The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Foolproof houseplants for every window in your apartment

Photos by Amy King

There’s no such thing as bad plant parenting — just bad plant lighting. Often, people blame failing houseplants on their brown thumbs, when in reality it’s because the greens aren’t getting enough — or are getting too much — sunlight. “There’s a plant for every spot in your apartment. You just have to know where to put it,” says Tom Hammond, a D.C.-based garden designer and employee at Ginkgo Gardens in Capitol Hill.

Yes, a fresh set of curtains or a new carpet will easily brighten up your place — and will never die. Still, it’s worth introducing greenery. “Houseplants bring life to a space,” Hammond says. “You feel a sense of satisfaction from getting something to grow and do well.”

We rounded up a variety of plants that will thrive based on which direction your windows face.

North-facing and basements

Because windows with northern exposure get the least amount of sunlight throughout the day, you have better chances of keeping a goldfish alive than most plants. Enter the low-maintenance ZZ plant. Its waxy leaves don’t need much sunlight — and require only  weekly water — to survive.


If you have the luxury of a sunny south-facing window, consider succulents and cacti. The fleshy plants are native to the desert, where they sunbathe all day and get spurts of heavy rain. Water them thoroughly but rarely — about twice a month. Aloe is particularly resilient and doubles as a salve for cuts and burns.


East-facing windows get naturally diffused light, which is comfortable for most plants. Your options are many, though consider the so-hot-right-now fiddle leaf fig. Its ruffled leaves fill up voids in your apartment while the branches add height. (The one at left is a bit larger than the typical plant.)


Western exposure gets slightly more intense sunlight than east-facing windows, so it tends to be warmer. Opt for a plant comfortable with light and heat, such as a rubber plant. The India-born bush also loves humid environments, so keep its soil consistently moist and mist the leaves often.

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