Plants make apartments better.
Plants make life better.
On the other hand: plants, being, uh, living organisms, require care and feeding. Occasionally, more than we can offer them. Which is why we quizzed Corey Barnes, associate curator at the splendiferous San Francisco Botanical Garden, on the hardiest plants for your home (indoors, please) and got some very comprehensive responses in return.
Clip ‘n’ save for your next trip to the garden center.
Aka: Air plant
Native to the New World and relatives of the pineapple, many species of air plant grow without soil. Commonly available air plants require humidity more than direct, liquid water applications, and feed off of nutrients in dust that they gather from the air in your home (Editor’s note: that means they’re good for your bathroom). They prefer an east or north-facing window or a skylight to a strong sun from west or south-facing windows.
Aka: Devil’s ivy, pothos
From the Solomon Islands, this vine also ranks highly as an air purifier. Buyer beware: toxic for dogs, cats and humans if ingested. Fares well in bright to medium, indirect light conditions with watering once every 1-2 weeks. Needs good drainage.
Aka: Spider plant
An asparagus relative from southern Africa, this plant is a gift that keeps on giving: with green and white variegated leaves, it produces long flower stems that produce small plantlets along their length. These plantlets quickly develop their own roots, and can be removed from the stem and planted independently. (Editor’s note: free plants!) Prefers light shade, well-drained soil and water once a week. Best displayed on a piece of furniture or hung, in order to appreciate the hanging flower stems/plantlets.
Aka: Mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plant
This tropical plant sports variegated, dramatic, erect leaves that can reach three feet in height. Fibers from said leaves have even been used to make bowstrings due to their strength. This plant is a good air purifier, absorbing toxins into its leaves. Very low maintenance — requires infrequent watering and a bright spot in the home.
Aka: Cylindrical snake plant, African spear
A cousin of the mother-in-law’s tongue. Requires good drainage. Main attraction: form and foliage, as well as possible flowers when grown in favorable conditions. No serious insect or disease considerations.
Aka: Rubber plant
Native to Asia, this fig relative can develop a significant presence if grown in favorable conditions. Thick, leathery leaves can be a rich, deep, glossy green or variegated with white and light green patches, the latter appearing somewhat camouflaged. This is a rough-and-tumble plant — feed, uh, occasionally. Once or twice yearly is adequate.