it doesn’t have any notable chemicals to worry about. The major downside is that you need to feed your plant like it’s an animal every week or so, unless you spot it catching a stray insect.
48. String of Dolphins (Curio peregrines)
The string of dolphins likes slightly more water than most succulents and is not the hardiest variety, but the unique shape of the leaves makes the minor amount of extra effort worth it. Following the succulent trend of names matching their appearance, its spread of branches and leaves resemble dolphins leaping in a row.