February is houseplant month at B. B. Barns Garden Center, kicking off with a houseplant social on the 3rd. Houseplant Social   The tables are stocked with plants for the beginning, intermediate, and advanced gardeners, and it’s hard not to buy one of each. But is that the best move, especially if you’re a beginner with houseplants? Probably not. So let’s explore choosing houseplants to fit your space and your life wisely.

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1. Know Yourself.

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Choosing houseplants that fit your space & life starts with a realistic expectation of your time and ability to care for them. Don’t buy based solely on the look of the plant. We are inclined to buy what we fall in love with. That works for couches but not for plants. In choosing houseplants, consider your schedule, the light in your home, and your basic knowledge of plants. It’s less about your green thumb and more about the fact that plants have specific needs, as do people. Matching needs to need set both plant and person up for success.

An example is a ficus, a high-maintenance plant loved by everyone that needs bright, natural light and is finicky. If your home is on the dark side, or your schedule doesn’t allow for demanding plants, don’t choose a ficus. For a list of plant choices that are less, see the Easy Houseplant list or download the printable pdf below. Now, let’s look at the light, watering schedules, and a few basics to further determine how to pick out your next plant. Oh, who are we kidding, our next plants?

EASY HOUSEPLANTS LIST  to download for those of us who can’t remember everything.
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Look around your home. Where would plants green up your space best? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a flat surface. Plants can hang, so lookup. Plants can trail, so check out the bookshelves. Any empty spots? Are the window sills deep enough for oversized pots, or would 2″ shallow pots fit perfectly? Is there a blank wall beside the front door? Houseplants green up our environment and give a designer feel without costing designer dollars.

While studying, don’t forget a few things: Hanging plants shed (but should be watered and allowed to drain in your tub, sink, or shower), climbing plants need something to climb on, and trailing plants prefer not to crawl around on the floor. So get out the tape measure and do a simple sketch or use the app Plant Life Balance for sprucing up your space.

And while you’re designing, the most urgent question to ask is, what’s the light situation? If you’re directionally challenged, download a compass to your phone to see which way your windows face. Do a short timeline of the amount of light coming in. Is it primarily afternoon light or morning light? Is it strong, straight sun all day, or more filtered? No need to do a spreadsheet. It’s about becoming observant. If there is one trait all gardeners have, it’s a developed eye for observation—noticing where the light is strongest during the day or where the cooler spots are—so sit in your home and observe the light. For specifics on which plants work well in what light, click on the light requirement picture or button above to download a pdf. This will help you decide what plants will succeed in your home.

Click here for a quiz on what houseplant works for you based on your light requirements.

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Growing houseplants requires basic gardening skills. Number one is watering. Everyone errs as a waterer. We could do personality tests based on whether we are over-waterers or under-waterers. (Full disclosure: I’m an over-waterer.) Again, know yourself and schedule and plan accordingly. No need to put your plants on a weekly schedule, but it may be beneficial to the plant to put yourself on one. Get to know your plants’ watering needs (a moisture meter helps) and remind yourself—Siri, Alexa, Google, Post-it Notes—-to water based on the plant’s needs. Take the plants to the tub, shower, or sink, and drench them, allowing them to drain for 24 hours before putting them back in their cachepots. For more information on proper watering, read here. Click on the picture or button below to print a pdf guideline for watering (scroll down, it’s two pages).

A note on pots and potting: Don’t repot your plants when you get them home. Let them adjust to their new surroundings and repot when they’re root-bound.

Use a cachepot pot for holding your plants. These are decorative pots without drainage holes. Do not plant your houseplants directly into these pots. Leave the plants in their nursery pots and place them in the cachepot pots. Take them out to the water, repot, fertilize or care for pests or disease. This allows you to care for your plants and save your furniture. Larger plants are potted into decorative containers with drainage holes. Place these on a plant caddy with wheels for easier moving around when necessary or when watering. Use a corkboard and/or a plastic plant saucer under your plants to protect furniture and floors.

Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant and Blog Writer.

B. B. Barns serves Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.