By Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS Extension
Just because I have a degree in Horticulture and have made a career in the field doesn’t mean I have a green thumb. I have killed my fair share of plants over the years, and the most frequent victims have been houseplants. My Master Gardener Volunteers are appalled at my houseplant ineptitude, but through the years I have figured out that the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principle “Right Plant, Right Place” is just as (if not more) important when we try to garden indoors.
Most of the houseplants you see in garden centers are just plants that cannot survive a typical winter in our area. But if you gravitate towards the plants that originate from tropical rainforests with high temperatures and humidity they are not going to thrive in your air-conditioned home! If you are a beginner houseplant grower or have failed as many times as I have, here are a few tried and true plants that even I can keep alive.
This plant has an upright arching growth habit with glossy green or black leaves. It thrives in low light and dry soil conditions so it is perfect for that room where you keep the shades drawn. It has the ability to store water in rhizomatous roots and does not require frequent watering. I water mine every 9-12 days and it always looks great. All parts are toxic if ingested, however, so if you have pets or children that eat plants you may want to skip this one.
Pothos is a variegated evergreen vine that cascades over the edges of pots. It grows best in bright indirect light and has low to moderate water needs. Vines can grow 10-20 feet long, making it ideal for bookshelves or cabinet tops and it only needs water about once a week. It is easy to root in water, so if the plant breaks you can just stick them in a vase and keep it there indefinitely.
The previous plants are known for their foliage and interesting growth habit, but what if you want flowers? Probably the simplest flowering indoor plants are African violets. There are nearly unlimited varieties available with many flower colors including white, purple, pink, and multi-colored options. African violets need good drainage, so it is worth buying a potting mix and self-watering pot made specifically for violets to help prevent overwatering. Other than that, place it in a bright location out of direct sunlight and these little plants will brighten up any space.
For more information about houseplants please visit https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/houseplants.
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.