What plants should I buy for indoors?
January 29, 2010 8:44 AM   Subscribe

What plants should I buy for indoors in my apartment?

With temperatures in the single digits and no green anywhere to be seen in the city, I'm starting to wish I had some plants indoors. Trouble is, I have no idea what to get.

I'm in the southern New England area. I have a couple of windows with direct sunlight. I keep my apartment pretty chilly in the winter, at 60 degrees. I like flowers, fruits, herbs, green leafy things too. Right now, all I have is a big spider plant.
posted by quodlibet to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Philodendrons are my go to indoor plant, because they are close to impossible to kill. They're especially good in rooms with very low light.
posted by something something at 8:46 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I recently found this video linked in the askme archives.

I need some plants and I'll probably follow the advice in the video.

The plants he suggests are 1. Mother-in-laws tongue 2. Areca Palm and 3. Money plant.
posted by selton at 8:53 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I'm in New England as well, and my ficus, aloe and orchids do just fine in my house.
posted by tastybrains at 8:57 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Mint. Does fine in a window, even a cold one with low light (my eastern window in Chicago, for instance). Recovers easily from a failure to water, yields leaves useful in cooking and cocktail making, is not toxic to cats. Fragrant, pretty green, can get rangy if you don't cut it back, but otherwise an attractive plant.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I've always had good luck with Benjy.
posted by sid at 9:03 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: My first two houseplants (in a dark basement apartment) were a Chinese evergreen and a mother-in-law's tongue. Both are great for low light conditions and are very tolerant of learning curves.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:04 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Pothos could survive a nuclear winter. I'm also very fond of my ZZ plants, which are big and elegant-looking and require virtually no care - I give mine a warm shower every so often to clear the dust away, but that's pretty much it.
posted by timetoevolve at 9:04 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: You could try air plants (tillandsias) which have the advantage of needing no soil. I have half a dozen in the bathroom where they're growing fat on a diet of steam from the shower. This lot have some quite cool specimens.

Otherwhise, palms, ficuses, geraniums, cacti (some prickly pears will survive in outside window boxes), begonias, basil, chillis, ferns. Pretty much anything will grow in the situation you describe - and the dryness of the air in winter is more likely to be an issue than the temperature.
posted by rhymer at 9:10 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Another good low-light plant that is very happy in my dark bedroom: aspidistra. It's called "cast iron plant" for a reason!
posted by timetoevolve at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: We killed our orchid.
But we took in my Mom's fuchsia, which was in a pot on her deck all summer. We stuck it on the floor in front of the big window at the back of the house, water it when we remember to, and it's just rockin' more than a year later. Lots of flowers.
posted by chococat at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Do you have or are you considering getting pets, especially cats (especially kittens)? If so, it will be in your interest to focus on plants that aren't poisonous to them, or at least find cat-inaccessible places to keep them (hanging basket works, but only if there's not a shelf or table less than 4' below it - cats leap!).

The main plant that I kept when we got our foster kittens was anthurium -- apparently it's harmless, and it's bodacious and pretty too.
posted by amtho at 9:14 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, seconding pothos. It's not the prettiest plant in the world, although I'm rather fond of it. And as timetoevolve indicates, it's freaking impossible to kill. Neglect it, beat it, overwater it, slice and dice it, it'll cheerfully ignore you and continue growing.

Over a period of a few months, it can make awesomely long vines - think tens of meters long - and it requires virtually no light.

Be careful with it around bookcases though - in a few days, if you let it hang near books, it will insert root tendrils INTO THE PAGES OF YOUR BOOKS. Seriously, it's freaky, like it's trying to absorb the knowledge. And it's not good for the books.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:16 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: For reference: the ASPCA's plants toxic to pets list. Not that you shouldn't believe the ASPCA and keep such plants out of the reach of pets, but realize that being on the toxic list does not mean "instantly or inevitably fatal to pets". Both my cats have chewed plants on the list and been none the worse for wear, but at this point in my cat- and plant-owning life, I have learned it's better to check first, rather than check after freaking out or after cleaning cat vomit.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:43 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thirding pothos. They're practically indestructible. However, they are poisonous. Something to keep in mind if you have small children or pets.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Windowbox herb garden and a miniature orange tree.
posted by aquafortis at 9:49 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: We have a basil plant that I started from seed back in... November or so. It's grown quite large since then, sitting in the window. We also have some rosemary that's survived (but not exactly thrived). One of the cats ate our mint down to the stumps but it's started to grow back! I'm very impressed with its hardiness.

These are all in pots in windows that get a few hours of sunlight a day.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:21 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: The "money plant" referred to in the TED video linked above is Epipremnum aureum, and I don't know much about it, but another plant that's sometimes called the "money plant" is the Jade plant (crassula ovata, the "friendship tree") - this is the ultimate indestructible plant, IMO. I've owned Jades as long as I can remember, and they're very forgiving - don't over-water them - they'll show you (with less succulent-looking, thirsty-looking leaves, and eventually with leaf-loss) that they need watering. Jade plants like to be near a window, but as I've said, they're forgiving. Make sure (with all potted plants, actually) that they've got good drainage. Jade plants look better and better as they age, particularly if you pinch off the tips if/when they start to look too sparse.
I have also had a lot of success with ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata).
posted by Bergamot at 10:40 AM on January 29, 2010

spider plant!
posted by millipede at 10:57 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Snake plant/mother-in-law tongue. Very hardy and easy to care for. They look nice with several plants in a row, either in one long trough or separate decorative pots.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:15 AM on January 29, 2010

This book has some very helpful suggestions for growing houseplants that clean the air.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 11:22 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: If you like to cook, having fresh herbs through the winter is a treat. My thyme, rosemary, winter savory, and mint are all doing pretty well in a sunny window in New England. My office window has 3 very happy geraniums that have been blooming all winter, so that's pretty cheery, too. All these want a fair amount of light and regular water, but they're working well in south facing windows.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 12:08 PM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Porthos, ficus, aspidistra all good. I'm surprised, though, that nobody mentioned good ol' Christmas cactus. The little plants are cheap enough at and after the holidays. They've endured weird temperature fluctuations, periods of neglect and mixed light quality, but all have thrived and gotten quite large. They're easy to repot and put on quite a show every six months.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:21 PM on January 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks - I have a dog, who likes cabbage alot (so weird) - so I wouldn't put it past him to eat a plant. I have a couple of spots where he can't get.

I have a humidifier in my room (thanks hivemind for that suggestion) but the rest of the rooms are pretty dry. I didn't think of that.
posted by quodlibet at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2010

Since you have a dog, I'll mention that I recently discovered that hibiscus plants are very, very toxic specifically to dogs.
posted by amtho at 1:15 PM on January 29, 2010

I don't have a plant suggest (well, Pothos is so tough, I'd nth that one), but I did want to recommend bitter apple spray to keep dogs from chewing on your plants (or cords or anything). It's easy to find at pet supply shops. I use it for my cats and it seems to work well.
posted by Craig at 3:43 PM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Umbrella plants/schefflera are unstoppable and have the bonus of being cat-safe. I ventured into house plants for the first time last year, doing lots of research (including reading AskMe recommendations and that pet-safe site) and unfortunately nothing pet-safe has survived the winter for me EXCEPT my umbrella plant. My basil was kicking ass and taking names, then it died when it got cold, and my mint for some bizarre reason, contrary to what everyone tells me, died immediately, like the first 2 weeks after I bought it. :( The other herbs never thrived like the basil but were puttering along and they died too come winter. And the other 2 houseplants that are doing awesome--the ficus elastica (big potted rubber tree) and aloe vera--are cat-toxic and therefore need to be sealed away from my cats, making their pleasing effect kinda moot. So I can't recommend them if you have cats.

But the umbrella plant! I completely forgot about it because it was in the cat-accessible area with all the plants that died, and so it went without water for, uh...drum roll please...over 3 months (in my defense this was when I got married, went on a 2 week honeymoon, and then the holiday craziness kicked in). I went in that room earlier this month bracing myself for a dead plant and guilt on my end, so I was floored to see it looked the same as always, just fine. That thing can thrive under some pretty crazy circumstances. It was happy in the heat of Memphis, by my sunniest window in my hottest room, and it's happy in the dead of winter. It can take being water a lot, or not at all. It's even been right above the heater vent, which killed the oregano and sage, and still it's fine. So nice.
posted by ifjuly at 12:51 PM on January 30, 2010

Best answer: Snake plants are neat looking and nigh unkillable in any situation. They can survive on lots of water, little water, direct light, or continual shade.
posted by talldean at 5:22 AM on February 2, 2010

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