Choosing the right houseplant Selecting a houseplant is more about examining your home and lifestyle than it is about gardening expertise. Once you define the parameters of your home’s growing conditions and your signature style, it’s not difficult to discover plants to suit the setting. Then you can determine if you’re ready for an experts-only finicky beauty or a bulletproof, never-say-die plant.

Whether you have rooms filled with plants or are pondering a first-time purchase, use our checklist to help select the right plant for your life.

Evaluate Your Home

Light

Most plants need some light to grow. Tour your home to determine how much light it offers.

  • If you have bright south- or west-facing windows, you can grow plants that need full sun.
  • Many houseplants need bright, indirect light, which describes a spot located in a room that receives sun for several hours per day, but where the plant itself doesn’t receive direct sunlight.
  • Some foliage plants can survive with very little natural light, such as rooms with windows that face north or corners of rooms away from windows. Examples include mother-in-law’s tongue, cast-iron plant and Chinese evergreen.
  • You can always provide supplemental light to plants. Some grow lights come in sizes that fit traditional light fixtures, which can turn a tabletop into an ideal growing environment. Plants that thrive with artificial light include flowering plants, such as African violet, begonia, cyclamen and orchid. Foliage plants that grow well with lighting include aloe vera, fittonia, peperomia and polka-dot plant.
  • Learn more about indoor light levels from the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension Service.

Space

How much room do you have to host houseplants? If you have small rooms filled with furniture, select small plants for tabletops, such as dwarf specimens or short succulents. In larger rooms, options include tall plants such as potted palms or ficus trees.

Consider a plant’s mature size. Some plants, like African violet, won’t become overly large. But a tiny Norfolk Island pine or rubber tree can grow into a larger-than-life specimen. Unless you’re willing to prune, root-prune or toss-and-replace plants, you’ll need to do some research to ensure you’re getting a plant that fits your space.

Inventory Your Life

Time

Plants are living creatures and require care.

  • If you’re consistently short on time, opt for low-maintenance plants such as cacti or succulents.
  • If you’re reliable about chores and can handle weekly watering and light primping, consider more demanding houseplants.
  • In general, flowering plants typically need more water and attention than their foliage cousins.

Kids and Pets

Are small children or pets part of your life? Then consider avoiding poisonous houseplants or ones that could cause injury, such as cacti or succulents with sharp spines.

Consider Growing Conditions

Temperature

Plants have specific temperature requirements. Most houseplants are tropicals and thrive when temperatures hover between 65° F and 75° F during the day and about 10 degrees cooler at night. If your home has an area that’s consistently chilly or overly warm, you may not want to include plants in those rooms – or you can search out plants adapted to temperature extremes.

Humidity

In all seasons but winter, most homes offer adequate humidity for houseplants. In winter, dry air can spell death for plants. Avoid placing plants that require high humidity, such as ferns, orchids or bromeliads, in dry spots in your home. Tuck humidity lovers into moist places, such as near a dishwasher or in a bathroom.

Take Stock of Your Décor

Different plants suit different interior design motifs.

  • Spiky cacti, succulents and plants with strong leaf shapes, such as Xanadu philodendron or flamingo flower, complement modern design themes.
  • Plants with soft, touchable textures (ferns, weeping fig, gold dust croton) blend well with cozy, homey settings.

More About Houseplants