Great Houseplants

Having a plant in the house is important. I have this belief that if your house has some sort of living foliage inside; your house is then a home. Aside from this, common houseplants actually purify the air. They can filter out things like formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene from the air. NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America did a two-year study on this and found they improve the air quality of your home.

And, you probably don't know this but formaldehyde is found in virtually all indoor environments. Yucky, huh?

Here is my list of go-to houseplants. These are all easy to care for, appropriate for apartment dwellers (or just back bedrooms) and affordable.


CROTON This is probably one of the most rewarding houseplants I've ever had. They change color, are easy to care for and have a nice aesthetic appeal. The Croton is actually capable of flowering but mine never has. Picture 5

SPIDER PLANT These are pretty common in offices because they do pretty well in fluorescent light, are easy to care for and you can pretty much just forget about them. I think a decorative container is pretty important with these guys because there's not much variation within the plant itself. At least, not like the Croton, for example.

GERBERA DAISY For you flower fans, the Gerbera is an outstanding choice. The Gerbera was also ranked as one of the 10 plants most effective in cleaning the air. They're happy, come in lots of colors. Plus, they make a great gift.

GOLDEN POTHOS Doesn't the name sound nice? This is one of 10 plants most effective in cleaning the air (OK, all of the plants in my list except the Croton and Tillandsia were in the top 10).

PHILODENDRON A wonderful, beautiful plant. You can train this to grow any way you want. It's a great office plant and also wonderful in the home. I had one when I still worked in a corporate setting and the longest tendril was more than five feet long. They are also really easy to break into multiple plants (say, if you want to give your friend one to start).

ENGLISH IVY This is a classic houseplant. Many love it because of what you can do when you pop it into topiary form. I think the most common form is in a ball topiary. I usually spot these for sale at grocery stores around the holidays.

And my favorite houseplant of all time?

TILLANDSIA (AIR PLANT) This is the ultimate in easy to care for. It requires no soil. In fact, you can hang them from fishing wire from all sorts of places; ceilings, shower rods, curtains. They are cheap, they are awesome. There are dozens and dozens of varieties. Some are green, some are purple, some flower.....they are incredible.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn - What to do and when?

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and so I bring most of my houseplants out on the front porch in mid-spring; certainly after the last frost. I put them out on the front porch because it gets less sun than the back porch which gets full, afternoon sun.

I'll leave them outside until we get to the hottest part of summer and then I'll bring them inside to keep them from baking. I keep them in the warmest room of the house though, because I feel like the switch to cold air can harm some of the plants. (The Croton has been known to suddently drop leaves after a blast of cold air.) When September rolls around, I'll put most of them outside again. Then, inside again in mid-October.

For me, I like to keep the air conditioning off as much as possible and the windows open. Having houseplants inside make the most difference for me in winter. And, I think good houseplant ownership is giving them a touch of the outdoors to invigorate them for the upcoming warmer months. Plants build a lot of strength (and sometimes, size) after a month or so outside in the sunlight and rain. It will make winter a lot easier for them.

Depending on where you are in the world, your habits will vary. Basically, do what you think is best for your plants.

Dead Houseplants

Are you afraid to kill a houseplant?

Don't be. Don't let that be the reason you don't get one. It's silly and you know what? If you start out with the right ones, you'll greatly reduce your chance of killing them.

Start out with a philodendron. They are easy to care for and there's a ton of info online. You can forget about them, under water, over water....beat them up and they'll be OK.

Then, I'd get a Croton or Golden Pothos. Go for whatever calls you. I think this list is full of pretty safe bets.