Indoor plants bring a small bit of the natural world into our homes and offices. The best indoor plant depends on your needs. Some people prefer flowering, showy plants while others want their indoor foliage to serve a practical purpose. Choose a plant to suit your wants, needs and lifestyle.
Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), also known as devil's ivy, is a common houseplant native to southeast Asia. Considered a liana, or climbing plant, golden pothos has rich, green leaves with white, yellow or light green stripes. Reaching heights of 2 feet indoors, golden pothos prefers medium light or indirect sunlight. Drought tolerant, this plant should only be watered when the soil begins to feel dry to the touch. The golden pothos plant was identified by the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study as removing formaldehyde from indoor environments, an added bonus to health-conscious gardeners.
The ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) isn't a real palm. In fact, the ponytail palm is a native Mexican plant in the same plant family as the lily of the valley plant. Tolerant of drought, the ponytail palm is reputed to survive up to a year between waterings. It loves full sun, but tolerates light shade. It has a large, stout trunk with thin, leathery leaves. The ponytail palm grows up to six feet in height under optimal conditions. The soil surrounding the ponytail palm should be allowed to dry completely before watering, making this the best houseplant for those who forget to water their indoor plants.
The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), also known simply as the ficus tree, is a versatile houseplant native to Asia. Tolerant of all lighting conditions and all soil types, the only thing this plant truly desires is constantly moist soil and protection from drafts. Characterized by rapidly growing roots and weeping, drooping branches, the weeping fig is a great plant for those who like eye-catching but elegant plants. Be forewarned, the weeping fig is capable of growing to 100 feet tall and may outgrow its indoor habitat. Frequent pruning can delay growth to an extent, but the plant may need to be replaced when it becomes too large.
The oddly named moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) are native to Asia and Australia. Their name is said to come from the fact that the petals on some blooms resemble moths in flight. Available in hues from white to pink to bright red and everything in between, the moth orchid is a dramatic, showy flower that blooms from spring to fall. It prefers bright but indirect sunlight and moderately moist soil. The moth orchid is also ranked as an air purifying plant in the NASA study and is reputed to remove the chemicals xylene and toluene from indoor air.