Griffin, the social media star behind the Instagram account @plantkween, often uses their platform to debunk the idea of the green thumb. “It’s a green muscle. You learn over time,” said Griffin, the assistant director of New York University’s LGBTQ+ Center who also teaches plant education classes through Skillshare. “I don’t think there is an innate skill that a person has to take care of plants. You need to invest time and energy into plants.”
Through their plant journey on Instagram, Griffin wants others to see not only how accessible and fun “plant parenting” is, but also how therapeutic bringing plants into the home can be. “Plants are a wonderful way to de-stress and decrease levels of anxiety,” Griffin said.
Some of the biggest hang-ups people have with their houseplants include buying the wrong plants and tending to them incorrectly.
“The first thing people do wrong is buying a plant based on purely what it looks like rather than a general understanding of what it needs to thrive in their home,” said interior plant designer Lisa Muñoz. “A week or two later, the plant is dead, and then they are on the hunt for another plant. It’s a cyclical thing.”
Through her Brooklyn-based company, Leaf and June, Muñoz curates plants for homes, offices, restaurants and other commercial spaces, picking plants that will both thrive and suit the style of the space.
“There is no set recipe for taking care of plants,” Muñoz said. “You have to just live with your plants and see what they are doing and how they’re doing it. You are acclimating to them as much as they’re acclimating to you.”
We asked these experts to recommend their favorite low-maintenance houseplants and to offer tips for creating an indoor environment where the plants can flourish.
“One of my go-to plants for anything and everyone is a rubber tree,” Muñoz said. “They are super classic in appearance.”
With thick, dark-green leaves, the rubber tree can grow into a tall, beautiful statement piece. The plant is relatively low-maintenance and requires medium to bright indirect sunlight. For the best results, let the plant’s soil dry out almost completely between watering it.
Philodendron Congo Rojo
Long, dark leaves with burgundy undersides give this tropical-looking plant its distinct appearance. These types of philodendrons are easy to care for and can be forgiving if you’re a little late on watering them. They drink a lot of water and prefer bright, indirect light. But Muñoz says they can withstand direct light, too; however, you’ll need to adjust how often you water, because the soil will dry out faster.
“They are super easy to care for, and there is something I just love about them,” Muñoz said. “They have a sprawling nature.”
The philodendron Brasil’s heart-shaped leaves have bright, lime-green streaks and long, meandering tendrils, which make it ideal for hanging or placing on a shelf. “They cascade down very nicely,” Muñoz said.
This philodendron does well in medium to bright indirect light, but it can acclimate to lower light conditions. Water when the first inch or two of soil becomes dry or if you notice limp foliage.
“They are so resilient and easy to grow really fast,” Muñoz said. “Buy one that is small and doesn’t have tendrils. Give it a month, and the plant will be twice as big.”
One of Muñoz’s and Griffin’s favorite houseplants is the snake plant. “It’s structurally tall and narrow, which works if you don’t have space and you want something a little more contained,” Muñoz said.
Griffin loves the snake plant’s unique leaf shape and air-purifying qualities; they have 25 of them in their Brooklyn apartment. The plant is versatile, tolerating an array of conditions, from low to bright light. Snake plants also are drought-tolerant, only needing water every two weeks in warmer months and three to four weeks in colder ones.
“This is one that will be fine with some neglect,” Muñoz said. “Train yourself not to water them. They want to be super dry. When they get floppy, that’s when they have had too much water.”
“This variety of hoya is one of the easiest to take care of,” Muñoz said. When happy, the glossy-leaved plant produces balls of miniature flowers, providing a burst of color and a fun textural element.
Place the hoya in medium to bright indirect light for the best results. Because they are drought-tolerant, let them dry out between waterings.
In the wild, the pothos can grow along the forest floor and climb trees. In the house, it can be trained to climb a bookshelf, or you can let its leafy vines hang from a lofty perch. “If you let them trail up a surface, the leaves will become even larger,” Griffin said.
For healthy growth, Griffin recommends placing the pothos in bright, filtered indirect light, avoiding harsh direct rays. “They can experience sunburn,” Griffin warned.
For watering, it’s best to test the moisture level of the soil by first poking your finger two inches deep. If it’s moist, don’t water. Water weekly during the summer and every two weeks in colder months.
“I’ve never had a ZZ plant die on me,” Griffin said of the Zamioculcas zamiifolia, which requires bright, filtered light and not much water.
Griffin says caring for a ZZ plant is similar to caring for a snake plant. With bulbous roots that store water, this houseplant is drought-resistant. Before watering, check the moisture level of the dirt and let the soil dry out completely. “They can get monstrous,” Griffin said, noting that they can grow to be about three feet tall.
Commonly known as the “Swiss cheese plant” because of the unique cutouts in its broad leaves, the Monstera deliciosa can grow up trees in the wild. In the rainforest, its dotted leaves help it sustain high winds and lots of rain. In the house, this tropical plant requires a bit more care than the snake plant or pothos.
As an epiphyte plant, the Monstera deliciosa gets its nutrients from the air and water in the rainforest. To mimic its natural habitat, Griffin recommends getting a moss pole to encourage the plant’s aerial vines to climb in your home.
The tropical plant thrives in bright indirect light — and sometimes an hour or two of direct light. The monstera enjoys humidity and having its aerial roots spritzed with water, Griffin said. Water weekly during warmer months and every two weeks during cooler months, ensuring the soil is well-drained.
Also called the “mini-monstera,” Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is, in fact, not a monstera, but it looks like a petite version of one with its similar leaf cutouts.
The houseplant thrives in bright indirect light and, much like the philodendron Brasil, requires water when its foliage looks limp or the first inch or two of its soil dries out. You can train these climbers to crawl up walls or to let it hang down from a ledge.
“I don’t really love ferns,” Griffin said, “but this fern I hold near and dear to my heart.” An epiphyte like the Monstera deliciosa, the staghorn fern’s roots attach to tree trunks and branches in tropical forests, and it gets its nutrients from the water and air.
“Mine is in my shower, and she gets a little water every day,” Griffin said. If your fern isn’t in a wet, humid environment, Griffin recommends spritzing the plant’s shield fronds with water to mimic rainfall. Staghorn ferns prefer very bright, filtered indirect light, and Griffin warns against direct sunlight, because it will burn their leaves.