Written by Edward Harris
As I’m writing this, it’s January here in Zone 6, Dayton, Ohio. One thing that helps me get through the long winters is the year-round plants I grow indoors. Houseplants are just good — they’re good for the air, they’re good for your physical health, and they’re good for your mental health. Seriously, everyone should have houseplants.
One thing that can hold people back from turning their homes into verdant sanctuaries from unforgiving winters is the availability of good light. Even the most opulent homes only have so many windowsills, and only so many of those get enough light for plants that require bright, direct sunshine. Now, all plants need some light. They use it to drive the complicated chemical reactions that they use to pull nutrients from the soil and build new growth like the fascinating little natural machines that they are.
Luckily for us, there are some plants that don’t need nearly as much light as others to do their thing. Here are some to consider.
ZZ Plant: A great houseplant for beginners
Quite possibly the single best houseplant for beginners, the ZZ Plant (aka Zanzibar Gem) has a dual nature as both a flowering deciduous plant, and succulent. The dark green, waxy leaves of the ZZ Plant have especially thick walls, and the water they retain can account for over 90% of their total weight.
Because of this, and the fact that the roots are a succulent tuber, these super tough plants can survive without watering for months at a time. In fact, their greatest pitfall is that over-loving them with water can cause the tuber to rot, doing serious damage to the plant.
Why we love the ZZ Plant: they’re effective air cleaners, and not toxic to pets or people, and they are nearly indestructible (Thus, one of their other common names, Eternity Plant). Taking all this into account, it’s easy to see why they’re so popular with those wishing to dip a toe into the indoor plant life, or just to add a dependable standby for the more experienced.
Dieffenbachia: A resilient, fast grower
Also known as Dumb Cane or Cast Iron Plant, this leafy foliar is a popular houseplant all over the world due to its resilience in the face of less-than-ideal lighting conditions.
Dieffenbachia requires consistent watering and benefits from regular application of houseplant-specific fertilizer, as it grows constantly.
Older leaves will periodically shrivel up and fall off, but this makes way for new leaves to spread large and wide (as much as 12” long), which it will continue to do as long as you keep alive, reaching heights of 5 feet or more.
Rumors persist that this plant is poisonous, but the fact is that if your pets were to sample it, they’d find it unpleasant, and likely leave it alone long before the effects did them any harm, still, it’s best to keep it out of reach.
Pothos: Green cascades, even in low light
Scientific name Epipremnum aureum, the humble Pothos is another houseplant fixture. Alternately known as Hunter’s Robe, Devil’s Ivy, or Money Plant (though this can refer to a few different plants), Pothos make great houseplants because they are very difficult to kill and tend to remain green, even in complete darkness.
This vining plant can make a great addition to a shelf or cabinet top because the long vines will cascade over the edges of the container and hang down to provide some nice green framing for the areas below, and let’s be honest, once your houseplants are hanging down off of things, you really start to get a sense of utilizing the available space.
This one isn’t good for your pets though, so it’s best to keep these in places where the cats can’t get to them. Luckily, they’ll do well just about anywhere.
Spider Plant: A great propagator
This is a fun one. Spider Plants are an extremely popular houseplant, available in a broad range of cultivars, growing long, narrow leaves in a wide spectrum of variegated colorations. What makes this plant so interesting is its tendency to send out long stems (up to 36”) that terminate in a little baby Spiderette. These plantlets are the reason it’s also known as Airplane Plant, or Hen-And-Chickens.
These plantlets can be pruned from the mother plant, and propagate directly into soil. Once the new plant establishes roots, they make great gifts, or more draftees into your own army of indoor flora.
Spider Plants can tolerate a significant amount of neglect, as they actually do best when allowed to dry out between waterings. Perhaps best of all, this is one houseplant that qualifies as non-toxic to pets, though this means they will probably still need to be protected from animal snack attacks.
Snake Plant: A great houseplant for bedrooms
Sansevieria trifasciata is one species of the genus Sansevieria which includes a number of other species that make great indoor plants. The Snake Plant, aka Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, or Bowstring Hemp (as it’s fibers were once used to make bow strings), is a great candidate for your indoor garden. Why? It’s happy in low light and requires very little watering.
Snake Plants are so low maintenance that, during winter, they may need water as rarely as once a month. While they aren’t air filtration powerhouses, per se, they do eliminate a number of harmful compounds from indoor air, and have the benefit of being able to do this trick, even in the dark. This makes them great for bedrooms.
They are, however, not good for animals, causing stomach upset and frequently vomiting when eaten, so it’s a good thing that they’ll do well in rooms where the door stays closed, or tucked away where the natural light is filtered or limited.
The Best Houseplants For Dayton, Ohio Gardeners
A houseplant is a living thing that you bring into your home to bring you joy, almost like a pet, but lower maintenance. It’s important to choose plants that you feel personally attracted to, but also to choose ones that you feel confident that you can take care of and allow to thrive.
Generally, the best thing to do is to ask an expert, like the professional garden experts here at Stockslager’s Greenhouse & Garden Center. We love plants, and we love to help you develop healthy gardens, whether out in your yard or in your home.