The cold, dark days of winter can be tough on your mental health. One of the best ways of mitigating the gloom? Brighten up your house or apartment with plants. Houseplants, of course, can be a lot of work. The survival of some species hinges on diligent care—to the point that they can start to feel more like pets than plants. The good news (for those of us without green thumbs) is that there are many houseplants that require only basic care and upkeep.
As winter bears down, we got in touch with Erin Marino, editorial lead at The Sill and a houseplant savant, to get the scoop on some of these beautiful-but-hardy plants. From philodendron to pothos and more, any of the picks below will help you turn your home into a lush refuge this winter.
The Best Low-Effort Houseplants
1. The Snake Plant
If you’ve struggled to keep plants alive in the past, turn your attention to the snake plant, a vibrant, green-and-yellow beauty that is not only tough—it’s NASA-approved.
“The snake plant is famous for having a spot on NASA’s top ten air-filtering plants list,” Marino tells Men’s Journal. “It’s been said to purify indoor air by removing toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. But it’s also popular for being both low-light and drought-tolerant.”
The snake plant is naturally adapted to survive droughts: It only needs to be watered once every few weeks. In fact, the biggest danger with this plant is overwatering it. Marino recommends waiting for the plant’s potting mix to dry out before watering. If you see the leaves wrinkling, that’s also a sign it needs water.
- The snake plant does best in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.
- Water your snake plant every 2 to 3 weeks, allowing the soil to dry out before you water again. You’ll need to water it more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.
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You’ve probably spotted pothos plants on desks and bookshelves, and they’re often placed quite far from the nearest window. There’s a reason for that: This resilient houseplant can survive almost anywhere. The pothos also scores points for being easy to propagate—meaning you can create more of them without buying more.
“I can’t say enough good things about the pothos plant,” Marino says. “It’ll tolerate just about any environment. It’s even sometimes referred to as the ‘cubicle plant’ because of its tolerance to less than ideal conditions like low natural light.”
A great choice for first-time gardeners, pothos has quick-growing vines that can reach up to 10 feet long—ideal for draping over shelves or livening up any spot that’s in need of some green. You can also snip these vines and put them in water to propagate new plants, says Marino. Better yet, pothos plants have also been shown to filter indoor air pollutants.
- Pothos thrives in medium indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light. It’s not suited for intense, direct sun.
- Water your pothos plant every 1 to 2 weeks, allowing the soil to dry out before you water again. You’ll need to water it more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.
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3. ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant doesn’t get thirsty very often because it has built-in water storage compartments called rhizomes. These plants are also low-light tolerant, and they’re a great choice if you’re busy, forgetful, or both.
“Having evolved in arid environments, these plants have developed rhizomes that store water to help them survive droughts in their natural habitat,” says Marino. “They can, and actually prefer to, go weeks without water.”
- The ZZ plant thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light. It’s not suited for intense, direct sun.
- Water your ZZ plant every 2 to 3 weeks, allowing the soil to dry out completely before you water again. Expect to water the plant more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.
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Anthurium is very low-maintenance, but that’s hardly the best thing about it. It’s considered the world’s longest-blooming houseplant, meaning it can add a splash of color to your space pretty much any time.
“Sometimes flowering plants can be trickier to care for, but the anthurium’s blooms aren’t actual flowers—they’re modified, waxy leaves,” says Marino. “Its blooms will show up year-round, and each can last up to eight weeks.”
- This plant thrives in bright indirect light, but can tolerate medium indirect light. Keep it away from direct sun.
- Water your anthurium every 1 to 2 weeks, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. You’ll have to water it more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.
- This plant can also benefit from extra humidity. If you have a humidifier at home, place it nearby.
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The philodendron is one of the most popular houseplants in the world, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not only lush and beautiful; it’s also very simple to care for. Like the pothos, the philodendron is also easy to propagate, meaning you can fill your home with them (as long as you have more pots and potting soil).
“The philodendron is one of our most popular plants,” Marino says. “Its heart-shaped green leaves, incredibly easy-going nature, and quick-growing trailing vines make it a popular pick for beginners and collectors alike.”
- Philodendrons thrive in medium-to-bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.
- Water your philodendron every 1 to 2 weeks, allowing the soil to dry out before you water again. The plant will need to be watered more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.
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