Share this article


print logo

House plants for the black thumb

Houseplants finish a room like no other knick-knack, throw pillow, or accent lamp. Healthy green leaves complement any color scheme and style, from a Norfolk pine in a woodsy, rustic study to a simple orchid in a minimalist, Zen-like sunroom. They add a touch of life — literally — with foliage that filters the air and brings the outdoors in.

But for people who wouldn’t trust themselves to keep a rock garden alive, the idea of caring for real, living plants can seem daunting. Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, general manager of Urban Roots Garden Center on Buffalo’s West Side, shared some advice on which houseplants might be viable options for folks whose thumbs are more black than green.


This is a huge category containing those little rubbery-looking plants you’ve seen sold everywhere in tiny pots, stone planters, glass bowl terrariums, fairy gardens, and so on. They’ve spiked in popularity over the past two years for several reasons – they’re hearty, cute, come in a huge range of colors (dark green, silvery, maroon) and textures (spikey, fuzzy, button-like), and some even sprout little flowers. Cacti, sedum, hens-n-chicks, jade, and aloe are all examples of succulents.

Air plants

These are the zombies of the plant world because they seemingly subsist on nothing (not even dirt). They’re the wispy plumes of curly, pointed leaves often seen glued into seashell magnets or sitting inside hanging glass globes. All air plants (a.k.a tillandsia) need to survive is a little moisture – just mist or soak them once a week, or hang them in indirect light near a window in a bathroom that hosts frequent, steamy showers.


Dramatic vines of ivy cascading from a hanging planter or trailing down the side of a tall bookcase don’t take an ivy-league education to maintain. This family of plants, which includes a collection of leaf shapes and colors from dark green trident-shaped to white-and-green-streaked teardrops, like their soil on the drier side (which is nice for the forgetful waterer). Ivy can also be grown in rooting vases set in a windowsill or hung from a wall – just get a clipping from a friend and shove the stem in water, where it’ll sprout its own roots.


Clusters of feathery plumes might seem best suited to the shady depths of the woods, but ferns actually make great house plants that don’t need direct sunlight to flourish, and do well in houses with good humidity. They come in a variety of textures, from dark green undulating spears to delicate black stems edged with lacey green leaves

Houseplant lifeline: fertilizer

Most people know that plants need adequate sunlight and water, but it’s easy to forget that they also need food, and without it they wither and die — most plants like to be fertilized twice a year.

Story topics: /

There are no comments - be the first to comment