A Plant for Every Room

by Laura Schwarz

Even though I have an absurd number of houseplants, I concede that indoor gardening is hard. Since most of us don’t live in greenhouses or conservatories, we’re stuck dealing with the challenging light and space limitations created by our dwellings and furniture. Curating a houseplant collection that fits into your home’s nooks and crannies will take time and require some patience as you work to match each plant’s light requirements and mature size with appropriate spaces in your home.

Last year, I tried to find at least one plant that would grow in every single room of my house. It took a lot of trial and error, but I’ve finally succeeded. Here are my suggestions for some of the challenging places in which you might want to grow a houseplant.

 

A TALL NARROW SPACE WITH INDIRECT LIGHT

A tall, narrow space with indirect light: There’s a tight corner in our dining room that is perfect for my prized variegated snake plant (Sansevieria sp.). This particular snake plant reaches 4 feet tall at maturity, though there are others that stay shorter. Snake plants are generally columnar, so they’re easy to confine to a narrow space, as long as that space has good indirect light. I’ve also had luck growing Cordyline species in narrow spaces that allow for a lot of vertical growth.

 

ON TOP OF KITCHEN CABINETS OR A DINING ROOM HUTCH

The plants in this section are all vines that thrive in dark conditions—they prefer low light to any direct sunlight. I’ve also seen some of these grow without any natural light at all, though they will need supplemental artificial lighting if your intended room is completely dark. I have pots of pothos vine (Epipremnum aureum) growing on top of my dining room hutch, and they spill cheerfully over the sides. Other vines for indoor shade include heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum), wax plant (Hoya sp.) and oak leaf ivy (Cissus rhombifolia).

 

FULL SUN WINDOWSILL (SOUTH OR WEST FACING)

If you’re lucky enough to own a bright and sunny windowsill, you’ll have great luck growing everyone’s favorite beloved-yet-finicky succulents. My brightest windows are filled with succulents, including varieties of agave (Agave sp.), jades (Crassula ovata), cacti (assorted genera), Aloe species and Kalanchoe species, to name a few. These plants want as much direct sunlight as they can get, minimal water and plenty of time to dry out between watering sessions.

 

BRIGHT INDIRECT LIGHT WITH SPACE TO SPREAD OUT

For houseplants that really make a statement, try growing one or two of these large, aggressive growers that thrive in bright indirect light—rubber fig (Ficus elastica), ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), bush lily (Clivia miniata) or split leaf philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum). Depending on the size of the container they’re planted in, rubber figs and split leaf philodendron can grow all the way to your ceiling, however high that may be! ZZs and bush lilies are shorter, but they have a striking wide presence, so make sure they have plenty of space to spread out as they mature.

Whatever your house size or configuration, there are plenty of plants ready to call it home.

 

Horticulturist Laura Schwarz writes and gardens in Minneapolis.

House plants graphic

IN THE BATHROOM, EVEN!

Our bathroom was one of the last rooms that got its houseplant, mostly because the only window is north-facing (low light) and also located inside our shower. I ended up placing an air plant (Tillandsia sp.) on the shower windowsill, where this crazy little plant lives without soil or regular watering. The humidity from the shower usually covers its watering needs, though I do sometimes spray it directly with the showerhead when I remember. Orchids and ferns (many species of both) also love humidity and tolerate low light conditions. They should feel right at home in your bathroom!

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