December 11, 2014

If you’re not a fan of houseplants because you think they’re fussy or you don’t have time to stand over them with a mister and a bottle of fertilizer, it’s time to rethink your stance on growing greenery indoors. Plants help filter toxins from the air. They improve indoor air quality, and even boost the emotional health of the people living with them. Here are a three of my favorite houseplants to get you started. All are fairly low-maintenance and readily available at your local garden center.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

3 Easy-to-Grow Houseplants to Boost Indoor Health - Photo by Rachael Brugger (HobbyFarms.com)

Snake plant, also called mother-in-law’s tongue, is about as low-maintenance as you can get in a houseplant. The broad, strapping leaves stand bolt upright and come in solid green, green with a creamy yellow edge, or striped with shades of green, depending on the variety. Mine is a good 3 feet tall, and I have it in our front picture window during the winter and in a shady spot on the back patio during the summer. NASA trials found that this plant is particularly adept at filtering formaldehyde out of the air.

Snake plant is tolerant of both very low light levels and my sporadic watering habits. In fact, I’ve found that infrequent waterings are actually better for it. I water mine only every six to eight weeks (or whenever I think of it). More frequent watering can actually lead to rot. Although it does flower occasionally, the stalks of creamy white flowers are fairly nondescript. This plant is toxic to cats and dogs, so take care to keep it out of their reach.

Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

3 Easy-to-Grow Houseplants to Boost Indoor Health - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com)

This sweet little plant, also known as angel’s tears, was once a very popular house plant. Its leaves are extremely tiny and a beautiful, crisp green color.With a height of a mere inch, it’s a terrific plant for terrariums and shallow containers. I move my pot of baby tears outdoors every spring and then move it back inside before frost every autumn.

To reduce lopsided growth, I turn the pot a quarter turn every few days to even out the amount of light each side receives. I try to do this with all of my houseplants. Baby tears like well-watered soil, but don’t keep it too wet or fungus gnats can become problematic. In the U.K. and parts of the U.S. baby tears have another common name: mind your own business. This plant is not toxic to dogs or cats.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

3 Easy-to-Grow Houseplants to Boost Indoor Health - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com)

Many say this is the easiest of all houseplants to grow, and with the possible exception of the snake plant, I totally agree. Pothos is a vining plant with tendrils that can reach up to 100 feet long! It looks great in a hanging basket or on a plant stand. I have a beautifully variegated variety growing on a kitchen shelf, but the heart-shaped leaves can be solid green, cream or white variegated, or with various markings, depending on the cultivar. Pothos is a no-fuss plant that requires very little care and survives quite well even with minimal light. It’s toxic to cats and dogs, so take care to keep it out of their reach.

There’s no need to fertilize houseplants through the winter months. This should not be a period of active growth for them, as light levels cannot provide enough energy to sustain it. Simply cease fertilization when the autumn arrives and begin again in March when active growth begins again. Use an organic liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

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