PLANT PARENTING 101: BEST PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

Plant Parenting 101: Best Plants for Beginners

Well, it seems everyone and their cousin has become houseplant obsessed during the pandemic. You know I have. What started as a fun little hobby to share with my housemate in the middle of a global lockdown has now turned into at least 72% of my personality, and I have no regrets. I am now a fully functioning houseplant fiend.

Now I own my own home, you can be assured I am taking this houseplant obsession to the next level. I mean, just look at this corner of my lounge!

A collection of green houseplants and brown and white plant pots against a white window

Thankfully, my fiance has accepted this; either out of love for me or pure acceptance that this is his life now. Since this panny-d, panini, pandemic began, I have been through all of the trials and tribulations of being a beginner plant owner. Some plants have died; crisped up in the sun, been overwatered, leaves falling off in the heat. However, it’s through our mistakes that we learn, right? At least that’s what I’m going with, because now, I’m a green-fingered houseplant goddess. Well, that may be a bit too far. BUT I have learnt what plants are the easiest to care for, especially if you are a beginner green-fingered goddess. 

For me, caring for a plant begins with addressing the three needs; light, water, and humidity. And to all you expert plant parents out there, yes I know it’s more than that, but we are starting with the basics. With that in our arsenal, let me tell you about the four best plants that I’ve found to be the best-looking, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to care for. 

The ‘Leave It Be’ – Boston Fern

Before buying a Fern, I had barely kept any plants alive. It doesn’t help that the only plants I had were an aloe vera from Amazon and succulents from supermarkets, so they weren’t top quality. But then I found Patch Plants. This isn’t a sponsored post, I ain’t big enough for that, but when I say they have the best plants online, you better believe it. So, to help counteract the anxiety COVID was giving me, I decided to purchase some plants (I am aware it is not a healthy coping mechanism, but at least it is a coping mechanism). One of the plants I bought from Patch was a Boston Fern, nicknamed Bertie on the site. 

A green Bosten Fern plant, hanging in a pink macrame hanger. The pot is white, as is the wall behind it.

Within the first two months of owning Bertie, I almost killed her. Hmm. Not too good for an easy care plant, right? Wrong. I over-cared for her. I watered her every two days and near enough drowned her. What I soon learnt is that she’s an easy-going babe of a plant. Now, she’s back to being green and fluffy and luscious.

She thrived in my suntrap kitchen in my old place, and now she is thriving in the corner of the bathroom in my new house. Both are very different environments so what’s Bertie’s deal? Well, as long as she gets some light, she’s a happy fern! You just have to think ‘can she see the sun at all? Even a little bit?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then BAM, it’s the home for a fern. Being an easy-going plant in terms of light, you’d think she’d be precious in terms of water and humidity. Nope, ferns are easy-going with that too. I water my fern approximately once a week, sometimes longer; I don’t have a watering schedule! I just stick my finger in the soil and if it’s dry, she gets a good bottom-watering (oh behave, it’s a houseplant term). And then there’s humidity. When Bertie lived in the kitchen, I would spray her with some water whenever I remembered. Now she’s in the bathroom, the most humid room in the house, I don’t have to worry about that!

Boston Ferns are simple ‘sit there and look pretty’ plants. I’ve gone weeks forgetting to water or mist her, and she’s sat for days on end with the bathroom blinds shut without a fuss (although, I wouldn’t recommend doing either of those things…). Regardless, she stays evergreen and fluffy with just two minutes of care a week. Ferns are the ultimate easy-care plant.

Hanging Plant – Philodendron 

I am not ashamed to say my ‘house goals’ Pinterest board is just pictures of living rooms full of hanging plants. Hanging plants are not particularly renter friendly, so when I delved into the world of hanging plants, I had to find ingenious ways of attaching them to curtain rods and leftover nails in the wall (hair ties fix everything). But now I live in my own house? Let the ceiling-hook-demic begin!

Any plant can be a hanging plant if you try hard enough – just see Bertie! But my perfect hanging plant is trailing, leafy, and looks like it could be controlled by Poison Ivy. With that in mind, let me present to you the Philodendron – specifically the Heart-Leaf variety. Just look how pretty! 

A green heart-leaf philodendron behind held by three strings. The background is half navy curtain, half white wall

This Philo lives in the corner of the west-facing bay window in my lounge. Philodendrons tend to thrive in medium, non-direct light. They will live fine in the semi-shade, but to get the best looking, best growing plant, they do need to get a burst of sun every now and then. That’s why my Philodendron does so well in my bay-window; it gets indirect light in the morning, followed by some sun in the afternoon.

Just like the Fern, Philodendrons like to be kept humid – they are all about that tropical lifestyle. So it’s a part of my plant spraying line-up. As I’ve chosen to make my Philodendron a hanging plant, it does present one issue (and in all honesty, it’s a Rosie issue, not a plant issue). I just keep forgetting to water it. I know it’s hanging there, but as it takes more effort to get down than picking up a plant from my coffee table, I always say “ahh I’ll take it down later”. The good thing is that Philodendrons are so forgiving if you forget to water them. Some plants will instantly droop or crisp if you forget to water them once (I’m looking at you, Peace Lilies). Philos will keep going on like the troopers they are until you remember “Oh goodness, it’s been at least two weeks since I watered my plants! Maybe three… Whoops.” They don’t require a watering schedule; just a simple check if the soil is dry with your finger will indicate if they need water. 

So, with very little care and easy lighting requirements, you can end up with a gorgeous, growing Philodendron. Even if the Philo gets too long, it’s so easy to care for. Just snip the excess with some scissors to get the shape you want. Just like the books by Edward Stratemeyer, Philodendrons are hardy boys.

Ideal for Propagation – Pilea

So you’ve stumbled onto plant TikTok with no plant experience and want to get propagating plants. Welcome to my life circa April 2020. Propagating plants is essentially naturally breeding plants. Traditional succulents with rather chunky leaves are certainly the easiest plants to propagate; you just take a fallen leaf, put it on some soil, spray it occasionally, and wait for it to get roots. But if you want the ease of a traditional succulent propagation with a much more interesting beginner plant, let me present to you the Pilea (aka Chinese Money Plant or Pilea Peperomioides). 

Pilea in a white pot decorated with leaves. Pilea is a green plant with circular leaves. Backdrop is a black and white mural, with a red and black picture to the left.

This is arguably the most satisfying plant to propagate (as in, I will argue with you if you say any different). Whilst the propagation aspect is exciting, they are also such a beautiful plant to look at and care for. My Pilea lives in my west facing window with the Philodendron; it gets bright, indirect sunlight, with moments of getting kissed by the sun. It’s a good idea to rotate the Pilea twice a week or so to stop it growing lopsided but that’s the only extra requirement. In terms of humidity, Pileas don’t really crave it. Still, I’m not afraid of giving it a little spray in my spray cycle. As Pileas are technically part of the succulent family, they are exceptionally good at holding water. Just like every plant on this list, the best way to determine if it needs water is always down to the very technical ‘stick-your-finger-in-the-soil-test’. Easy and breezy! With the easy care out of the way comes the fun part.

When Pileas are cared for and happy, they pop out their own little baby Pileas at the base of the plant! These babies, or plantlets, are the section you propagate. When the babies have a few leaves of their own and are standing at about two inches, this is the perfect time to remove them. Grab a sharp knife, dig your fingers about an inch or so into the soil, and cut the plantlet away from the root ball of the mother plant (please take care not to cut your fingers). Now, this process may sound a bit more scary than picking up a leaf and putting it in soil, but it is incredibly easy to do. As long as the plantlet is intact, it’s go-time. Simply get a small glass or pot of water, pop the Pilea in (making sure the leaves don’t sit in the water), and wait. Soon enough, the Pilea plantlet will grow roots! When the roots are looking pretty strong, and have an inch or two on them, simply plant it!

My Pilea is definitely the most interesting looking plant I have in my house, and is also the most likely plant to be used in the filming of Star Trek to be foliage on an alien planet.In regards to propagation, as long as the mother plant is happy, she’ll keep popping out plantlets left, right, and centre. The only thing you have to decide is “where on earth am I going to put all these PIlea babies?”

The Ultimate – Monstera

We’ve covered the easiest easy care plant, the best hanging plant for beginners, and the most satisfying propagation plant for fledgling plant lovers. But what about a plant that does all three? The Ultimate Beginner Plant if you will. It’s easy to look after. A statement plant. Can be hanging, trailing, climbing. Simple to propagate. An icon. “WHO?” I hear you ask. Well first of all, it’s a plant, not a person – calm your socks. Secondly, you already know. It’s Mr Tropical himself; the Monstera. 

A green monstera leaf in the foreground, green leaves of other plants in the background

I have called my Monstera ‘Monty’, like the original artiste I am. I’ve had Monty growing in a shady bathroom, a bright kitchen, and now he’s got pride of place in my indirectly bright lounge. He’s thrived in all of them but my top tip for Monstera is to put them somewhere in line with a window so he can get that light but not get burnt. Like all of the easy-care plants on this list, Monsteras just need water when they are dry. But like the true rainforest floor plant he is, Monsteras do need a humid environment; a bathroom or a place you can mist is vital!

I bought Monty just over a year ago and he’s already doubled in size, if not tripled. He outgrew the original moss pole in a few months, and has now outgrown his current one. I had to cut back some of the tendrils because they were just getting too darn leggy (there’s only room for one leggy icon in my house, and it’s me). It just goes to show that with the right conditions, Monsteras will thrive and grow and thrive some more. Aside from the fact my Monstera is tall, gorgeous, and can be trusted to do this own thing, there is one thing that Monsteras do that really sets them apart. No, it’s not the fact you can easily propagate leaves by cutting just below the node of the plant, popping it in water, and watching it grow roots (although that is pretty cool, and means I never run out of birthday presents to give to people). I’m talking about the unfurling leaves. New leaves grow out of the plant in tubes and slowly unfurl over a few days! You can watch the colour get darker as they get older, and Monstera leaves develop more holes with age. 

To me, Monsteras are the most versatile and iconic of all easy-care plants. They can serve as a six-foot tall climbing plant, a single vine from a pot, or a little desk buddy with three leaves. The perfect buddy for a beginner. 

So, those are my best plants for beginners! I hope that’s helped some of you timid green-fingered folks out, or encouraged some of you to give houseplants a go. Filling my home with greenery has made such a difference to my happiness levels. And I love the fact it’s become more than a decoration tactic; houseplants have become a hobby. 

Do let me know if you’d been keen for me to continue this ‘Plant Parenting 101’ as a series! I have a lot of tips and tricks I’ve learnt through trial-and-error, advice on plants to get for moving out of the beginner zone, and most thrillingly, I know a lot about different soil types. Do let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you have any questions about beginner plants. Thanks for reading!

Rosie x

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