Expert Opinion: Best Plants for Apartment Living
No matter the design style of your apartment, plants fit in everywhere and enhance living spaces by adding color, depth and definition. Plus, as an added benefit, plants also help clean the indoor air and act as focal points. And, whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner, there are options for all of us. So, we asked gardeners, horticulturists and plant experts to share their recommendations for some of the best plants for apartment living.
Decorative Plants for Apartment Living
Some plants steal the show and become the focal point in a room. But, if you have a pet, remember that it’s essential to confirm that the plants you’re considering are safe for your pet, as some plants can be toxic for cats and dogs, especially if they have a tendency to graze on greenery.
Below, our experts share their favorite decorative plants, which you can add to your rental apartment to give it more life:
1. Snake Plant
If you’re not much of a plant person or are simply looking for a low-maintenance option, Snake Plants are for you.
“These low-light-loving plants are actually part of the succulent family and are known for their hardiness,” said Rick Hedrick, co-founder and chief horticultural officer at ShrubBucket. “They will give your apartment some desired greenery without being high-maintenance. If your apartment is especially low light, look for snake plants that are darker green, as these species do better in these conditions. Water your snake plant every two to eight weeks, depending on its soil moisture level.”
Snake Plants are also great air filters, according to Zachary Smith, a certified horticulturist and arborist and founder of Smith’s Pest Management.
“They’re easy to take care of and keep air fresh through their air-purifying properties,” he said. “In fact, they’re so good at purifying air, they’ve been included in NASA’s Clean Air study.”
Even so, despite their reputation for being low-maintenance, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
“When caring for snake plants, yellowing leaves are often the main problem people come across,” said Josh Bateman, founder of Prince Gardening. “The most common reason for yellowing leaves is moisture stress — either too much or too little water. Generally, most plants do best when the soil has a chance to dry out between waterings. This reduces the chance of over-watering, which can lead to more destructive problems, such as root rot. As a good rule of thumb, if the top two inches of soil is completely dry, it should be time to water. Keep in mind, if your plant is anywhere near a heating vent in the winter, moisture loss can be exacerbated. Ensure constant monitoring of soil moisture and also mist the plant leaves on a regular basis to increase humidity.”
2. Monstera Deliciosa
Enjoying a great boost in popularity in recent years, Monstera Deliciosa is one of the most Instagrammable and Pinterest-friendly décor plants out there.
“It is super easy to care for, grows big for mega impact and is easy to propagate, meaning you can get more plants for free or to give away as gifts!” said Rosanna Costello of Hilda, who added that this was her favorite plant.
Monstera Deliciosa is also The Brightly Team’s favorite. They gave us a few pointers on how to care for it:
“It’s beautiful and easy to care for. To keep it happy and healthy, water it every one to two weeks and make sure the soil dries out between waterings. As for light, it prefers bright to medium indirect light, so any sunny spot in your apartment should do the trick.”
3. ZZ Plant
“For apartment-dwellers, I always recommend a ZZ plant” said Brooke, owner of online houseplants shop Outside In. “It’s low-maintenance, easy-going and adaptable to nearly any type of indoor environment (high to low light and humid to dry conditions). The ZZ also doesn’t get stressed as easily as other plants, so if you happen to miss a watering or go through a move, it’ll be just fine.”
Bryan McKenzie, co-founder of Bumper Crop Times, agreed: “This plant has beautiful, meaty leaves that conserve moisture, which lets the plant thrive in almost totally dry soil for up to two weeks. You have to water it moderately just once in 14 days and watch it getting bigger in partial shade. It’s a great option if you’re always busy and tend to forget about things or if you work at home and want a plant that doesn’t take too much time, but still does the job of making you happier.”
4. Parlour Palms
John Valentino, owner of John & Bob’s, recommends an elegant plant like the Parlour Palm.
“One of the best plants for an apartment is the parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans),” he said. “It’s very low-maintenance — you just need to water it about once a week. And, it can survive in low-light areas and small spaces. It doesn’t grow too quickly, either — the parlour palm actually thrives when its roots are confined in a pot, so you only need to re-pot it every two to three years. This means it’s not going to grow too big in your apartment. Plus, it will also purify the air.”
5. Peace Lily
Pol Bishop of Fantastic Gardeners reported that the Peace Lily was a perfect plant for apartment-dwellers.
“My favorite plant for growing inside an apartment has to be the Peace Lily,” he said. “It’s beautiful, easy to look after, and can survive in shady and low-light areas. So, if you’re renting an apartment with not a lot of windows and natural sunlight, this plant is for you. You can grow it in pretty much any room inside your apartment, whether it be the living room, bedroom or even hallway. Just make sure to keep it away from direct sunlight and water it once a week to make it thrive.”
6. Tillandsia Xerographica
A very special addition, the Tillandsia plants are extremely low-maintenance and very decorative. They are also known as air plants because they don’t need soil to survive.
“These are great plants for renters for a few reasons,” said Tina Huffman, horticulturalist and landscape designer at Green House Studio. “They’re so easy to care for. They’re drought-tolerant epiphytes (they naturally grow on branches and rocks), which means they don’t want or need much water. Being a drought-tolerant epiphyte also means they don’t even need soil or a pot! This is great for renters, because you don’t have to worry about your pots/saucers overflowing and causing water damage, making for an unhappy landlord with possible deposit repercussions like you do with most houseplants.”
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering how you can best care for such plants, Huffman gave some advice: “Simply rinse them in the sink every two weeks, but [don’t] soak them because this might cause the plant to rot. When done rinsing, turn them upside down and shake them dry to make sure no water remains sitting in the crown, which can also cause rot eventually.”
What’s more, you can actually turn your Tillandsia Xerographicas into décor pieces.
“They are also great because you can have so much fun styling them,” Huffman added. “As renters, you’re often pretty limited by the changes you’re able to make to your space. Air plants are especially satisfying here since they don’t need soil or a pot, so you can place them anywhere that has well-filtered light. Then, you can style and display them to your heart’s content! I keep some Xerographicas sitting directly on a bookshelf or fireplace mantel, or I like to place them on decorative, catch-all trays; small platters; or bowls. I accessorize them with beads and other décor accents. The possibilities are endless.”
“I really enjoy Pothos as a great indoor plant,” said Heather Yan, founder of gardening and lawn care blog Learn Planting. “It’s easy to care for and doesn’t have very many strict requirements. Pothos is a plant that does well in a wide range of light conditions; isn’t very picky about its soil; and isn’t too water-intensive to take care of. Plus, Pothos grows well from cuttings, so you can propagate your plants and have as many as you like once you’ve got one healthy plant.”
8. Moth Orchids
Gracious and elegant, orchids make for a beautiful addition — especially in a clean and neat design, such as Scandinavian or minimalism. But, if you’re worried that they might be too delicate, Ryan Smith, owner of Ant and Garden Organic Pest Control, recommends moth orchids as a great variety for apartments.
“Moth orchids are very easy to care for,” he said. “They prefer indirect sunlight and grow well in shady areas. When watering, only water the roots and leave the leaves and flowers dry. Moth orchids usually die from overwatering. If well-maintained, your moth orchid can give you beautiful, long-lasting flowers many times in their lifespan.”
Ferns are gorgeous additions for humid spaces, like kitchens and bathrooms. Dan Jones, plant blogger from Terrarium Tribe, recommends the Boston Fern.
“I love the versatility of ferns in terrariums and in the home, so that’s why I’d recommend a variety of Boston Fern to apartment-dwellers,” he said. “They always look so vibrant and dynamic, and the fact [that] they can handle lower light levels means you can be sure there’s a suitable spot for them in any new space — even bathrooms. In fact, especially bathrooms.”
Aromatic & Nutritious Plants to Grow Indoors
Another great idea is to actually grow plants that you can use in your cooking for added fragrance or health benefits. Some of the best plants for apartments, these can enrich any kitchen or balcony, as well as fill the air with pleasant aromas. However, note that some of these can be toxic for pets, so make sure you double check which ones are safe.
Zaid Gallo of 7th Street Candle recommends growing mint.
“It thrives on any apartment balcony or near a window with good light,” he explained. “It smells amazing when you walk by or ruffle the leaves a little. A sprig of fresh mint can jazz up a basic cocktail. Chop some up and toss it in your pasta salad. And, mint comes in so many exciting varieties. Right now, I have peppermint, chocolate mint and orange mint. Once you become more confident in your gardening, you can also learn to propagate your mint — that is, trimming a piece of the plant and using it to grow a brand new plant. The journey never ends!”
2. Sprouts & Microgreens
Very nutritious and easy to cultivate, sprouts and microgreens are increasingly trendy. Ja-ne, author of Sassy Food Ja-ne, explains how to best grow these plants in an apartment:
“They are easy and yummy to eat,” she said. “Have several sprout jars or microgreen trays spread around for a green splash everywhere. Or, place them all together on a tower shelf or counter. Sprouts grow, usually, in glass jars with lids with holes in them for draining. Microgreens grow in little trays. With that, what you can grow is over 100 options to add freshness to your meals.”
Ja-ne also offered some tips for how to get started: “Microgreen trays that have a double layer are the best. The top tray has a few holes with cotton wicks extending to the bottom tray, which holds water. Coconut coir is a clean ‘soil’ to use. Dampen the soil [and] sprinkle about a teaspoon of seeds on top. Spritz with water again. Press into the soil. Cover with a cloth. Spritz twice a day until the sprouts emerge. Once they start to turn green, uncover for two to five days.
“If you rotate small trays, you will never be without these amazing greens. For instance, start a tray, wait a few days and start another tray. Once the first is harvesting, start a third tray. Sprout jars can be anywhere, as they don’t need a lot of light. Some sprouts like onion need amber jars or they’ll turn into mush. Microgreen trays can be placed on any windowsill or on a balcony. Studio apartment with no windows? There are microgreen kits that come with their own grow light. Buy new seed pads and you’ll always have something green and fresh!”
Who knew they would be so easy to grow?
Spices are some of the best plants for apartment living. Blake Harris, head of Vegepod North America, recommends starting with rosemary.
“Start with an easy, low-maintenance plant that allows you to continue your busy life and still see success,” he said. “Consider if you want plants that look pretty, taste good or both! I recommend apartment-renters try their hand at growing rosemary because it’s easy to maintain, the aroma is great and it’s so satisfying to eat something you’ve grown. Before you know it, you’ll be cooking your chicken or steak with fresh rosemary!”
Harris also added some tips on how to care for it: “While you can’t forget to water rosemary, be careful not to overwater it, either! Overwatering is easy to do and, surprisingly, it’s more likely to kill your plant than the lack of water. If the tips of the needle leaves turn brown, it may be due to the roots drowning. Rosemary needs loam soil (a mix of sand, silt and clay), which you can make at home. The soil needs to dry out before watering again. Check this by inserting a wooden dowel into the soil and pulling it out. An easier way to ensure you don’t drown your plants is to use a contained raised garden bed, or at least pots with proper draining holes.”
4. Aloe Vera
“I recommend an Aloe Vera plant for apartment-dwellers,” said Melania Musson, gardening expert with US Insurance Agents. “It prefers indirect light, so you can keep it on your kitchen counter, on a bookshelf or anywhere else out of harsh sunlight. The aloe plant is medicinal and can be used to treat burns, so it serves the double purpose of providing beauty and functionality.”
What’s your favorite plant to grow indoors? Either way, now you’re ready to start decorating your apartment with some of these plants for freshness and timeless beauty.