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Best Tips for Choosing a Houseplant

For yourself or as a gift, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a houseplant. If nothing else, the sheer number of options for houseplants can be overwhelming. Before you can choose the best houseplant, you have to know what you’re looking for. Here are our best tips to narrow your search and make a decision with confidence.

1. Know Your Plant.

The first rule of choosing a houseplant is to know your plant. You should recognize that different plants may need very different things for sunlight, water, soil, humidity, and environment. When first starting out, you might assume that all plants need some light and some water in a pot of soil. In fact, there is tremendous variety. Some plants thrive on almost total neglect. Other plants may dry out to the point of death within a week. An air plant doesn’t need soil at all. Some plants can’t survive too much direct sunlight. If you have your heart set on a particular houseplant, there are creative solutions. But at the very least, know your houseplant.

2. Know Your Spot.

Some plants will thrive in one spot of your house, while struggling to make it all in another part of your home. The most obvious of these factors is the amount of sunlight the houseplant gets. West and south-facing windows get the most direct sunlight and are prized spots for houseplants—but can damage plants that prefer indirect light. East-facing windows provide morning light and a flexible spot for many different types of plants. North-facing windows are best for plants that like indirect light. That said, not every spot has to be next to a window. Peace lilies can adapt to very low light levels and is great for interior spaces. Some people use the dark corners of their basement to winter-over their outdoor houseplants with indoor grow lights.

3. Know Your Climate.

Even inside, climate matters to houseplants—especially if your home isn’t equipped with whole house humidifiers/dehumidifiers. More so than temperature, it’s the humidity level that needs to be taken into account when choosing a houseplant. Ferns require more frequent watering and/or high humidity environments, but even in desert climates, this plant can be easy to care for when placed in a terrarium. In contrast, some houseplants struggle with mold and fungus in high humidity climates. Proper anti-fungal preventative treatments can keep this problem under control. Don’t underestimate the potential impact of regional climate on indoor houseplants. Look to local sources for the best information, like this guide for houseplant care in southern Arizona.

4. Know Your Habits.

Some of it is scheduling; some of it is personality. Just like taking on a pet, it’s easy to let short-term excitement inflate your assessment of the care and maintenance needs for a houseplant. Even weekly or biweekly watering is easy to overlook amongst the hustle-and-bustle of the average week. At the same time, if you’re looking for an active hobby, weekly maintenance is going to make you feel impatient.

There’s another way in which it’s about knowing yourself. Many people take the death of a houseplant very personally. Others take an approach built more on trial-and-error. Be sure to do the research ahead of time if houseplants are mostly about caring for another living thing. If it’s more about having a fun way to decorate your home, then get more creative and whimsical about choosing houseplants.

5. Know Your Household.

Our final tip is to recognize and be prepared to accommodate other members of the household. This means you may need to look for houseplants that are resilient to pets without being toxic. It means you may need to avoid plants that are potential allergens to family members. It also means you might choose houseplants based on someone else’s fragrance or decorating preferences. How much you spend on houseplants must be considered in the context of the larger household budget.

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