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June 28, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The happy, hardy, houseplant

By Mellissa More Blogs by This Author

I'm really good at killing plants. I discovered this fact about myself in second grade science class when my lima bean sprouts (all three of them) decided to grow mold instead of stems and leaves. My ventures with flower gardening were almost as fruitless, but also included bee stings and pricks from the pesky thistles that choked the sprouts.

Every year, my neighbors, who had lush vegetable and flower gardens, would offer bulbs of all kinds, laughing at my inability to properly plant them into the ground. I finally settled at exchanging cans of cat food for bags of supersized tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, rather than grow them myself.

Whenever my family moved to a new house, someone, who had the best intentions I'm sure, would always give me a box of flowers that would give up the ghost within a week. I resigned myself to the fact that gardening was just a talent I would never be able to “cultivate” (sorry I had to).

However, my losing streak with plants ended when I was given a spider plant “baby” by a teacher as a gift. I was reluctant to take it, but it was a gift so I stuffed it into my backpack and took it home. To my surprise, the little mite survived the trip and being transported to a different plant pot. Over the course of three years, it grew to an enormous width and produced little spiders of its own. I successfully took care of and grew aloe, other spider plants, jade, and pothos. I had finally found my niche, I could grow houseplants!

Houseplants to the rescue!

For those of us born without green thumbs, a houseplant can be the answer for your gardening woes. Other than being easy to care for, houseplants are a great way to decorate your home without having to buy extra furnishings. As an added bonus, NASA studies have shown that houseplants can remove toxins, like formaldehyde, from the air. My favorite indoor plant is the pothos. The pothos can exist with almost no light, does not need much watering, has beautiful leaves and vines that hang or climb, and even improves air quality. To care for a pothos, the main thing to remember is not to over water it. Barely damp soil is plenty of moisture for this plant, anything more will make the roots begin to rot.

Jade plants are my next favorite houseplant. The jade has thick, waxy, leaves, and can grow very quickly. These plants also have a long lifespan if properly cared for. Like the pothos, jade needs very little water to survive. However, unlike the pothos, jade needs direct sunlight. Keeping it in a sunny window will help it grow and keep it from drying out.

If you're interested in something a little different, consider bonsai plants. These “tiny trees” require a bit more attention than the previous plants, but are easy to care for none the less. Bonsai can absorb quite a bit of water through the stems and leaves, so immersing the plant once a week will help ensure it's getting the right amount of moisture. Like the jade, bonsai enjoys light.

Simplicity is key! More great tips for indoor plant care can be found at

As I mentioned before, houseplants are excellent accents to the home and can really spruce up a room. I currently have rather tiny living quarters (a studio apartment), but plants have made the space feel more homey and distracts visitors from my lack of furniture. A strategically placed plant can fill up an empty corner, or give an end table an elegant look. Replace the plastic ficus with a variety of real plants and you'll definitely see a difference!

Pet Safety

When you're considering which plants to buy for your home, take your furry children into account. Don't assume that your pet will not be interested in taking a few chomps or that the plant is safe for them to ingest. For a complete list of houseplants that are toxic to pets, visit Here are some common houseplants that are toxic to cats and dogs:

  • Aloe

  • Pothos

  • Poinsettia

  • Cornstalk plant

If you don't have any pets, be aware that a lot of plants that are toxic to pets, are toxic to children as well. Curious little tykes like to put all sorts of things in their mouths, so be careful to review all of your houseplants for any potential toxins. 

Find the plants that suit your needs and have fun growing!


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