How to Choose a Houseplant: Expert Tips for Success


Choosing a houseplant is an easy task, right? Not so fast! There are many factors to consider when selecting the perfect plant for your home. Where will you put it? How much light does it need? What kind of humidity does it require? With our expert advice and tricks, choosing a houseplant has never been so easy.

Maintenance

One of the first things to consider is how much time you must spend on caring for your plant. Certain plants are notorious for requiring lots of care, such as the beautiful Calathea, which requires humidity, careful watering with distilled water and diffused light.

If you don’t have spare time to be fussing over a plant, or you travel away from home a lot, then a plant such as the ZZ Plant would be better suited to your needs. This is because it can go for long periods of time without any care, and still look beautiful.

Humidity

It’s worth thinking about how much humidity you have in your home too, as many plants require higher levels than what may naturally exist. Modern day heating and AC systems tend to result in a drier, less humid atmosphere.

Some plants such as Philodendron and Maiden Hair Fern, require regular misting to account for the low humidity levels. Do you have the time to be doing this every day? Sure, some people love being able to dedicate this care and attention on their plants, but just be aware of the time commitment.

Pets

Do you have cats or dogs in the home? Then choose a houseplant that’s pet friendly.

Certain plants are known to be toxic to pets such as ‘true lilies’ that can cause kidney failure in cats. Other houseplants can cause less acute symptoms such as upset stomach or vomiting. It’s easy to get carried away when you see a beautiful plant for sale in a big box store and forget to consider if it’s safe for pets.

It’s particularly important if you have a cat. Whilst placing a plant on a kitchen windowsill behind a sink may deter a dog, cats can easily jump up and start investigating.

Pet friendly plants include Spider plant, Boston fern, Cast iron plant, Echeveria (succulent), and Phalaenopsis orchid (Moth orchid).

Lighting

Many plants have preferred lighting requirements, so consider where you’ll be placing your plant.

Although many people love putting plants on a windowsill, this can actually scorch the leaves of many plants. It’s particularly worth considering if you have a south facing window.

Plants that will thrive in full sun include cacti and succulents. Many foliage plants prefer bright indirect light which means it’s ideal to place them a few feet away from a window.

If you only have a gloomy north facing room, there are still plants that will grow in these conditions.  The Cast iron plant and Pothos are well known for being able to grow in low light conditions.

Flowers or Foliage

Everyone’s different when it comes to the interior design of their home or apartment. One of the big things to consider when buying a houseplant is whether you’d like the pop of color that flowers bring, or the elegant natural beauty of green foliage.

Anthurium plants and Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) both produce lovely tropical blooms that can enhance a room. African violets are enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity and produce blooms throughout the year.

The Peace lily is another flowering plant that shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s easy to grow and is well-known for improving indoor air quality.

If you prefer majestic dark green foliage plants, consider the Swiss cheese plant, rubber plant or fiddle leaf fig.  

There are also many foliage plants that have coloured or interesting patterns leaves. These include the Crotons, Zebra plants and Begonias.

The choice is purely personal. Just think how coloured flowers or leaves are going to fit in with the rest of your décor. If you’re not sure or think you might change your colour scheme in the future, you really can’t go wrong with foliage plants.

Space

One common problem I see is people not giving sufficient thought to the space a plant needs. Too often plants are crammed into corners, where they don’t have enough room or air circulation to thrive.

Some plants can also grow quite quickly, so what was once a perfect sized plant turns into a monster! Fast growing plants include Spider plants, Tradescantia and Jade plant.

If you only have a small area to dedicate to plants, or you just want some greenery by your computer workstation, consider using small succulents in pots. Various types of Echeveria are popular and easy to grow but Haworthia is another great choice.

Shopping for houseplants – how to choose

When you’re out shopping for houseplants in a store, look out for the following signs that the plant has been properly cared for. Plants have often been raised under ideal conditions in a nursery by expert horticulturalists. But when they reach the store, they’re put into poor growing conditions and are neglected or given the minimum of care.

Look for signs of poor health including limp or pale leaves, browning of the leaf tips and spindly growth.

Any plants with visible pest damage should be avoided, such as spotting or holes in leaves and webbing caused by moths.

Ideally you want to choose a houseplant that has healthy foliage, new leaves about to burst through and (if it’s a flowering plant) new flower buds.

Which houseplant will you choose?

So, it’s over to you. These are the main criteria to consider when picking indoor plants for your home, but it’s a very personal thing. Let me know what plants you have in mind for brightening up your home or apartment.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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Just getting started? Make sure you see our guide to the 'Best Houseplants for Beginners'