You Don’t Need a Green Thumb to Take Care of These Hardy Indoor Plants

January 15, 2018

Plants in all their lush, green glory have an unrivaled power to add vibrancy and comfort to any space. Many of us, though, have a bad track record with caring for them. The Sill is here to calm your fears and help you be your best plant parent.

If you’ve longed for the effortless serenity of the living rooms and kitchen corners bursting to life with greenery that fill your Instagram and Pinterest feeds, but those decor dreams seem impossible because of the long line of plants that have died in your care, worry no more. Anyone can have indoor plants, and that’s from an expert.

Christopher Satch is the head of education at in-demand New York and online plant boutique, The Sill. He supplied us with some key tips and recommendations for anyone to have plants in their home, no matter where they live. The major takeaway? Relax. Don’t overthink it. The majority of plants are totally doable with some indirect light and freedom from over-watering. It turns out that filling your home with leafy ferns or quirky succulents is a lot easier than many of us have worked it up to be—take it from Christopher.

COURTNEY ISEMAN: What are the best indoor plants, especially ones that will thrive whether you live in a cooler or warmer climate?

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CHRISTOPHER SATCH: Most indoor plants are tropical plants or cacti because these plants are evergreen. Really any evergreen plant will do. Outdoor temperature isn't really a concern with indoor plants. The only time you have to worry is when the window gets a little toasty in summer, cold in the winter, or is drafty. Plants don't like drafts.

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Top Comment:
“Thanks for your suggestions, Phil! I love a good spider plant. And it's so true, I'm guilty of overwatering ("over-loving") my plants.”
— Hana A.

CI: That’s encouraging! That being said, what is your advice for caring for certain plants, and how can someone decide which indoor plant is right for them?

CS: Really any plant is as easy or as hard as you want to make it. Selecting a plant that can survive your conditions is important — otherwise it's more effort in keeping it alive. It also depends on what kind of person you are. Do you tend to leave your plants alone for a while? If so, plants that can be left for a while, like cacti or snake plants might be good choices. If you're like me and dote on your plants, higher attention plants may be necessary, like air plants or ferns. Giving a cactus too much water or fussing with it too much is a good way to kill it.

Also, when thinking about plants, recreating their native habitat is the best way to make them thrive. Succulents and cacti like a lot of light, so a sunny window is best for them. If you want to put a plant in a dark corner, you'll have to invest in an artificial plant light. If you don't have a great history with plants, change up your plant routine or choices. Try out what I've mentioned above and research plants that are good for your apartment's conditions. Do you get a lot of light? Is the temperature stable? There are different plants for different situations. I have a fern a few feet away from a western window, and I have an orchid in my window. I have an Anthurium a little farther away. Light being food makes light the most important factor. Also, always repot your plant when you buy it. They are not meant to live in the plastic pots in which they're sold, and are often sold overgrown.

CI: If someone has a pet, that might weigh in on their decision. What are indoor plants that are safe for pet owners?

CS: There are indeed non-toxic plants for pet owners. When thinking about plant toxicity, it's important to know that the effects of a toxic plant are only realized when the plant is consumed. If your pet does not nibble plants, then you can get away with having any plant, toxic or not. If you are still concerned, Peperomias, Calatheas, Marimo balls, and some ferns are great picks!

CI: What are the benefits of having plants in the home? What do they contribute to the space?

CS: Plants clean the air both physically and chemically! Physically, they act as dust clings, pulling dust out of the air. Chemically, they take volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, benzene, and such, and chemically break them into harmless and inert components. These volatile organic compounds are emitted from everyday objects as materials slowly degrade over time, such as rubbers, vinyl, plastics, computer parts, paints, and more. Given that we spend about 90% of our time indoors, it's important to have plants!

CI: Do you have any tips for decorating with plants, to really play up how much they can transform a room?

CS: Both plants and radiators both love being near windows. However, radiators are too hot to be by plants! You can get creative by hanging plants in leather hangers, or by building shelves. The best option I've found? Getting wine boxes from the wine store, punching out the bottom of the box, and stacking the frames on the radiator, creating shelves. Once it's stacked about three-to-four feet above the radiator, you can place your plants without fear of cooking them to death.

Indoor Plant Picks from The Sill

Photo by The Sill
  • ZZ Plants: Just like the snake plant, keep ZZ plants in indirect light and lean almost more toward under-watering than over-watering.
Photo by The Sill
  • Peperomias: Keep peperomias in low-to-medium light and water once a week.
Photo by The Sill
  • Haworthias: Haworthias like bright sunlight, but only indirectly. Water somewhat sparingly, making sure that soil is totally dry before watering and that whatever you repot your Haworthia in has drainage.
Photo by The Sill
  • Pothos: Pothos do best in low and/or indirect light. Simply water whenever the soil is completely dried out.
Photo by The Sill
  • Philodendrons: Keep philodendrons in a nice mix of sun and shade. Make sure they have proper drainage so their soil can dry between waterings.

Calling green and black thumbs alike: What are your favorite sturdy plants to care for indoors? Share your wisdom with us below and follow The Sill for all your tranquil green-spiration!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Courtney Iseman

Written by: Courtney Iseman


Eva C. August 2, 2019
These are the only type of plants I can grow in my house. I have no windows with direct sunlight. Plants that I can neglect tend to do well for me, too., though I hate to say it. I have a peace lily in the bathroom, in the built-in seat of a corner jetted tub. There are large opaque, textured windows on either side of the corner, so indirect light is plentiful. For five or six years I'd water it when it started to droop. The lily would perk up and there were constant blooms. I decided it was probably a good idea to repot it and sure enough, it was completely root-bound. Repotted it in a 2-inch larger pot with the recommended house plant soil mixture. It just about died. It has come back. Still no new blooms in the two months since repotting. Sometimes less is more.
Sandy March 22, 2019
I just purchased a Kalancho. Tips on their care.
Claudia T. January 22, 2019
I was getting pretty good at plants and then I moved. I can't figure out how to keep my plants alive in my new apartment- it's been about six months and I've killed almost every plant I've brought in, even the ones that survived the cross country move!! Now my sad empty pots just stare at me accusingly. I'll try again in the spring.. and in another six months I'm moving again.
Pray for my snake plant, that I got from Ikea, the only thing to have survived the first move. It's hanging on...
PHIL January 17, 2018
A guess nobody is interested in plants around here.
PHIL January 15, 2018
Pothos and philodendron are super easy to grow and handle neglect well. Very easy to propogate from cuttings also. Another easy plant is the spider plant. they also produce new plants on long shoots. Other options include english ivy and Dracena marginata . The best thing you can do for your plants is not overwatering them.
Hana A. January 16, 2018
Thanks for your suggestions, Phil! I love a good spider plant. And it's so true, I'm guilty of overwatering ("over-loving") my plants.