With a second lockdown looming on the horizon, brightening up our homes is more important than ever. Houseplants can be a great way of sprucing up your space. Not only do they offer a bit of colour and life, but they make nature feel more accessible throughout the darker months. However, not all houseplants are created equal and many need special care to keep them happy and healthy.
For the budding botanical enthusiast, the pothos, or devil’s ivy, is a brilliant introductory plant. These fun and dangly plants are surprisingly low maintenance which allows them to survive a forgetful owner. Pothos aren’t picky about which kind of soil they have, and they do well in either bright indirect light or lowlight. Pothos plants also look lovely despite being low-fuss. Their draping vines and wide leaves make fantastic accents to bookshelves and can even be hung from baskets. You can also take cuttings from a pothos and propagate them. Pothos typically need to be watered every two to three weeks although this may increase in the warmer months. I water mine from the bottom by placing their planters in a bowl of water and letting them soak until their soil is moist all the way through.
Ivy is another option for a prospective plant owner looking for something straightforward. Not only are they cheap, but, like pothos, they boast cascading leaves that can really brighten up an otherwise drab desk. Ivies like bright light, but some varieties can tolerate medium light. They need a good amount of moisture, but their soil should be allowed to dry completely between waterings. They should never be left in standing water, although they do like the occasional misting. If you are interested in growing your ivy collection or starting one for a friend, ivies can be propagated by taking stem cuttings. While they make a nice aesthetic addition to a space, they serve a functional purpose by helping purify the air.
If you’re up for more of a challenge, maidenhair ferns can be a gorgeous addition to your collection. Maidenhair ferns are well-loved for their delicate feather-like foliage despite the extra work required to maintain them. These ferns like full or partial shade, but indirect light is ideal. Moisture is absolutely key to keeping them alive. If maidenhair ferns dry out, they are difficult to bring back. Humidity is also critical. This sounds tricky, but a plant mister goes a long way. Alternatively, you can place the plastic container on top of some pebbles and water within a bigger pot. This maintains humidity without leaving them in excess water. Keeping multiple plants close together is another way to preserve humidity. Don’t panic if some of your ferns fronds go yellow or limp, just trim them back gently.
If you love the look of a maidenhair fern, but fear for its well being, a Boston fern may be a happy compromise. Boston ferns like indirect light and a decent amount of humidity. They should be watered regularly as they prefer damp soil, but these ferns are less picky than their cousin.
Lastly, we come to every student’s go-to plant: the humble succulent. Succulents are well loved for their forgiveness of chaotic lifestyles which leave little time for watering. There is a wide range of succulents out there for every amateur botanist ranging in colour, size, and shape. Succulents need plenty of light, but watering shouldn’t be ignored. In the colder months they need less frequent watering, but in the summer they will need more attention. However, succulents should never be overwatered. If the soil is dry throughout, then it is time for a drink, but if it’s still damp, leave it for another day or two.
Regardless of the size of your green thumb or the types of plants you tend to, there is a simple pleasure to be found in caring for them. Not only do they brighten up your space and add a glimmer of nature to your room, but they provide something to look after. As students, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves, whether that means poor sleep schedules or forgetting to eat. Taking care of a plant can be a little reminder that we need to take care of ourselves too.