The Best Houseplant for Brown Thumbs

I'm just going to put this out there first: I am a green thumb. If I put the effort in, it seems that I can grow any variety of plant without too great an effort. Keeping plants in the house has many benefits, not only for your decor, but they do help to keep air clean and improve overall health. Yes, there's some science behind that claim as well; plants can help reduce stress, make you feel better in general, while improving your ability to concentrate.

I recently passed some advice on to a friend and it has inspired this blog post.

What kind of plant should you get if you are a brown thumb?

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Now, I don't entirely believe anyone is a "brown thumb" (or a green thumb for that matter). I believe that taking care of plants is a learning curve like anything else, and until you have some experience with it, you can fail miserably. The first mistake I think most people make is using too much water; when the plant doesn't seem to be doing well, panic sets in and since all most people know how to do is water their plants, they go overboard and eventually drown the poor thing.

In this blog post I don't intend to give a complete course on keeping houseplants alive; there are too many varieties to profile here, and there's a houseplant that is right for every house and windowsill.

In this post I'm going to profile a single fool-proof plant variety that even the brownest of thumbs can maintain; the sansevieria trifasciata.

That name is difficult to pronounce so let's use it's common name, the snake plant, or Mother-in-Law's Tongue.
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The snake plant is a tropical variety native to West Africa from Nigeria east to the Congo. It is easy to find in stores in North America as they are often brought in with flats of various tropical plants in 11" pots. They are quite affordable to purchase and to me appear like over-sized blades of grass. In that sense, they are quite contemporary and stylish.

If you purchase a snake plant in a simple plastic pot, you will want to add a nice heavy pot as this plant can grow quite tall. Be sure to pick one that has drainage holes and a tray, allowing excess water to drain away.

A simple potting soil will do. If you prefer a more streamlined look, you can pot the snake plant directly into a planter with no hole at the bottom, but be sure to line the first two inches of the pot with pebbles and rocks, or even pieces of a broken pot, to allow the plant to drain properly.

The reason I recommend this plant is because it is virtually impossible to kill. The snake plant is incredibly tolerable to low light levels, so it can be placed in a room with no windows and only occasional lighting, such as a basement or bathroom. Of course It also has a very low water requirement, and in the winter months, only needs to be watered every couple of months. Like many plants, it will rot if over-watered, but that is easy enough to avoid. Just give it a half cup of water at a time, and no more. It will survive beautifully.

If you're really concerned about how much to water a plant, try a self-watering planter, which will take all the mystery out of it. Pictured at left is one I love for it's simple contemporary style. (Click the image to view on Amazon.)

I love that the snake plant is architectural and simple, it doesn't shed, and is completely care-free. But what makes it even more awesome? A study by NASA found that it is one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality by passively absorbing toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.

Happy planting!
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tush said...

Well explained M's Green Thumb! What herbs would you recommend growing indoors?

Jacquie Severs said...

Thank you! Many herbs grow well indoors provided you have ample sunlight and a warm location. For that reason, in Canada especially it can be harder to keep your herbs alive in the winter months. I have done well with rosemary, parsley, and basil, though I find if you buy them from a greenhouse they will live much longer than if you buy them from the grocery store. I think the basil plants in the produce section are forced with fertilizers to be very bushy and full, but that makes them harder to maintain over a longer period.