Life-long plant whisperer Caroline Lange shares her love for houseplants--and which are easiest to care for.
Some of my plants at home in Brooklyn
Part of my affair with houseplants comes, I'm sure, from my mother, a landscape designer whose own houseplants trail their leafy arms along two thirds of the surfaces of the house I grew up in. She nurtures a wide range: herbs in neat pots, fuzzy African violets, amaryllis, Christmas cacti, philodendrons drippy with fat leaves.
Just a few of mother's plants
My own collection began as a way to remedy the starkness of my college dorm rooms. Plants are mostly cheap, widely accessible, and very, very green -- which is a refreshing contrast to dingy linoleum tiles, standard-issue pine dorm furniture, and college in New York. Plants are a happy reminder of the outside when your daily world is the intersection of the very gray Venn Diagram of college and New York.
My plants are from all over -- some gifts, but mostly collected one by one from IKEA, plant stores, street fairs, the farmers market, or even the grocery store. I've never spent more than $10 on one, and yet they're the things that most make my home feel like home, whether in a dorm or in the apartment where I live now. Smaller plants fill up empty shelves and windowsills, while larger ones will make an empty corner lush. They also soften sharp corners, and make a space feel lived in and loved. All you need is a little bit of light.
Most of my plants crammed onto the one windowsill in my dorm room
Work on your green thumb with these inexpensive starter plants:
- Succulents, aloe, and cacti: Keep them in a sunny spot and water them thoroughly -- but only when the soil is completely dry, every week and a half or so.
- Philodendrons: These only need partial sun (and are even happy in a room without a lot of light, like my current bedroom), and are very forgiving if you forget to water them for a while. But try to water weekly -- they'll perk right back up.
- Snake plants: Similarly forgiving, snake plants (also called mother-in-law's tongue plant) only need a little water. Let them dry out between waterings and keep them in the sun.
- Ferns: These like partial sun and a lot of moisture, so the bathroom is a good place for these guys if it has a window. Water often -- at least once a week.
- Spider plants: Spider plants grow quickly and very happily in partial or full sunlight, watered once a week. Like philodendrons, the plants will go limp when thirsty but will spring back with water.
- Bamboo: It is nearly impossible to kill them. Happy in shade or sun, all they really need is a lot of water -- keep their roots wet at all times.
Photos by Caroline Lange.