The best indoor plants for beginners are ones that are low maintenance and only require easily attainable equipment such as regular potting soil, or no soil at all. Some indoor planters come in ready-made kits that makes it very easy to get started with having plants in your home. If you are like me, you like to jump into things with both feet without first having to run to 50 different stores and learn an entirely new subject before starting on a new hobby or project.
Lucky Bamboo – Best Indoor Plants for Cleanliness
Lucky bamboo is one type of plant that generally does not require potting soil. Ironically Lucky Bamboo isn’t really bamboo, but is a species of Dracaena called “Dracaena braunii” or also “Dracaena sanderiana” that grows in the tropical rainforests of west Africa. Under ideal conditions the plant will grow to 1.5 meters (5 ft) tall. In some ways these plants resemble miniature Palm Plants (also known as Bamboo Palm).
Caring for Lucky Bamboo
Figure 1: Three Potted Lucky Bamboo
Lucky Bamboo plants are very easy to care for but it is also possible to kill them with enough neglect or unsuitable conditions. It is most commonly found in pots like the ones pictured here, and rather than growing in potting soil the roots are usually covered with stones and water. Other plants that can grow without soil are Spider Plants and Orchids, but there is much more involved with orchid care than the Lucky Bamboo. Lucky Bamboo grows slowly, but it’s important to maintain a 5 cm (2 in) depth of water, and be sure to use distilled water for best results. Replace the water in the plant pot every two weeks. Also, there are special fertilizers made for Lucky Bamboo.
Lucky Bamboo is a great plant for an office environment because it’s very clean. Since there are no holes or potting soil with most of the plants, there’s very little cause for messes on desks. Similar to a topiary, it is possible to braid the stalk as they grow to make the plant more ornamental. Also, it thrives in fluorescent light. If you have it at home or near a window, make sure that it is not in direct sunlight, as the sun will scorch the leaves. Keep the plant away from drafts and the direct path of air vents as the changes in temperature can cause problems.
Succulents – Best Indoor Plants for Living With Neglect
Succulents are a class of plant that thrives in dry climates and are some of the best indoor plants for beginners because they can withstand a certain amount of neglect. In fact, a person who is overly attentive is more likely to kill succulent plants than one who is neglectful. They tend to hoard water within their stems, leaves and trunks and require little active care. As with any plant, over-watering will kill a succulent, but the rot will start sooner with a succulent than with a plant that requires frequent watering. An example of a succulent is the common cactus. Figure 2 shows a wide variety of succulents and some of the range of colors and shapes that they come in.
Figure 2: Mixed Succulents
Caring for Succulents
Many varieties of succulents cannot tolerate full direct sunlight. If in doubt, opt for bright, indirect light to avoid burning your plant. While most of the year your succulent plants can go long periods of time without water, in the warm season they go through a growth spurt and need more water than the rest of the time. During the growth season, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the soil is dry and then water it. A little more neglect is acceptable during the cooler seasons, but too much neglect will kill your plant, so do keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not getting too dry. If the soil looks like it’s rotting and smells sour, then you are watering your plant too frequently. Also, if the base of the plant turns brown, then it is being over-watered and is beginning to rot. Succulents prefer sandy soil with good drainage, so be sure to use flower pots with drainage holes, otherwise it is more likely that your plant will rot.
Cyclamen – One of the Best Indoor Plants for Colors
While some Succulent plants do flower, the main attraction to both Lucky Bamboo and Succulents is their foliage. Cyclamen is one of the best indoor plants for beginners in that it has nice foliage, colorful flowers, and requires very basic plant health care, unlike Roses. Cyclamen can be grown in outdoor planters in moderate climates, but is commonly sold as an indoor plant and can liven up an indoor garden, or indoor plant stands. The flowers tend to come in shades of pink, red or white and the leaves tend to be heart shaped, as shown in Figure 3. Be cautious with Cyclamen around children and pets because it is a poisonous plant. If that is a concern, then another choice of beautiful, and relatively easy, flowering plants are African Violets.
Figure 3: Potted Cyclamen
Caring for Cyclamen
Much like succulents, Cyclamen tends to have a growth season and a dormant season. These flowering plants look gorgeous on most indoor plant stands, and their vivid colors bring cheer to a home. During the growth season (when leaves are present), it is best to let the soil dry between waterings, and during the dormant season (when the flowers fade) it can dry out for two to three months. If the plant gets too much water during the dormant season, the tuberous base can rot.
Cyclamen prefers ordinary potting soil, high humidity (especially during winter), low-nitrogen fertilizer, and (like most the plants featured on this page) bright, indirect light.
Sources and Citations
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracaena_braunii – research source
http://apairandasparediy.com/2013/02/how-to-care-for-your-succulents.html – research source
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulent_plant – research source
http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h145cyclamen.html – research source
http://gardening.about.com/od/houseplants/a/Cyclamen.htm – research source