Research shows that plants can improve our focus and creativity, boost our mood, and reduce stress and tiredness. Even city dwellers without a garden can benefit from some indoor greenery and caring for plants in your living space can work wonders for your health and wellbeing.
Indoor plants are one of the simplest and most affordable ways to spruce up your living space – and their ability to clean air by removing pollutants from it, also make them great natural air fresheners.
The top reason that people avoid bringing plants into their home is because they’re worried they won’t know how to, or be able to, care for them. But the good news is that there are a good range of indoor plants that are easy to care for and really quite hardy.
Here are 10 low maintenance indoor plants that make great companions all year round.
1. Snake plant, also known as “Mother-In-Law’s Tongue”
Snake plants are spikey in nature, have beautifully patterned leaves, and can be purchased in a range of different sizes, making them an interesting addition to your plant collection. They’re native to tropical West Africa and require such minimal care that you can pretty much forget about them with little consequence – the biggest challenge is actually avoiding over-watering them, so just make sure that you let the soil dry out in between watering if you want to avoid root rot. And while they can survive in a variety of light conditions, they tend to prefer indirect sunlight.
When it comes to air purification, snake plants are also on NASAs list of top-rated indoor plants, because of their ability to remove toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from the air.
For more tips and advice on caring for snake plants, have a read of this quick guide to caring for snake plants from Joy Us Garden.
2. Ponytail Palm Tree, also known as “Elephant’s Foot”
With it’s bulb-like trunk and lush curly leaves, it’s not difficult to see why ponytail palm trees have become a popular choice of houseplant – and looking after them is pretty simple. These plants only need watering occasionally (approx every three to four weeks), as they prefer to live in drier soil. They originate from sunny Mexico, so they’re also adapted to be able to live in drought conditions, by storing water in their bulbous trunk. This is a perfect solution for anyone who’s ever felt extreme guilt over forgetting to water their leafy companion! These plants will do just fine in a spot with partial shade, but you are far more likely to see new growth if you can provide it with a decent amount of sunshine.
Want to find out more about how to look after ponytail palm trees? Take a look at this guide from the Our House Plants website.
3. Peace Lily
The peace lily is a vibrant, graceful plant that will add life to any indoor space. It’s stunning flowers feature a white, hood-like sheath – known as a spathe – which resembles a flag of surrender. The peace lily has long been used as a symbol of peace and hope, and is also sometimes gifted to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. These plants are great at telling you how they feel, because they’ll droop slightly when they’re in need of water, and will revive quickly after a long drink. They also thrive in low light conditions. Most serve as floor plants because they can grow to nearly a metre tall, and have big bold leaves which mean they also grow wide.
Peace Lilies are also on NASA’s top 10 list of houseplants that can effectively purify the air in your home. Just be sure to wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth every now and then to prevent the leaves’ oxygen-releasing pores from becoming blocked. This useful guide from ProFlowers will tell you more about how to care for your peace lily.
Note: Peace lilies are highly poisonous to humans and animals if ingested, so it’s important to keep them away from children or house pets – or avoid them altogether if this simply isn’t possible.
4. ZZ plant
ZZ plants originated from Africa and have been around for centuries. They have dark glossy leaves and look quite luxurious, but surprisingly need very little TLC. They can do well in low light conditions and go long periods of time without water without kicking up a fuss, because their roots are particularly efficient at storing water.
If you lead a busy life or are forgetful when it comes to watering your plants, then you’ll be glad to know that these plants only need a drink every couple of weeks – potentially less in the winter. For best results try adding a balanced fertilizer to the water once a month. In the right conditions, a ZZ plant can grow up to a metre tall, so it’s best to make sure that you have the space to accommodate any growth spurts.
You can find out more about ZZ plants on the RHS website, here.
Note: Unfortunately, all parts of the ZZ plant are poisonous to humans and animals if ingested, so be sure to keep them away from pets and children – or simply avoid altogether if this isn’t possible.
5. Aloe vera plant
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that has vibrant, green fleshy leaves with serrated edges – and either a short stem or no stem at all. While aloe vera is an attractive and easy to care for plant, it’s also incredibly useful. The gel of an aloe vera plant can be used to help heal mild scrapes and sunburns on the skin, and like some of the other plants in this list, NASA has also named aloe vera as one of the top plants you can buy if you’re looking to purify the air in your home.
Aloe vera are best placed in a brightly lit window but keep them out of direct sunlight if you want to avoid them turning yellow! Despite them being a multi-functional plant, they will be perfectly happy with minimal watering or interference. Only water when the soil is completely dry.
To find out more about how to care for this particular plant companion, you can read this helpful guide from Patch.
6. Dracaena Plant, also known as “Dragon Tree”
If you’re looking for a houseplant with some height, then consider buying a dracaena. It’s native to Madagascar and Mauritius, and the origins of its name come from the ancient Greek word “drakaina” or “female dragon”. This is because the stems produce a red gum-like resin, which has been likened to dragon’s blood. Several centuries ago, it was used for dyes, toothpastes, and medicines – but today, its used for photo engraving and varnish. Dracaenas are also well known for their air-purifying role.
These plants are happiest in bright conditions, but their leaves can become burnt in direct sunlight. You should also wait until the top half of the soil is dry before watering, and make sure that their pot is large enough for them to develop an extensive root system. For more information about how to care for your dracaena plant, take a look at this helpful guide from The Spruce.
Note: This plant is toxic to animals, so should be kept away from any house pets, or avoided altogether if this isn’t possible.
Cacti are hardy plants that can survive for hundreds of years in the right conditions, and there are over 2,000 different species that live all around the world. Some are easier to care for than others, so if you’re a beginner, then it’s worth looking at moon cactus, bunny ears cactus, and pincushion cactus as potential options. They each look quite different, but all have flowering potential and care is quite straightforward. As long as they are watered every three to four weeks, have a pot with good drainage to allow soil to dry out fully in between waterings, and they are positioned in bright light – they should live long, happy lives.
8. Pothos plant, also known as “Devil’s Ivy”
If you’ve never looked after a houseplant before, then caring for a pothos plant is a good way to get started. They’re virtually indestructible and require very little maintenance. They can thrive in a variety of settings from bright to low light – just avoid placing them in direct sunlight.
Pothos plants can live in most types of soil, and can even live in water. Whilst these aren’t the fanciest plants in the world, as they don’t flower and come in only a couple of varieties – their trailing stems and big green leaves can still add a touch of green elegance to any home.
If you’d be interested in adopting a pothos plant, then you can find out more in this detailed guide from Gardening Know How.
Note: Be aware that these plants are highly poisonous, so should never be ingested by humans or animals.
9. Air plants
These fuzzy, spidery-looking plants get the nickname ‘air plants’ because they get most of their nutrients from the air around them – not from soil. These low-maintenance companions form very short, thin, shallow roots and come from the same family as pineapples – the genus Tillandsia. They don’t live in soil and their roots are used purely to grab onto another host plant in the wild, which they use as a good anchor (don’t worry, they don’t harm it). However, when buying indoor host plants, the roots will have often been removed because they won’t need to anchor for survival in the same way that they would if they were living wild.
It’s up to you how you choose to display your air plant. Some people place them in pebbled pots or terrariums, while others just leave them sitting free on a windowsill. Although air plants do get the majority of their nutrients from the air, they still need watering. The best way to do this is to use a spray bottle to mist them a couple of times a week. They also do well in bright, but indirect sunlight.
To find out more about how to care for these little wonders, check out this guide from Country Living.
10. Rhipsalis Plant, also known as “Mistletoe cactus”
Rhipsalis are bizarre-looking plants that look like they belong underwater, or have come from another planet. They are fast growers and have messy tendrils which are a darker green at the top and a paler green near the bottom. Most people don’t realise it, but rhipsalis is actually from the cactus family – they just look very different from most other species of cactus.
Because of it’s long limbs, rhipsalis will often be placed in a hanging pot at home. They are another one of NASA’s best rated plants for air purification, and need virtually no maintenance. They don’t shed, can cope with all light conditions (but do prefer a brighter spot), and only need watering roughly once a week. If the tendrils become too long, you can cut them back into shape without doing any harm to the plant as a whole.
If you’d like to know more about how to look after these unusual plants, then check out this article from Gardening Know How.
To buy houseplants, you can visit your nearest garden centre. Or, you could try the garden sections at DIY stores like B&Q and Homebase. This way, you get a proper look at your plants before you decide to buy and work out whether they’d be the right size and look for your home. Staff can also offer you advice about which plants might be most suitable for your individual living conditions and experience level.
Being a plant parent can be a lot of fun. I personally grew a lot more attached to my plants during the recent lockdowns and found that it gave me a lot of fulfillment checking in on them and caring for them – even if it was only once a week. I was terrible at looking after plants to start with and did a lot of overwatering, but once I got the hang of it, it became very satisfying! Adding greenery to my living space has also boosted my mood and helped me to feel much more positive.
These are just some examples of plants that you could adopt if you’re new to looking after indoor plants, because they’re fairly low maintenance. But once you feel more confident, you could consider growing some of your own, or try looking after plants that need some more complex care – such as peacocks, zebra plants, and venus fly traps.
What’s your experience with indoor plants? Have you got any additional easy-to-care-for plants that you would recommend to others? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.