Bringing greenery inside the home or office adds a soothing component to the otherwise linear, contrived shapes and textures in the decor. While plants help supply oxygen to the air, they also have been found by NASA to remove certain volatile gases released by building materials, paints and finishes. The "best" indoor plants, as alluded to by Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, are often those that can tolerate the lower light and humidity levels as well as survive with limited attention and fussing over from people.
Amazingly tolerant of low light as well as some direct sunshine, snake plants (Sansevieria spp.), also called mother-in-law-tongues, do not need frequent watering. If you have little space for an indoor plant, snake plants work well since they form tight, upright clumps in their pots.
Silvery-green mottled oval leaves are the attractive hallmark of Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema spp.). The large leaves, which tolerate low light, are easy to dust or remove.
You often see a pothos vine (Epipremnum spp.) for sale in a hanging basket. But you can trim the vine tips to keep it more bushy in its container. Green-leaf as well as variegated-leaf selections exist; they have swirling patterns of yellow or white on their green leaves.
Often decorating the elegant lobbies of the finest hotels, kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) handles the low light and manager who forgets to regularly water. Give this palm some room since its graceful, feathery fronds slightly weep from the stem cluster.
The grass-like leaves arch outward from a central tuft on the spider plant (Chlorophyllum comosum), and often long, pendent stems produce "baby" tufts that look like spiders. Choose a variegated variety for the prettiest foliage.
Perfect for a table top near an eastern window, African violets (Saintpaulia spp.) bear rosettes or fuzzy green leaves and central clusters of flowers nearly year-round.
Wide, strap-like lives that resemble those of corn is the reason this plant is so named. Usually corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) has arching tufts of leaves growing upon slender, upright trunks that have been cut off at varying heights.
If you have small children or pets that like to chew on leaves, avoid the dumbcane (Dieffenbachia spp.). Otherwise, this low-light plant bears huge leaves with ornate patterns of green, cream and yellow.
Succulent leaves and a nearly year-round display of tiny colorful flowers makes the florist kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) a cheerful plant for an office desk or coffee table. To keep it healthy give it moist soil and some daily sunshine.
If nothing else seems to grow in a room's dark corner, try a peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.). Its large, glossy, dark green leaves wilt if soil gets dry, but the white flowers are peaceful and soothing.
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Indoor Plant Care
- Clean Air Gardening: Top Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
- "Houseplants"; The American Horticultural Society; 1980
- Top Producers: The Best Houseplants for Beginners
- "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey, eds.; 2004