If your New Year's resolutions are lacking, try this easy one: Add houseplants to your home or office. The reason? Besides adding decor cheaply, indoor plants are healthy for us. How?
Research shows that 1. Plants absorb indoor toxins. 2. Plants assist us in breathing. 3. Plants increase humidity (good for dry winter months). 4. Plants increase productivity. 5. Plants help us heal faster. (Flu, anybody?) For more information, read here.
But, you say your house (or office) is a dungeon? Wait. There's hope. Read on for seven houseplants that do all of the above, and exist in low-light settings (and thrive on neglect). So, no excuses, people. Keep at least one New Year's resolution. Cheers!
A quick tip: Drop your new houseplant into a decorative container and take out to water. Water in the kitchen sink or bathtub, allowing to drain thoroughly (24 hours) before putting back into the pot. It avoids water rings on floors and furniture. For large plants, place them on rolling coasters and roll into kitchen or bathroom to water. Do not allow plants to sit in overflow water of a saucer as this causes problems with fungal or bacterial diseases.
- If you have pets, check here for toxic and non-toxic plants: ASPCA Animal Poison Control
- To learn more about plants that absorb household toxins, read here: Plants that Remove Indoor Toxins
- For design fun with houseplants, read here: Designing with Houseplants
7 Houseplants for Low Light
Botanical Name: Anthurium
Care and Feeding: Resembling a peace lily with leaf and blossom shape, Anthuriums bloom in low light or bright, indirect light. It prefers a shadier spot over a sunnier one. Easy to care for, simply water when the top soil is dry to the touch, but don't allow to dry out completely. Cut off spent blooms. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer once every six months.
Height: 15-20" and bushy, the spathe (bloom) is taller.
Pest and Disease: Anthuriums have few pests problems, but can have fungal and bacterial diseases, including root rot, stem rot and fungal or bacterial leaf spots. This is generally due to over-or-under watering.
Botanical Name: Dieffenbachia
Care and Feeding: Dumb Cane comes in many varieties and prefers low light to bright indirect. It likes temperatures above 60 degrees and makes a good floor plant because of its upward growth habit. Water weekly, keeping soil moist but not wet. It prefers humidity so don't place near a heat register. During the growing season use a slow release fertilizer.
Height: Up to 5' tall but typical of houseplants is slow to reach maximum height.
Pests and Disease: Fungal and bacterial issues from over watering or watering overhead. Water the plant at soil level, avoiding getting the leaves wet. Some issues with mealybugs.
Botanical name: Epipremnum aureum
Care and Feeding: This plant has many beautiful varieties that add color or variegation to your home. It grows as a vine reaching 6-7' feet long. It prefers bright, indirect light but does well in low light. Use it in an office or dorm room. Pothos is rated high for absorbing household toxins. Let soil dry in-between watering, and use a slow release fertilizer in spring.
Pests and Diseases: Fungal or bacterial problems when allowed to sit in water or over-watered. Do not use a saucer under this plant.
Rabbit Foot Fern
Botanical Name: Davallia fejeensis
Care and Feeding: The rabbit foot fern has furry rhizomes hanging that drape over the sides of the container adding interest to an otherwise plain looking fern. Like all ferns it does well in low to bright indirect light, making any fern an easy addition to your home. (Try a few of the more unusual ones, Staghorn, maidenhair, bird's nest.) Water ferns regularly, keeping the top layer of soil moist and misting the fronds to help retain moisture. Give ferns a shower monthly to keep clean of pests and the rhizomes of rabbit's foot moist. Hang this plant or put on a high shelf so the "rabbit's foot" can be seen. Over time, the rhizomes will grow down taking on a spider-like appearance. Fertilize monthly during growing season with a liquid fertilizer.
Height: 18" for the fern, up to 2' for the rhizomes
Pests and Disease: Mealy bugs and scale can sometimes be an issue. Do not use chemicals with ferns, it damages the fronds. If pests are a problem, shower and cut off damaged fronds. Diseases are seldom.
Botanical name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Care and Feeding: This favorite houseplant is as easy as it gets, and bonus, due to it's upright habit it tucks into corners or beside tables without taking up a lot of space. It thrives on neglect, is listed as one of the top 10 plants for absorbing household toxins, should only be watered when dry (avoid watering the leaves) and fertilized rarely (once during the growing season with an all-purpose plant food). It tolerates bright light (not direct light) but also thrives in very low light. A great plant for bedrooms as it converts CO2 into O2 while we sleep.
Height: 3'-4' though there are smaller varieties that only reach a foot tall
Pests and Disease: Thrips are the number one pest, causing leaves to twist, and curl inward. Wipe down leaves with a wet cotton ball and remove damaged leaves. Other issues are a result of over or under watering, causing fungal or bacterial problems.
Botanical name: Peperomia argyreia
Care and Feeding: Watermelon peperomia gets its name from the rind-like stripes on its leaves resembling a watermelon. A South America native, this under-story plant does best in shade to indirect bright light. Place it away from a window. Allow the top soil to dry, then water thoroughly. Fertilize with slow release pellets during the growing season. Use this plant for its foliage and beautiful red stems.
Height: 12" tall and bushy
Pests and Diseases: Very few pests, though mealy bugs can sometimes be an issue. Over or under watering or too much light creates fungal or bacterial problems.
Botanical Name: Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Care and feeding: The easiest plant of all, it can survive with almost total neglect. Water only when completely dry and fertilize once with 1/2% diluted solution in growing months (although if you forget to fertilize, it will still grow). This plant does best in bright, indirect light, but also lives in the darkest of conditions. Perfect for a bathroom, bedroom, or windowless office, it does not want direct sunlight or too much attention.
Height: Up to 5'
Pests and Diseases: Over-watering causes yellowing of leaves.
Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach and blog writer.
BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.