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Houseplants Care 101: A Guide to Choosing and Caring for Your Indoor Plants

Raise your hand if you love a good house plant! We sure do! They add so much life to your space—not to mention color and texture. And we’ve waxed poetic more than once about the health benefits of houseplants. (Cleaner oxygen! Boosted moods!)

But as people who have killed more than our fair share of house plants, we know it’s not always a rosy outlook. Some plants are very finicky or downright difficult to care for. Even the easiest-to-care-for plants need the right light and environment and a solid watering schedule. And this might leave you wondering—are indoor plants worth the work? We say: yes. If you’re not convinced, we dare you to keep reading our indoor plant care guide and discover the best house plants for your lifestyle and your level of plant expertise!

house plants

What Kind of Plants Should I Get?

The plants you choose depend on a couple of factors:

  • Do you have kids or pets? (Some plants are toxic if ingested!)
  • What lighting levels do you have in your home?
  • What space are you trying to fill—big or small?
  • How good are you at keeping plants alive?

Each of these variables impacts what house plants you should bring into your home. To help break it down, we’ve divided some of the most popular indoor plants into three categories, from easiest to care for to the most needy of the bunch!

Level 1 Plants: Easiest to Care For

What we’re calling “Level 1 Plants” are the plants that are easiest to care for. These are the ones that can go weeks without water and not drop a leaf. (And they can handle some overwatering, too.) They’re able to battle through bad soil conditions, poor lighting, are more resilient to pests, and can tolerate neglect. Think of these as your “set it and forget it” plants.

Spider Plants: Spider plants are highly adaptable and can grow in a range of conditions. Their arching leaves give them a graceful look and make them perfect hanging plants. They thrive when planted in well-drained soil and sitting in bright, indirect sunlight. Spider plants occasionally flower, producing babies or “spiderettes” which makes them easy to propagate. Spider plants are non-toxic and safe for humans, dogs, and cats.

Succulents: Succulents are a group of plants that are characterized by storing water in their leaves—resulting in leaves that are thick and fleshy. There are many different types of succulents out there, but in general they thrive in dry climates and don’t like too much humidity. This means they can handle infrequent watering. However, make sure you plant them in a pot with a drainage hole, as succulent roots that sit in water for too long will begin to rot, and will ultimately kill the plant.

Snake Plant: Sometimes called “Mother-in-Law Tongue,” snake plants are a fan favorite. With coloring ranging from light yellow-green to a variegated dark green, we love the architectural shape of these hearty plants. Put a snake plant in indirect sunlight, and let the soil dry out between waterings. Snake plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

ZZ Plant: Known for your ability to kill off even the heartiest of plants? Then a ZZ Plant might be for you. It’s said that these plants are virtually indestructible; they can withstand months of neglect and low light and still look wonderful. However, they do best in moderate to bright indirect light. Let soil thoroughly dry out between waterings—because the one way you can kill this plant is by overwatering. ZZ Plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Pothos: The trailing vines of a pothos plant can add a lot of visual interest to your home—whether it’s potted in a hanging planter, or set on a shelf with the tendrils trailing downward. They do well in bright, indirect light and nutrient-rich soil—but they handle low light and nutrient-poor soil with aplomb. And, in fact, they can survive without soil at all! They can be grown in water, and happily stay alive, untouched, simply sitting in a vase. Pothos is mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Level 2 Plants: Require a Bit More Attention

These plants are a bit more sensitive than their Level 1 counterparts, and they require a bit more attention. But they’re not so sensitive that they’ll keel over after one missed watering session!

Broadleaf Ferns: Broadleaf ferns are distinct from the more common leatherleaf or Boston ferns in that their leaves are undivided rather than compounded. So, their name literally comes from their broader leaves. Ferns are generally low-maintenance houseplants. But they do require a more specific environment. Since ferns originate in dense, shady woodlands, they need lower light and plenty of humidity. Mist your fern daily and keep it out of direct sunlight to keep it happy!

Philodendron: Philodendrons are a type of plant that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes (nearly 500 species!). They can range from tall, tree-like plants to small, vining varieties. We love the fact that a philodendron readily adapts to new conditions and will tell you exactly what it needs. (Droopy? It needs water! Leaves yellowing? It’s getting too much light!) With simple adjustments, these houseplants will stay happy for a long time. Place philodendrons in bright, indirect sunlight and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. And keep out of reach of kids and pets, as philodendron leaves are toxic when ingested, causing swelling in the mouth, upset stomach, and vomiting.

Dieffenbachia: Dieffenbachia plants have beautifully variegated leaves, making them a lovely decoration in your home. They’re fairly adaptable to different environments—but they’re sensitive to overwatering. Keep their soil moist but not soggy, and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. They like filtered light best, and require being rotated regularly so that all sides of the plant receive adequate sunlight.

Fittonia: This compact plant has striking patterning on its leaves, often with pink veining. Fittonia plants prefer bright, indirect light and like to be kept moist. While average household humidity is generally fine, these plants like it on the humid side—so regular misting will keep them very happy. Bonus: fittonia is non-toxic and pet-friendly!

Level 3 Plants: Needy But Beautiful

Ready for a challenge? These plants make a beautiful statement in your home—but they definitely require some babying. They’re very sensitive to over or under-watering and some need a lot of humidity. And they absolutely won’t tolerate incorrect lighting conditions, the wrong type of soil, pests, or any other adverse conditions. But don’t let that neediness scare you! These beauties are worth the work.

Calathea: Known for their bold, patterned leaves, calathea are unique in that their leaves fold up slightly at night, revealing a beautifully colored underside. They do best with medium to low indirect light, and they like when their soil is kept moist but not saturated. You should also mist it regularly, as these plants appreciate some extra humidity. Calathea are also non-toxic and pet-friendly.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Fiddle leaf figs get their name from their large, violin-shaped leaves, which can make quite a statement in your home. They grow best when exposed to consistent, bright, filtered sunlight. You’ll want to turn the plant every few months, as fiddle leaf figs are prone to leaning toward sunlight. Let these plants dry out between waterings, then really drench them when you do water them. It’s good to keep them in pots with a drain hole so that you can water them to the point that it drains to the saucer. And since these plants are native to the tropics, they like regular meetings to keep the humidity levels up. Fiddle leaf figs are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

Alocasia: Alocasia plants can grow quite tall—up to 8-10 feet! Their height, combined with their arrow-head shaped leaves and tall stems makes quite a statement in your home. They thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. Just make sure it’s not direct, as their leaves will burn; conversely, they also can’t handle a dark corner. Alocasia is fairly tolerant if you forget to water them, but they prefer to be kept damp. And they love extra humidity—so make sure to mist them regularly, and you could even consider keeping a humidifier nearby! (They also love to live in bathrooms, where humidity is higher!) Alocasia is mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

Bird of Paradise: Considered the queen of indoor plants, birds of paradise add a tropical flair to your home. These large, upright plants can adapt to a wide variety of lighting conditions, but they especially thrive in the sunny corners of your home, with the ability to handle direct sunlight. Keep this plant on the drier side, and especially make sure that its roots aren’t sitting in wet soil. Occasionally misting these plants will keep their dark, glossy leaves looking great. Bird of paradise plants are mildly toxic and can cause stomach irritation to humans and pets if ingested.

house plants

What supplies do you need when caring for plants?

Ready to bring home a new indoor plant (or five)? Just like bringing home a pet, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the right supplies for proper houseplant care! Here’s what you need.

  • Pots: You can’t plant a houseplant without a pot! There are a ton of beautiful plant pots out there, but you don’t need anything fancy. Just be aware of if your plant needs well-drained soil, as this requires a planter with a drain hole and tray.
  • Soil: Make sure you buy potting soil that specifically suits the plant you’re potting. (Desert plants will want a “cactus mix,” others can tolerate an all-purpose potting soil.)
  • Watering Can and Mister: A watering can makes watering your plants easier because of their long, slender spouts. But plants don’t just want water in their soil—they love a nice mist on their leaves, too!
  • Fertilizer: Fertilizing your plants is a way to introduce nutrients into the soil. Think of it like taking vitamins, but for your plant!
  • Pest Control: Unfortunately, with house plants, pests are inevitable at some point. Be prepared for any outbreaks of mealybugs, spider mites, or scale with the proper pest control.
  • Clippers: Regular pruning helps keep your plants happy and healthy. Invest in some clippers rather than using household scissors, as you’ll get a cleaner cut. Bonus: These are also great for trimming the ends of fresh flowers!

Common Houseplant Pitfalls

Of course, even with the easiest and most low-maintenance plants you’ll encounter some pitfalls. (And certainly with the needy varieties!) Whether it’s the wrong amount of water or lighting, some sneaky little pests, or a pot that’s too small, little shifts can dramatically improve the quality of life of your plants!

  • Overwatering or underwatering: Many plans come with basic watering instructions. But you can always do a quick Google search to find out what your type of plant needs!
  • Incorrect lighting conditions: Some plants can’t handle direct sunlight; others crave it. The right lighting conditions will make a big difference. This is another case of Google being your friend to figure out what your plant needs!
  • Root binding: As plants grow, sometimes they outgrow their planters to a point that they become root bound, with their roots densely packed within the planter. This can be detrimental long-term—but a simple upgrade to a larger plant pot can easily improve its outlook. Just try to untangle and loosen up the roots before transferring it to fresh soil and a new pot.
  • Dry air or conditions that are too hot or too cold: Some plants are very particular about their conditions. They may need slightly warmer and more humid conditions, while others can happily thrive in cooler or drier conditions. Figure out what your plant needs and make simple adjustments to their environment.
  • Pests, disease, and nutrient deficiencies: Mealybugs, scale, spider mites, fungus, mold, rot. Who knew so many gross things could grow alongside your plant?? Regular observances of your plants during your watering routine will help you quickly notice abnormalities or pests and allow you to deal with them quickly and more easily.

Overwhelmed by all that can go wrong with plants? If you want to avoid these pitfalls and the risk of dead plants, you can always opt for faux plants instead! While they won’t help clean your air, they’re certainly more low-maintenance than their live counterparts—one of the many benefits of faux plants.

house plants

Additional Houseplant Care Tips & Tricks:

  • Create a watering schedule so that you never forget to water your plants.
  • Rotate your plants around your home once a month to switch up the angle from which they receive sunlight.
  • Every plant varies in how often they need to be fertilized—but in general, fertilize your plants approximately once a month during their flowering or growth phases to continue bringing nutrients into the soil. You can skip fertilizing in the winter, though, when many plants go dormant.
  • Keep your plants clean by periodically dusting or wiping down leaves with a damp cloth. If they get too dusty, it impedes their ability to take in sunlight and photosynthesize!
  • Don’t forget to prune your houseplants to get rid of any dead leaves or unwanted growth.
  • Finally, learn how to style indoor plants and integrate your plants into your home’s decor!

11 Simple Ways to Style Indoor Plants

If you ask us, a plant-filled home is a happy home. When it comes to decorating with plants, there’s no shortage of ideas for making them part of your decor, be it a tall leafy tree in the living room or an array of low light plants and cacti for your office. But knowing what greenery to bring in and how to arrange indoor plants to suit your style and space can be a challenge, especially if you’re a plant beginner.

For starters, choosing the best indoor plants depends on the space you’re decorating, how much light the room gets, whether you want it potted or hung from the ceiling. Or maybe you’re thinking watering and planting is too much trouble altogether and want to go with faux plants instead.

If all that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t have to figure all of that out on your own. Head to your local nursery or garden center where you’re picking up your indoor plants and ask an expert there. They’ll be able to show you the best options for your space and walk you through all the plant care tips you need to know.

Before you step foot into the plant store, though, you’ll want to make sure you have a general idea of what you might want for your space. To inspire you, we’ve rounded up 11 vibrant ways to decorate with plants in your home. Take a peek and pick up a few stylish design tips below.

Tablescape of Foliage

No need to stick to pots and vases for your indoor plants. Get creative with a simple dining table centerpiece that’s a mix of greenery and florals. Garland greenery is perfect here.

Decide whether you want to go with real florals, dried varieties, or faux ones. Then, add in candles, votives, and vases and weave your flowers and foliage through these accents for a full and textured look. Make sure your centerpiece runs the length of your table.

The Best Part: It’s great for all seasons, dining table sizes and shapes, and dining spaces big or small. It’s also a gorgeous way to dress up your table for special occasions and holidays.

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Raised Focal Point

Turn house plants into a focal point in your bedroom by hanging greenery above the windows. It’s a clever way to add in greenery without it taking up space on your nightstand or dresser top.

Opt for a drapey plant that gives you a full overflowing look when it’s hung up. It will add instant texture and color, and it will give your room a more dynamic look. Round it out with botanical elements, like floral art and pillows, and a few small succulents on your bedside tables.

The Best Part: Indoor plants can enhance the mood as well as set a calming atmosphere in your bedroom. Certain plants, like lavender, rubber plant, dracaena, and the spider plant can purify the air and result in a fresher, cleaner bedroom.

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No Green Thumb Needed

If you love the idea of indoor plants but aren’t good at caring for them and keeping them alive, consider dried stems. The pampas grass here brings texture and a beachy vibe to a living room corner without taking up tons of floor space.

If you’re allergic to plants or have high-energy pets or kids, dried stems and flowers can be a simple and sculptural option. You can also swap in eucalyptus, which has long leafy branches that can introduce eye-catching shape and color as well.

The Best Part: Try for a mix of faux and live plants. Using faux plants and dried stems is not only low-maintenance, but they also look so real that they can actually go nicely with other live plants around them.

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Curated Cluster

Stumped with how to arrange indoor plants for a curated and purposeful look? Group plants in cool planters together in one corner of a room. This works great with taller indoor plants, but you can also use varying height plant stands to prop up smaller plants.

You can’t go wrong with this approach, which is why it’s probably our favorite way to decorate with indoor plants. Combine different plants, like palm plants and cacti, to play up a lush jungle vibe. And be sure to use complementary plant holders in a range of materials and colors to give your plant cluster an organized look.

The Best Part: Think of the plant holders and plants themselves as room decor, not an afterthought. The more diverse your plants and planters, the more they’ll add to the overall mood of your space!

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Center Stage

For a minimalist approach to decorating with indoor plants, focus on one type of greenery and make it the spotlight in your room. Arrange it in an attractive vase so that it’s the visual focus on a main surface in your space, like your entry console or your coffee or dining table.

Our go-to is always a bouquet of eucalyptus, which gives you a bold dose of color, shape, and organic texture. Or if you’re planning to put your plant in a windowless room that doesn’t offer a lot of natural light, consider a low light snake plant, which offers the same visual impact.

The Best Part: If you’re decorating with one specific greenery or plant, pick something that is full and tall so that it has a lot of presence and isn’t dwarfed by other items in your space, especially if it’s for your dining table.

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Welcome To The Jungle

Any greenery or plant in your entryway is sure to set a welcoming mood. In addition to serving as vibrant decor, plants will also help deodorize the space with their natural fragrance.

Since it’s one spot that doesn’t get a lot of sun, low light indoor plants are best for this high-traffic area. Try seeking out tall and lean plants, like snake grass or a fiddle-leaf tree, that you easily fit into smaller, more narrow entryways as well as tight corners.

The Best Part: Faux trees and plants in the entryway can be a practical choice. You’ll also save yourself the trouble of having to water the plants and clean up fallen leaves regularly. Finish by diffusing earthy essential oils to fake the natural scents.

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Vibrant Vignette

If you have a no-functioning fireplace, rethink the entire space as a display of indoor plants. It’s a creative way to liven up an unused space and make it a focal point in the room.

Mix different types of plants in a range of sizes, arranging taller and bigger greenery around the hearth and decorate your mantel with smaller potted plants. Once you have your plants, layer in other accessories like books, vases, bowls, and art to really bring the space to life.

The Best Part: The plants you choose should be as bold as your fireplace design. Our picks for the best indoor plants here would be a large philodendron or a monstera, both of which have sculptural leaves that are sure to always stand out.

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Perfect Plant Corner

In case you haven’t noticed, we love finding new uses for furnishings for an unexpected look. One of our favorite hacks is to use books and house plants as decor on a bar cart.

Wherever your bar cart is placed, turn it into a corner of its own by adding shelves above for more storage and plants. The key is to spread out your indoor plants from the ground up, starting with large trees on the floor, medium leafy greenery on the shelves, and small succulents on the bar cart. This way you’ll see a pop of green at all levels

The Best Part: You basically have free reign to use whatever planter or vase you like here. Just keep them neutral so that they don’t overpower the plants. Try also using lightweight terrarium gardens and faux flowers so that there is less worry about plants spilling or toppling over.

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Secret Garden Cove

Transform a reading nook or awkward inlet into a garden hideaway with a large potted house plant and some hanging greenery. Just make sure the space gets plenty of natural light so that your indoor plants can thrive.

This is a great way to warm up a small space or an unused corner in the home. Layer in nature-inspired finishing touches, like ocean-print and botanical pillows, a sheepskin rug, and a compact wood stool, which will usher in major comfort and charm.

The Best Part: Keep in mind that plants on the ground can provide texture to your floors while hanging plants are great for high ceilings. Try hanging a few chain lengths and different hanging plants to create a cascading effect.

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Lush Shelf Life

Turn any bookcase into a captivating display and storage space. Mix an array of indoor plants with books, knick-knacks, objects, and mini sculptures to make your storage look like a curated collection of unique finds and plants.

There’s no rule for how to arrange indoor plants on your bookshelf, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure you have a wide variety of leafy greenery, tall cactus, and some small trees and flowers. They’ll provide lively contrast to all your books and objects.

The Best Part: A plant-filled bookshelf is perfect for small living rooms and home offices where storage is key. The greenery will open up your room and bring in tons of visual texture without making the space appear cramped.

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Room With A View

Whether it’s your living room or bedroom, framing a large window with lively house plants and greenery will help play up the view inside and outside.

Bring together hanging and floor plants in front of your window and choose eye-catching vessels for them. A woven basket planter is perfect for a tall leafy tree while brass hanging planters are great accessories for adding a touch of glam. Think of this combo as a high low mix that will help ground and center your focus on your window scene.

The Best Part: Consider indoor plants like aloe vera, jade plant, African milk bush, and snake plant for greenery that can handle a lot of sunlight by a window.

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Embrace the Fake: 5 Reasons We Love Faux Plants

faux plants Fake plants have a bad reputation. To some people, they are only slightly above weeds in the plant kingdom. And frankly, the faux plants of yesteryear deserved this bad rap. They were made of thick plastic and looked about as real as you’d expect (that is to say, not real at all).

Fortunately, those days are long gone and the faux plants of today are realistic, long-lasting, and absolutely beautiful. They look so real that you might even find yourself watering them – whoops!

So if you want to infuse your home with some greenery, but aren’t sure real plants are for you, consider some faux alternatives. Here are five amazing benefits of faux plants!

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faux plants1. They’re Low Maintenance

Not everyone has a green thumb. If you’ve struggled to keep your plants alive, and often find yourself overwatering or letting them dry out, listen up! With faux plants, you get all the beauty without the worry.

No more asking the neighbors to take care of your plants while you’re on vacation – you can have your tree and not water it, too! With a faux option, you’ll never have to stress about it dying on you. How’s that for freedom!

Read This Next: Best Decor Ideas for Renters

2. They’re Durable

While real plants can be delicate, faux plants are as beautiful as they are durable. Real plants also demand a certain amount of sun, the right amount of water, and protection from pests and diseases. When a real plant has been around a few years, it can feel like a miracle.

On the flip side, our faux plants are made out of durable materials. So not only do faux plants last for years; they also maintain their good looks the whole time.

faux plants3. They’re a Cost-Effective Alternative

Live plants are expensive, particularly if you have to continually replace them. We all have that friend who bought a $300 fiddle leaf tree only to watch it die in a few months. These expensive plant horror stories can now be a thing of the past.

You can purchase a faux plant for roughly the same (or sometimes slightly higher) price as their live counterparts. The upside is this is a one-time purchase. Instead of spending over and over on new live plants, you could swipe your credit card once and that’s it!

Shop our favorite faux plants here!

faux plants4.  They Look Good

One of the best benefits of faux plants today is how real they look. Unless you really know your way around the garden, you probably can’t tell the difference with the new, better materials used today.

At Modsy, we partnered with the leading manufacturer of artificial plants, DW Silks, to add some of the most-popular and long-lasting faux plants to our catalog. We’ve dubbed them our So-Real-You-Can’t-Tell-They-Are-Fake-Line. No one will ever call your stripped agave an imposter!

Read This Next: 5 Ways to Decorate With Plants

faux plants5. They’re Versatile

Perhaps the best benefit of faux plants is that you can put them anywhere. When you are a parent to real plants, you have to accommodate your photosynthesizing babies by giving them the right spot to thrive.

By contrast, faux plants thrive no matter where you put them. So if you live in Alaska but always wanted a room full of succulents, you can have your wish.

 

All in all, fake plants are a practical, beautiful, and cost-effective way to spruce up your home. And of course we love real plants too, but if they’re not quite the right fit for you, we’ve got you covered with some of the best faux plant varieties in town. Shop our faux plant studio to get the look in your home!

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