Ready to conquer the world of houseplants? You might bite off more than you can chew if you don’t know the difficulty level of the plants in your home. Yes, it’s true: Houseplants are typically placed in an easy, medium, or hard category, depending on how much attention they need. To give you an idea of the type of greenery that you might realistically envision in your living room, we’ve compiled a list of the three easiest houseplants to care for — and the three most difficult.
The Jade Plant: Easy
As a succulent, the jade plant holds onto water in its juicy leaves. That means that it can go for weeks or even months without receiving water or attention, so long as it is placed by a window with plenty of sunlight. This tree-like green is quite resilient and lives a long time, so it may very well become a companion through all of your important life events. At full height, the succulent stands between 3 and 6 feet tall, though it will take quite some time for it to grow. Plus, there’s no need to keep a humidifier in your home if you have a jade plant because it enjoys the warm, dry air.
The jade plant does have one caveat: Be careful not to overwater it. Doing so can cause root rot. Just remember to let the soil dry out to about one inch down before you reach for the watering can. As a bonus tip, jade plants absorb more water during the spring and summer months than in the winter. (Buy on Amazon, $14.)
The Spider Plant: Easy
The spider plant is considered another beginner-level plant because of its resilience. Indeed, this grass-like green is adaptable to most indoor conditions. Wondering how it got its name? As this plant grows, it will form “spiderettes,” or smaller clusters of grass, that dangle from the main plant. As such, you may want to position the spider plant on a shelf to get the full effect of the dangling green bunches.
While a spider plant can withstand a lot of harsh conditions and neglect, there are a few tips to consider that will help it thrive. For instance, it likes plenty of water as long as the soil doesn’t become soggy. The soil should also be well-drained. This means the water in your pot should have an escape root so it doesn’t sit at the bottom and drench the lower roots.
The spider plant enjoys indirect sunlight and slightly cool temperatures, at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Need another reason to purchase this aesthetically-pleasing green? Spider plants are non-toxic to humans, dogs, and cats. (Buy on Amazon, $14.99.)
The Peace Lily: Easy
If you’d like to have a splash of color in your plant collection without the difficulties that flowers often pose, consider a peace lily. These classy-looking plants, which feature a tall, white “leaf bract,” are sometimes called “closet plants” because they are so easy to care for. Plus, they make excellent air filters, and even neutralize toxic gases like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
Though peace lilies do like an ample amount of water, it’s important not to overwater them. If the soil is soggy and not moist, you might drown the plant and cause it to die. You can avoid overwatering by topping off the soil as needed if it feels dry. If it’s been a week but the soil still feels damp, wait to water it. In addition, peace lilies enjoy bright, indirect sunlight, which helps its tiny flowers bloom.
Note that the peace lily is mildly poisonous and can cause stomach and respiratory irritation if too much of it gets consumed. If you do purchase this plant, keep it out of the reach of children, cats, and dogs. (Buy on Amazon, $9.99)
The Boston Fern: Hard
If you’ve already had your fair share of jade plants, spider plants, and peace lilies, you may want to move on to something more difficult. The Boston fern features sweeping, sword-shaped fronds that spill over the sides of the pot. The species is native to many tropical areas around the world, which means that it doesn’t take well to the cool, dry air inside a home. While this fern doesn’t require direct sunlight, it does need proper care to ensure its growth and well-being.
For example, Boston ferns do much better in a humid environment. As a result, you may consider purchasing a humidifier or placing your fern inside the bathroom, where it can enjoy the steam from showers and baths. You’ll know if the air around the plant is too dry if its leaves turn yellow. If you live in an environment that gets humid in the summer, your fern may greatly enjoy a spot on your deck in the fresh outdoors.
To prevent your Boston fern from dying, it is extremely important to keep the soil damp. Test the dryness of the soil on a daily basis, and water it as needed until it feels damp, but not soggy. Unfortunately, these plants are susceptible to certain pests, including spider mites and mealybugs. To get rid of either pest, try spraying the leaves with a horticultural oil spray, which is low in toxicity. You may also be able to avoid pests completely by inspecting your Boston fern before buying. If the leaves contain tiny holes or other signs of pests, avoid the fern. (Buy at Walmart, $10.20.)
House plant aficionados often think of the tradescantia as a difficult plant that is worth the effort. In the “zebrina” variety, the beautiful leaves have brushed green and purple colors. And with a sweeping growth pattern, the tradescantia commands attention and becomes quite the conversation starter. On the other hand, all varieties of this plant can be fickle and require daily attention.
Tradescantias need lots of water. You typically need to re-water the plant if the pot feels light when you pick it up, or if the top inch of soil is dry. However, root rot is a common problem with these plants, and is caused by excessive watering. To avoid root rot and other issues, don’t water directly into the crown of the plant.
In addition, this plant requires bright, indirect sunlight, though the vibrant colors will fade if it doesn’t receive enough light. The tradescantia prefers a slightly humid environment, so the bathroom or the kitchen might be an ideal place for it. If you cannot place it in the bathroom, try misting the leaves in between watering sessions.
If you want to encourage growth, you may try pinching off a few vines at the joint near the end of the stem, which will promote branching. Note that this plant is mildly toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. (Buy on Walmart, $14.99.)
The Fiddle Leaf Fig: Hard
This broad-leafed beauty has a notorious reputation for making the greenest of thumbs turn black. The fiddle leaf fig hails from the rainforests in western and central Africa, making it difficult to replicate the perfect climate in your house. In addition, it is more susceptible to pests and diseases than other houseplants.
So, if you still wanted bring this delicate tree home, how would you take care of it? First, find a place that is far away from air vents and drafts, which can stress the plant. The location should have plenty of bright sunlight, so you may want to position the plant in front of a south or west-facing window. If there isn’t a spot in your home with sufficient light for a large fiddle leaf, try a smaller version of the plant instead. Also, make sure that your fiddle leaf fig is far away from other plants to minimize the chance that pests and other diseases find their way onto its leaves. As for water supply, try watering the tree until the soil is damp. Re-water it when the soil dries out to about an inch down. If you find that the leaves are limp or even turning yellow, you’ve waited too long to re-water.
Fiddle leaf figs can cost over $100 depending on the store. At the low end, however, the smaller version of these wide-leafed plants is under $10. (Buy on Walmart, $12.99.)
If you’ve graduated to a fiddle leaf fig, you’re on your way to becoming a bonafide house gardener. Now is the time to finally show off your green thumb to friends and family, even if you can still only display your greenery via Facetime.
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