Whether you’ve always loved houseplants or just jumped on the trend in the last few years with all the extra time at home, plants make every space feel more warm and welcoming. And not every plant has to be exotic to be well-loved. Many common houseplants are popular (and have been for decades!) because they’re easy to grow, inexpensive, and don’t require too much—if any—coddling. As new types of houseplants are introduced, it’s always fun to add to your collection. But old favorites have withstood the test of time because they’re sturdy and reliable. One of the best thing about these common houseplants is that they’re sold just about anywhere from big box retailers to grocery stores.
The most important thing to remember with all houseplants is that you need to give them the right amount of light. If a plant requires bright light, you can’t shove it in the darkest corner of your room and hope for the best. East, south, and west-facing windows provide the most light; north-facing windows usually are too dark. In a home that’s all corners and few windows, invest in an inexpensive LED grow light to help your plants along.
Secondly, make sure to water according to what the plant needs, not some arbitrary once-a-week schedule. For example, in the winter when most homes are extremely dry, you may need to water your plants more frequently. So, every week or so, poke your finger in the soil to feel the moisture level before giving them a drink.
Here are the most common houseplants you can grow.
Long the reigning king of the houseplants, this attractive vining plant comes in many different varieties. Pothos needs medium light and likes to dry out between waterings.
It’s no wonder these houseplants have been popular forever: Snake plants are (almost) impossible to kill and will forgive you if you forget to water. They have a striking architectural form that ranges from a few inches to a few feet tall. Give it medium to bright light, though they will tolerate low light. They only need watered when mostly dry, so check about every 10 days.
Also known as Swiss cheese plant (for all the holes in its leaves!), this is a dramatic-looking favorite that loves moderate to bright light. Many different types of Monstera plants go by the same common name, but the one you’ll see most frequently is Monstera deliciosa. Water when the top inch or two feels dry to the touch.
ZZ plant, which is short for Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is one of the easiest plants to grow, which accounts for its popularity. It’s tough as nails and will tolerate low light or forgetful plant parents. It can go about 2 weeks or more between waterings.
Peace lilies have glossy leaves and pretty spoon-shaped white flowers. They tolerate low light but bloom better in medium to bright light. Keep the soil evenly moist.
Aloe vera grows in the landscape in warm climates, but in the colder parts of the country, it’s a popular houseplant. Its thick stems contain a gel-like substance that actually has been studied for burns; break off a leaf and smear it on minor burns to aid healing. Give it bright light, and water only when dry.
This orchid may look exotic, but it’s actually a reliable bloomer with the proper conditions. Give it bright, indirect light (but not direct sunlight). Water when totally dry. An orchid fertilizer may help it bloom again next year.
This succulent, which remains a small houseplant, has exploded in popularity the past few years for its shiny, thick leaves and easy-care attitude. There are many different types, including some with variegated leaves, but they all prefer bright light. Let the plant dry out slightly between waterings.
Norfolk Island Pine
Norfolk pine are attractive little trees that have soft needles and an elegant form with the branches arching slightly downward. They like bright light and constant light moisture, though not sopping wet.
Popular since the 80s, this plant may have a braided stem or bonsai form. It’s an easy-care plant, which accounts for its popularity. Give money tree moderate to bright light (in low light levels, it tends to stretch and get rather unattractive), and water when soil feels dry to the touch.
Succulents of all sorts have been extremely popular in recent years, but these two are must-haves because of their delightful forms: String of pearls looks like a beaded necklace, while string of bananas looks like teeny-tiny bananas. Both need bright light, and let them become mostly dry between waterings.
Native to Brazil, this succulent can live for decades and is available in a number of pretty colors including red, pink, lavender, peach and white. Give Christmas cactus bright indirect light. They do not tolerate overwatering, so water only when the surface feels dry. In September, make sure they have 12 or more hours of uninterrupted darkness to bloom again; place them in an unused room so its day/night cycle that’s necessary for blooming isn’t interrupted.
With both upright and climbing types, you can’t go wrong with philodendrons! With more than 400 different species and dozens of different varieties, you’ll find one that will thrive in your home. They like bright, indirect light. Let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering again.
Mint Images/ Helen Norman
These old-fashioned favorites like bright light, but not direct sunlight. Water African violets when the surface feels dry to the touch. You can water from the top, but don’t get leaves wet to prevent rot. Or water from the bottom by placing water in the saucer, letting it stand for 30 minutes, then dumping out the excess.