We may be compensated if you purchase through links on our website. Our Reviews Team is committed to delivering honest, objective, and independent reviews on home products and services.More

Houseplants 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Plants (2024)

Author Icon By Jessica Wimmer Updated 12/18/2023

Houseplants bring life to a home—quite literally. Indoor plants have been growing in popularity, with around 89% of American households owning at least one houseplant in 2020.

What might have once been considered a decorative item may benefit your home in multiple ways. Plants can greatly impact our well-being with their ability to remove pollutants from the air, according to a NASA study. They’ve also been shown to increase humidity, reduce stress, improve focus, and even boost creativity.

Maybe you love the idea of having houseplants, but they just keep dying on you. We consulted plant experts to find the best indoor plants for beginners and create an easy guide on how to care for them. Perhaps you’ll soon join the seven out of 10 millennials who identify as “plant parents.”


What Are Indoor Plants?

Indoor plants—as the name suggests—are ornamental plants that grow indoors. When it comes to selecting the best indoor plant for your home, there are a few factors to consider. First, you should evaluate lighting conditions in your home and the space you have available. Consider the level of maintenance you are willing to provide, as different plants require different levels of care.


Best Indoor Plants for Beginners

New plant buyers may be overwhelmed by the variety of options available and how to best care for each. Whether you have limited natural light, tend to forget watering schedules, or simply want a fuss-free plant companion, our team has compiled a list of plants with varying requirements to help you find one that suits your home.

Consider your space and read through the following plant suggestions. We’ve included pros, cons, and care requirements for each plant type so you can find the best plant for your home.

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos)

With its bright green leaves and ability to grow well indoors, pothos is the perfect plant for homes with limited natural light.

  • Pros: This plant doesn’t require much light, can be planted in a regular pot or hung, and can brighten a room.
  • Cons: It does not usually flower indoors.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires indirect sunlight.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant only when the soil feels dry.
  • Health benefits: Devil’s ivy can remove indoor pollutants.
  • Care tips: Droopy leaves indicate underwatering, and yellow leaves indicate overwatering.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

In addition to its tropical appearance, the Chinese evergreen can purify rooms of pollutants such as benzene and is considered a luck-bringing plant in Asia.

  • Pros: This plant won’t outgrow its pot quickly and can reduce stress and tension.
  • Cons: It has slow-growing leaves that can be toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires low to bright indirect light.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant regularly enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  • Health benefits: This plant can purify toxins in the air.
  • Care tips: Ensure adequate drainage holes in the pot’s base. Curly or wavy leaves indicate a problem with the soil or light.

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

The Madagascar dragon tree is a popular indoor plant for beginners because of its beautiful leaves, large size, and easy maintenance.

  • Pros: This plant can grow up to eight feet tall and does not need to be fertilized. It has the appearance of a palm tree.
  • Cons: This plant is toxic to cats and dogs if consumed and may attract pests if it’s too dry.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: Keep this plant away from windows but in moderate indirect light. It’s best kept in the corner of a bright room.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant every one to two weeks, and water even less during the winter. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  • Health benefits: This plant removes air toxins, according to NASA’s clean air study.

Care tips: Falling leaves on this plant indicate overwatering. Don’t worry if you notice the bottom leaves starting to yellow—that indicates normal growth.


Best Indoor Plants for Low Light

In various indoor or shaded environments, such as offices with minimal windows, rooms with heavy curtains, or low-sun areas, selecting a plant that thrives in low light is a wise choice.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)

The ZZ plant is popular for its unique appearance, but it’s also highly adaptable. It can survive with very little or even no sunlight, making it a great option for homes that don’t have a lot of natural light.

  • Pros: This is one of the lowest-maintenance plants on the list. The ZZ plant can survive without light and doesn’t need a consistent watering schedule.
  • Cons: It’s a slow-growing plant and, if ingested, may be toxic to both humans and pets.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires minimal light to full shade.
  • Water schedule: Water your ZZ plant every couple of weeks or once the soil is completely dry—whichever comes first.
  • Health benefits: ZZ plants can remove numerous air contaminants.
  • Care tips: Because ZZ plants require little water, they often collect dust. Use a washcloth to clean the dust off the leaves.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena Sanderiana)

The lucky bamboo features slender stalks and vibrant green leaves. It is believed to bring—you guessed it—luck. According to Chinese Feng Shui, the number of bamboo stalks signifies what kind of luck you will have.

  • Pros: This plant is aesthetically pleasing. It will thrive in any room that isn’t too bright and neutralizes free radicals in the air.
  • Cons: The lucky bamboo requires filtered, high-quality water to thrive. It may be toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires medium maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires partial shade.
  • Water schedule: You should water this plant every one to two weeks, and ensure that you drain it well. Keep soil moist but not soggy.
  • Health benefits: In addition to air purification, a study suggests this plant can lower stress and reduce blood pressure.
  • Care tips: You can grow lucky bamboo in water instead of soil as long as you replace the water regularly.

Scarlet Star (Guzmania Lingulata)

One of the most vibrant plants on our list, the scarlet star is a type of bromeliad plant that boasts red flowers and adds a touch of tropical beauty to any space.

  • Pros: This plant produces beautiful foliage shaped like a star. It doesn’t need to be repotted until it produces foliage.
  • Cons: It may take a couple of years for this plant to produce flowers. The scarlet star is relatively high maintenance, as you’ll need to regularly rotate the pot to ensure it gets light on all sides.
  • Maintenance level: This plant is high maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires indirect to low sunlight.
  • Water schedule: You should water this plant weekly and mist its leaves regularly.
  • Health benefits: Bromeliad plants can remove volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from the air.
  • Care tips: The scarlet star is sensitive to chlorine. Use chlorine-free water and do not allow the soil to get too soggy.

Best Indoor Plants for Air Purification

Many of the plants mentioned on this list are beneficial for reducing or eliminating air toxins, but some are even better for those dealing with allergies or other indoor air quality issues, such as stuffiness or odors. If that resonates with you, consider investing in one of the following plants.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

English ivy features evergreen leaves and can be grown outdoors and indoors. It’s usually grown in hanging baskets.

  • Pros: This plant grows rapidly compared to other plants on our list and brightens a room.
  • Cons: English ivy does not grow well by windows and may be prone to spider mites.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires medium maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires part to full shade.
  • Water schedule: You’ll need to water every one to two weeks and provide excellent drainage to keep the soil moist at all times.
  • Health benefits: English ivy removes harmful VOCs from the air, per NASA’s clean air study.
  • Care tips: You’ll need to drain this plant well. Root rot is common if drainage is ignored.

Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Are you looking for a larger plant to fit into your low-light environment? Weeping figs are popular indoor trees that feature drooping branches and glossy foliage.

  • Pros: This plant grows quickly and can grow up to six feet tall.
  • Cons: This plant isn’t good for heavy air conditioner users, as they prefer high humidity. They also need plenty of fertilizer and are toxic to humans and pets if ingested.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires medium maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires indirect sunlight.
  • Water schedule: Water regularly enough to keep the soil moist, but do not allow it to sit in water.
  • Health benefits: This plant helps with air purification.
  • Care tips: Weeping fig plants thrive in consistent, warmer temperatures. Keep it in an environment no colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is known for its gel-filled leaves and jagged edges. This fast-growing succulent is easy to maintain.

  • Pros: Aloe vera helps produce oxygen, and its gel contains vitamins and antioxidants. This plant does not require fertilization.
  • Cons: It’s not an ideal plant for homes that don’t get a lot of sunlight.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant only when the soil is completely dry, typically every two to three weeks.
  • Health benefits: Aloe vera gel can be used to accelerate wound healing and soothe sunburns.
  • Care tips: Aloe plants require little water and especially low levels in the winter. Overwatering is the most common cause of decline for these plants.

Best Indoor Plants for New Pet Owners

You may have noticed that many of the best plants for busy plant parents aren’t a fit for pet parents—many plants are toxic to animals. If you have a curious dog or cat, consider getting one of the following non-toxic plants:

Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae Genera)

Bromeliads are safe plants that add a tropical touch to your home with their multicolored foliage.

  • Pros: This beautiful flowering plant is mostly pest-free and easy to propagate.
  • Cons: Bromeliads are slow-growing plants. They can take one to three years to bloom and only bloom once during their lifetime.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires partial, indirect sunlight.
  • Water schedule: Water it regularly enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  • Health benefits: This plant removes harmful VOCs from the air.
  • Care tips: Your bromeliad should be placed in small, well-draining pots. Wait until the topsoil is completely dry before watering.

Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)

This fern gets its name from its unique rosette-shaped frond arrangement resembling a bird’s nest.

  • Pros: This plant doesn’t have pest problems, per NASA’s Clean Air study.
  • Cons: The bird’s nest fern needs to be kept in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires medium maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires partial shade and doesn’t do well in direct sunlight.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant every week, keeping the soil moist and well-drained.
  • Health benefits: This plant will purify the air. Its leaves can also be used to make an extract that’s said to enhance collagen production and moisturize skin.
  • Care tips: This plant will thrive with ample moisture, warmth, and humidity. Some experts recommend putting it near a bathroom or shower. It should also be potted with ample drainage holes.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

Chlorophytum comosum gets its “spider” name because its leaves shoot out like spider legs. This is a great plant to showcase in a hanging pot.

  • Pros: This is a resilient plant that can recover well after neglect.
  • Cons: It can be sensitive to tap water, resulting in a “burnt” look to the ends of the leaves.
  • Maintenance level: This plant is low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires low light to partial shade.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant once every two weeks, keeping the soil lightly moist.
  • Health benefits: NASA’s clean air study found this plant to be effective in removing indoor pollutants, which is helpful for those with allergies.
  • Care tips: Spider plants grow well in long or hanging containers due to the draping nature of their leaves.

Best Indoor Plants for Small Living Spaces

Even in limited space, you can bring the beauty of nature indoors with small, low-maintenance ornamental plants.

Snake Plant (Dracaena Trifasciata)

The snake plant got its name because of its long, slender leaves. Snake plants can grow up to two feet tall indoors and are extremely durable.

  • Pros: Snake plants are easy to grow, forgiving, and can survive on less water and light.
  • Cons: These plants are susceptible to pests such as scales and gnats.
  • Maintenance Level: This plant is low maintenance.
  • Sunlight Requirements: This plant requires indirect sunlight to part shade.
  • Water Schedule: Only water this plant when the soil feels dry.
  • Health benefits: This plant absorbs harmful air toxins and releases oxygen.
  • Care tips: You should keep this plant in warmer weather (over 50 degrees) if possible. Check it regularly for bad-smelling roots, which indicates the need to repot the plant. Overwatering can cause yellow or brown leaves.

Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides)

The money plant—also known as the Chinese money plant, pancake plant, or even UFO plant—is a popular houseplant known for its distinctive round leaves. Money plants are a symbol of good luck and abundance in some Asian cultures.

  • Pros: This plant is easy to maintain. It’s aesthetically pleasing with uniquely-shaped foliage and the potential to bloom white flowers in the spring.
  • Cons: Its leaves curl or droop quickly if neglected.
  • Maintenance level: This plant is low maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires indirect light.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant every one to two weeks.
  • Health benefits: Aside from air purification, this plant may reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Care tips: Curling leaves may indicate that this plant is not getting enough indirect light, while discolored leaves may indicate a problem such as overwatering.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Peace lilies are resilient houseplants with glossy, dark green leaves and iconic white flowers.

  • Pros: This plant is ideal for beginner plant enthusiasts due to its forgiving nature.
  • Cons: If you want your peace lily to produce flowers, you need to follow a rigid sunlight and water schedule.
  • Maintenance level: This plant requires medium maintenance.
  • Sunlight requirements: This plant requires low light from an east-facing window.
  • Water schedule: Water this plant every one to two weeks.
  • Health benefits: This plant can absorb moisture from the air, which helps reduce mold, according to the NASA study.
  • Care tips: Keep the soil moist. Underwatering can cause brown leaves. Overexposure to sunlight can cause curled leaves.

How To Plant or Repot Your Indoor Plants

In some instances, repotting becomes necessary to ensure optimal health and growth for your leafy companions. According to plant expert Blaine Tiongson, CEO of planter pot company Momma Pots, there is a simple four-step process to follow when repotting your plant:

  1.  Remove the plant from its current planter or pot.
  2. Carefully shake off excess dirt from the root ball, checking for signs of rot.
  3. Add a layer of fresh soil at the bottom of the new, slightly larger pot.
  4. Place the plant in the new pot, ensuring the soil is firmly packed around the root ball.

Why Indoor Plants Die and Warning Signs

To care for houseplants, you must understand their common causes of decline.

“Inadequate watering is a very common one,” says Anna Ohler, CEO of Bright Lane Gardens plant nursery.

Other reasons indoor plants die include inadequate growing space, poor potting soil, inadequate lighting, and neglecting regular maintenance. Here are some warning signs that indicate it’s time to seek healing for your indoor plants:

  • A general decline in overall appearance: If your plant looks sad, dull, or lackluster, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.
  • Foul odor: Foul smells can indicate possible root rot or bacterial infection.
  • Leaf spots or discoloration: This can be caused by fungal or bacterial infections, pests, or inadequate light.
  • Wilting or drooping leaves: Drooping leaves may indicate underwatering, root problems, or excessive heat.
  • Yellowing or browning leaves: These symptoms can indicate overwatering, underwatering, or nutrient deficiencies.

Our Conclusion

In addition to researching proper care for your plant before you make your next purchase, consider seeking advice from a professional, such as a botanist or an employee at a local plant nursery. Beginner-friendly plants tend to be forgiving, making them easy to keep alive or even revive. Anyone can become a successful plant parent with little research and planning.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.