You've just spent hours at your local nursery picking out your first plant. You found the perfect one; it's called to you with its gorgeous shiny (and very thin and delicate) leaves and begged you to take it home with you. So you did. You carefully repot it into the brand new pot you bought for it, and then you put it on the empty spot on your shelf that you've been saving just for this moment.
A couple of weeks later, you notice a yellow leaf. You do your best to brush it off (didn't your plant-y friend mention something about "transfer shock"?), but within a few days later another leaf has turned yellow.
And then another.
And then another.
Within a month your brand-new plant baby is nothing but a stump, and your hopes and dreams of growing your own indoor jungle have been crushed.
But fear not, future plant parent. We've got your back.
Oftentimes, first-time plant purchasers get excited and bite off more than they can chew. Without doing the proper research beforehand, it's easy to end up with a plant that you aren't prepared to care for. Some plants, like Alocasias and Calatheas, require almost-constant attention. They're the drama queens of the plant world; they'll turn to dust over the slightest inconvenience.
When you're just starting out, it's best to stick with a plant that is a little more drought tolerant and has relaxed light requirements; this will give you a chance to get used to the basics of plant care and troubleshooting before investing in a larger, more hands-on collection.
Luckily, beginner doesn't have to mean basic. We've compiled a list of some of our favorite low-maintenance plants that will impress your friends and turn your home into a jungle oasis.
So toss out that stump on your shelf and let's get started.
#1: Sansevieria Laurentii
Sansevieria. Snake Plant. Mother-in-Law's Tongue. She goes by many names, but one thing's for certain: she's the OG of low-maintenance, un-killable houseplants.
When it comes to first-time plant people, Sansevieria are typically our number one recommendation for a few reasons. First, they grow well in pretty much every light level. Whether you have an empty space on a sunny south-facing windowsill or you need to add some green to a dimly-lit corner, Snake Plants won't put up a fuss as long as they're at least getting some very filtered light. They're also an excellent option if you struggle sticking to a consistent watering schedule; Sansevieria can (and should) dry out nearly 100% before watering.
There are about 70 different varieties of Snake Plants available, but one of our favorites is the Laurentii. It has the long, narrow leaves that the species is known for but with bold yellow borders that add a fun pop of color to any home.
#2: Golden Pothos
Pothos are another tried & true houseplant that most people do well with, regardless of experience level; even avid collectors often cave when they see the gorgeous, glossy leaves and full growth of a healthy Pothos in their local plant shop.
When it comes to care, Pothos aren't too picky. They are sensitive to overwatering and should be allowed to dry out about halfway in between watering; if you notice the leaves drooping, it's time to water! The amount of light you provide depends mostly on the variety of Pothos you have. Some varieties are variegated; they have splashes of yellow, cream or white on their leaves. Non-variegated Pothos like Jade and Neon do well in low-light areas, while variegated varieties like Marble Queen and Manjula need bright-indirect light to keep their variegation.
The Golden Pothos is one of our personal favorites; it has yellow and white variegation that looks gorgeous trailing from a shelf or plant hanger.
#3: Scindapsus Pictus 'Exotica'
If Pothos care sounds like a breeze to you but you're looking for something a little more unique, a Scindapsus is the plant for you. They're nearly identical in care and very similar in looks to Pothos; some people even refer to them as Satin Pothos. (We know. It's confusing.)
Scindapsus leaves aren't as smooth and glossy as a Pothos. Instead, they feature a velvety texture and gorgeous iridescent silver splashes. They're fast growing and can reach lengths of 10' or longer indoors. In their natural environment, they attach to and climb tree trunks; for a fuller plant and larger leaves, try staking them up on a moss pole or trellis to mimic their natural growth tendency.
To keep your Scindapsus happy and healthy, provide plenty of bright-indirect sunlight and water once the top few inches of soil are dry; like Pothos, they're more sensitive to overwatering than to underwatering.
#4: ZZ Plant
Have you ever wanted a plant that's so pretty, people can hardly believe it's real? If so the ZZ Plant is made for you, since it's often mistaken as fake due to how glorious and shiny it looks as new growth appears.
The ZZ Plant (or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, but who has time to say that?) grows from bulbous roots called rhizomes. These roots retain water for long periods of time and are susceptible to overwatering, so they should be allowed to dry out nearly all the way before watering. They can be grown in sun or shade, though we wouldn't recommend the extremes of either; instead, aim for a medium- to bright-indirect light to keep your ZZ Plant happy.
#5: Ponytail Palm
If you asked us for a list of our all-time favorite houseplants, there's a good chance the Ponytail Palm would be near the top of the list. It's difficult to find a plant that's as adorable as it is easy to care for, but the Ponytail Palm truly checks all of the boxes.
Despite its name, the Ponytail Palm is not a palm at all; it's actually a member of the Agave family and is more closely related to succulents than palms. There are a few varieties of Ponytail Palms, but all of them have thin, curly leaves and a bulbous trunk that retains water and allows you more time in between watering.
Allow your Ponytail to dry out for a couple of weeks at a time and let it soak up plenty of light in between watering. They can tolerate a few hours of direct sun, but too much can burn the leaves; instead, aim for bright-indirect light and only provide full sun in the morning if possible.
#6: Philodendron Cordatum 'Heart Leaf'
There are few plants that transform a space as quickly as the Heart Leaf Philodendron. The large, glossy leaves and fast-growing vines create a jungle vibe that isn't matched by many other plants. If you want a show-stopping plant that isn't afraid to take up space, this may be the one for you.
Philodendrons as a species are typically easygoing, with a few rare exceptions. The Heart Leaf is a very middle-of-the-line plant; it enjoys light, but not too much. It likes to dry out a bit between watering, but not for too long. Aim to provide medium- to bright-indirect light and water when the top few inches of soil are dry. If you notice crispy leaf edges or new leaves that are having trouble unfurling, consider offering a little extra humidity with a humidifier or DIY humidity tray.
#7: Peperomia Obtusifolia
Last but certainly not least on our list of top beginner houseplants is the gorgeous Peperomia Obtusifolia (some call it the Baby Rubber Plant, and we think that's way cuter.) We love the bright white borders on the Obtusifolia Variegata, but there are plenty of other varieties to choose from as well.
If you've ever heard anyone talk about Peperomia, you've probably heard mixed reviews. Some varieties of the species are tricky, but the thick, waxy leaves of the Obtusifolia are significantly more forgiving than those with more delicate leaves; they hang on to water longer, which means less work for you. Allow the soil to dry a few inches before watering.
They're also not too dramatic when it comes to light, though the variegation of our favorite variety does require a little more light than others, so be sure to take that into consideration when deciding which one is best for you.
A few more tips, from one plant person to another:
There is a right way and a wrong way to shop for houseplants.
We always recommend shopping with a small business or local nursery rather than a commercial garden center; you're much more likely to bring home a healthy, pest-free plant that way. Regardless of where you shop, though, be sure to inspect your plants closely before purchasing. If you notice any signs of pests or disease, it's best to put it back and look for something healthier.
When you're just getting started, we recommend limiting yourself to just a few plants with similar care requirements. Give yourself and your plants a chance to adjust to this new relationship, and then you can consider slowly adding more to your collection.
When you do decide to add more to your collection, remember to quarantine your new plants for a month or more. Pests are often difficult to see no matter how closely you inspect before purchasing, and the last thing you want is your new plant spreading hitchhikers to your now-established collection. Keeping them separate for a month or so will give you time to monitor for issues before introducing them to your other plants.
So there you have it. Now you're armed and ready with everything you need to start growing your indoor jungle.
Be sure to share this post with any of your newbie plant-collecting friends, and check back in next week for more tips & tricks for your plant journey!