University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
you're like me and don't have time to fuss with houseplants, or are
and don't know where to begin, or just feel you have a brown thumb,
some easy houseplants you might give a try.
matter which you grow, the key is to not overwater. If in doubt,
water. I like to
"train" my plants (leafy ones such as peace lily) to be dry to the
point of starting to wilt before
watering. Other tips for success:
keep from drafty areas, keep from touching cold windows, keep low light
from direct sun, and don't move from one extreme to the other without a
transition period of several weeks (such as low light indoors to a full
than proper watering, and keeping plants warm (above 50 degrees F,
above 60 degrees for most), proper light is perhaps most
You either can choose plants to fit your
light levels, or move plants to various light conditions. Low
plants do well in the interior of
homes, or by a north-facing window.
Medium light plants like bright, indirect light as a foot or two from
west- or south-facing windows or under a lamp fixture. High light
plants really need to be near (but
not touching) west- or south-facing windows, or in a sunroom.
of the most traditional plants for low light is the wide-leaved,
leathery-leaved cast iron plant (Aspidistra)-- appropriately
named as it
is tough as nails. It grows about 2 feet
high and tolerates cool. There is a
dwarf form you may find, also one called 'Milky Way' with white spots
the dark green leaves.
tough as the cast iron plant, amazing plants that adapt to low light or
sun (but not quickly or at the same time), are the snake plants (Sansevieria).
These have very tough, thick
leaves, usually upright from the base to 2 or 3 feet
tall. They can be green, green with gold
edges, or squat with wide green leaves. I
have one in the corner of a bathroom, getting little light except from
overhead fixture, lasting for years with almost no water-- just the
of the all-time favorite low-light houseplants is the rubber plant (Ficus
elastica). This plant can get quite
large with time, and has large, thick glossy leaves. Some
have green leaves, others are
reddish. It too can adapt amazingly to full sun over time.
of the more popular low-light and easy houseplants is the Chinese
about one to two feet high. The long,
somewhat narrow leaves from the base are variously variegated,
cultivar, from green with some white to mostly white.
low light vine you might consider the Devil's ivy (Epipremnum),
known as pothos from a former name.
There is a green form, but more commonly found are the variegated ones
with either white or gold in leaves.
Variegated cultivars need high light to retain this coloring, or they
may turn mostly green. It is usually
seen in hanging baskets, but can be trained to grow over and around
such as shelving and windows.
are one of those indoor plants that do well in lower light, even though
grow more vigorously and denser in medium light. There are many
either with upright
self-supporting stalks or vining types.
The philodendron vines don't really climb, rather they hang from
or are supported to posts. The
heart-leaf philodendron, with relatively small heart-shaped leaves, is
the more commonly found.
of my favorites for medium light (although it adapts to low light) is
lily (Spathiphyllum). The leaves
on long stems reach about two feet, and another benefit is the unique
occasional white flowers on long stalks.
There are several selections of this you may find, including one with
white streaks in the leaves. I use peace
lily as my indicator plant for watering.
Once it starts wilting I know it's time to water all my plants!
been amazed how far it can wilt and
still recover upon watering.
popular and easy flowering houseplant many have is the African
Keys to success with this plant are to not
get water on the leaves, water with lukewarm water and not let the pots
water (plants don't like to be waterlogged), and to give correct
light. African violets love bright, indirect light--
not direct sunlight. They grow well
under grow lights, but need at least 8 hours a night of darkness to
other commonly listed and seen easy houseplants for medium light may
issues, such as ornamental figs (Ficus) getting some insects and
dropping lower leaves if any changes in culture or climate.
also drops lower leaves with
sudden changes, and easily gets pests. The dumb cane (Dieffenbachia)
Norfolk Island Pine are common, but over a few years often drop lower
getting leggy. Some of the palms can be
easy, but watch closely for spider mites.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum) is common in hanging baskets, and
easy to grow, but will get brown leaf tips in low humidity.
high light plants include aloe (the sap is good for burns), cactus, and
ponytail palm. A key to success with all
these is to let them go dry between waterings.