Indoor plants are trendy. They are the must-have house ornament of 2019, with hashtags, groups and communities around plant parenthood setting social media ablaze. But, unlike industrial lights, leaf-motif wallpaper and anything copper, plants are a decorative item that you can’t buy, set and forget. They are living organisms that demand your care and attention – much like a pet.
Among plants are those that are like a dog or cat – in that they need daily care and attention – and then there are others that are more like a goldfish. If their living conditions are right, then they’ll thrive, so long as you give them some occasional attention.
If you are just getting into plants, it pays to start with a less-demanding potted investment. Once it appears to be surviving, then you can branch out into the puppies of the plant world.
Good beginner plants include the peace lily (Spathiphyllum), ZZ plant or Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculas zamiifolia), mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant (Sansevieria) and philodendron. These are good for beginners as they are reasonably inexpensive to buy, tolerate low light conditions and wont turn up their toes immediately if they are either under- or over-watered.
Indeed, if you want to start with just one plant, a peace lily is a good option. It wilts when it gets too dry, giving newbie indoor plant gardeners a clear sign to up the watering. It will also reward you with flowers if you get its light levels and care regime right.
If the peace lily and its cohort can survive in your place without dying back, dropping leaves or even dropping dead, then move on to the next challenge with monstera, golden pothos, syngonium, dracaena and aspidistra or cast iron plant. These plants, too, are reasonably tolerant of mistreatment and neglect, but are often a little more expensive than the first group. They also take up plenty of space.
If these plants also manage to make if through a few months of life at your place, you can feel fairly confident that your indoor thumbs are green enough to invest is some more expensive and very desirable indoor plants such as palms (rhapis and golden cane palms are good ones to start with), fiddle leaf fig and orchids.
General care tips
Indoor plants need to be positioned in a brightly-lit spot, but out of direct sun, which may burn their leaves. Grow them in a pot with drainage holes in its base and don’t allow your plants to stand in water.
Water your plant babies when the potting mix starts to dry out. A good way to assess this is to feel the soil with a finger. It should feel slightly moist, but not wet. If it is so dry that the potting mix is shrinking away from the side of the pot, you’re not ready for the next step. To rescue the plant, soak the pot in a container of water until it stops releasing air bubbles. Set it on the draining board next to the sink and allow excess water to drain away. Keep the leaves dusted and check them from time to time for pests.