You see them everywhere these days: in dorm rooms and apartments, condos and offices — even on Instagram. From tiny succulents to large potted palms, indoor plants are back.
According to experts, we’re spending so much time indoors that we’re starved for the company of plants. “With so many people living in apartments, outdoor gardening is not an option,” Mollie Tarte, manager of the Indoor Living department at Swanson’s Nursery, says. “Indoor plants are the answer.”
Finding the foliage
Indoor plant shops are blossoming in Seattle, and many furnishings shops have created sections for indoor plants.
You can pick up plants in the garden department of large grocery and home stores, though their selections may be relatively limited. Used to online shopping and doorstep delivery? Sites like Bloomscape and The Sill ship plants — even enormous ones — so feel free to order the monstera deliciosa of your dreams.
Leland Page, a sales associate at Peace, Love & Happiness Club in Fremont, helps customers select plants that will suit their environments and interests. The plants range from the most basic, such as the familiar pothos and philodendron, to rare collector varieties such as the philodendron Florida Ghost. (The ghost’s leaves emerge pure white, then turn green as they mature.)
“Having plants is like having a library,” Page says. “You are defined not by one plant, but by the collection. When people get into having plants, they are always looking for the next one. We have a waiting list for certain varieties.”
Ready to start with some basics? Page and Tarte have recommendations for a few easy-to-care-for plants that do well in the indirect light found in most Seattle-area apartments in the winter months. Note that if you have pets or children likely to nibble on your plants, you can find plant-by-plant safety information from ASPCA.
“No apartment would be complete without a trailing plant like a cordatum (a type of philodendron) or a pothos,” Page says.
For a humid bathroom, he recommends a fern such as the bird’s nest fern.
Tarte is fond of kalanchoes, small plants ideal for a desk or table, because they come in so many colors (yellow, pink, red and white). She also suggests drought-tolerant bromeliads, whose attractive colored bracts can last for three to five months.
Both plant professionals like the sharp-leafed sanseveria, also called the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. The mid-size plant comes in several color variations as well as the well-known yellow-and-green variety. “A snake plant will tie a room together,” Page says. “It’s like having a hearth.”
Tarte also likes the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), a substantial, upright plant known as a Zanzibar gem.
Care and feeding
Once you’ve chosen a plant, you’ll likely be looking for a decorative container to set it in. Tarte recommends keeping the plant in a plain plastic pot with a tray to catch draining water. This functional plastic assembly can go into a decorative “cachepot.”
Container choices range from inexpensive plastic with a “faux stone” finish to elaborate or whimsical glazed pottery in vivid colors. Vintage midcentury planters by McCoy, in shades of green, brown, and yellow are available on Etsy or Chairish. For a more natural look, try wooden planters or large, sturdy baskets.
Once at home in a pot, most basic houseplants will thrive given plenty of indirect light, decent humidity, warm indoor temperatures, and regular, attentive watering.
“Overwatering is the biggest mistake we see when people bring in a plant,” Page says. “It can cause the roots to rot.”
He says that successful plant owners learn by observation what a plant needs in terms of water and light. “You’re creating a relationship,” he says. “People get a great sense of satisfaction when they’ve mastered it entirely.”