4 Gateway House Plants
I promise you can’t kill
My mom is a Master Gardener, encyclopedia of all plants. If I’m out and about and I text her a photo of a cool plant, she’ll respond right away with the genus and species. Half the time she says she has one at the house!
I’m so grateful for my mom’s extensive plant knowledge. And I’ll be honest…I do not believe that I inherited any of her green thumb. It may seem like it because I have so many little plant babies in our new home, but it’s been a few long years of trial and error. I’ve laid a lot of my lil babies to rest simply from not getting to know them well enough.
I do get asked – more frequently than makes sense to me – about my house plants. While I don’t feel that I have a whole lot of knowledge to bestow on my less green friends, I do want to help. I really believe that house plants make you happy! To me, they really are my little babies, and I water them and give them sunshine to make them grow! In return they provide me fresh clean air and smiles when I see them in the morning.
01. Golden Pothos Ivy
This was my first house plant! I bought it for $15 at a farmers market last year, and since then my big mama ivy has given me SIX more baby ivy plants! Honestly, it’s probably been more considering I give her lil babies away as presents sometimes!
My big mama ivy has lived in so many different conditions. In our old dark apartment, she lived hanging up by our (only light source) sliding glass door. Then when I thought she wasn’t happy I put her outside in the totally covered shade outside our door. When we moved, I kept her in a similar spot right outside our front door. That was definitely too hot and sunny for her! Now she’s living on top of the piano, across from some huge windows, and loving her life!!
This is my number one gateway plant because ivy plants are SO easy to propagate! I think they’re the best way to learn what makes plants grow and happy because they’re so forgiving! I think I’ve propagated at least 15 little sprigs off of this one mama alone. Sometimes I’ll put just one strand by itself as a gift (especially if it’s long!) or I’ll plant a handful of sprigs into one pot.
Variation – Silver pothos ivy. This guy had a harder time in the intense darkness that was our 600 square foot apartment. They were happier outside in the shade, but now that we’ve moved they’re really happy in a bright window-sill! I love these guys because while they crawl just like the golden pothos, their deep dark green is so pretty and unique! Plus they do have a little shimmer, hence the name! 🙂
Other Variation – Marble Queen ivy! This guy had a similar time in the dark apartment. It survived but didn’t grow a new leaf for 2 years. Now he’s so happy in front of the window! I love the pattern these leaves make.
02. Sansevierias: aka Snake Plants!
Ahh snake plants. Probably the most instagrammable little guys. They just look so darn good in a West Elm planter.
I’m not ashamed to admit I have not always had an easy time with snake plants. They were hard for me to figure out. The good news is, they’re also very forgiving! So they’re an easy plant to learn on! 🙂
I have 2 favorite things about snake plants. First, they come in so many varieties! Anything that says “Sansevieria _” is a type of snake plant. The standard one can sometimes be called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. I also have a cylindrical variety but I’m not sure what it’s called (I lovingly call this one the Chunky Snake Plant).
They have Whale Fin ones too which are SO cool! They come in different colors! I used to have the “black gold” kind but it has joined the great garden in the sky.
My second favorite thing is they are so fun and easy to propagate!!! Unlike ivy, where you have to be a little more careful, you can just chop a leaf of a snake plant wherever you’d like! As long as you’ve got 2-3 inches (at least!) just snip away! You can leave the leaf out for 1-2 days to let it callus at the end. Then either plant it in soil or put it in water and wait!
I will warn you: that they take a loooong time to start growing roots. I’ve found that water propagation works quicker. My little guys in soil took a year to grow roots! But I love the way long ones look in a vase!
Just consider what you’d remember to do more often – change out water in a vase, or water a pot? Then choose the easier one for you 🙂
Snake plants also make little babies off of the big mama root underneath the soil! This is a little more complicated and the first time I did it I damaged the mama root a little ): But when you do it this way, you have an already-made plant!!!! Here’s a helpful youtube tutorial on both ways to propagate!
03. Panda Plants
Aka Kalanchoe Tomentosa. These guys are so cute and fuzzy, and so easy to propagate! They’re my favorite house plants to give away!! Technically they’re succulents, so it’s important to not overwater. But in my experience, they are not as temperamental as some succulents can be!
They’re also easy to propagate! Just like snake plants, they shoot off new babies underneath. You can also trim them easily !
I’ve had this guy for around the same amount of time as my big mama ivy. It started out as a wee little baby, just under 2 feet tall! And now look at him! He’s so tall he can barely stand up unsupported! I’ve had him both inside by a big window and outside and he’s been happy both places! Outside on our porch at our apartment, he got rained on more times than I’d like to admit. Like..totally soaked. And he’s still doing okay!!
The best advice my mom has given me is that even though succulents and cacti like a dry climate, they still need to be watered!
My rule of thumb
For any and all house plants: remember to care for them but learn to give them their space! Overwatering is easier than you think. I try to water all of my babies (except for the succulents and the cacti) once a week! Every Sunday I check if each plant needs water by feeling the soil with my finger 2 inches down. If it’s totally dry, it’s time for watering! I water just enough to soak the whole top surface of the pot (about 3-4 seconds) and move on to the next baby.
Here are a couple of trouble shooting tips if your house plants are unhappy:
Drainage: Make sure your pot has either a drainage hole at the bottom or you have rocks at the bottom of a solid pot. You need to have drainage of some sort or else you might get root rot! This has been the number one thing that’s accidentally killed my house plants.
Sunshine: A no-brainer. But still! None of my plants were all that happy in our dark, one window’d apartment. If you have a house plant that’s looking a little sad, try putting it in the sunniest spot for a few days to see if he’ll perk up. Ivys, snake plants, and ZZ plants are all okay to live in pretty low light. But succulents, cacti, and sedums need basically full sun!
Do you have a favorite house plant? I’m always looking to add more and more house plants! Tell me in the comments below!