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Two Springs ago,  I did a post on gardening. This Spring, I thought I’d do one for those who would like a little more green in their life, but aren’t feeling the gardening thing. As an overt plant-o-phile (yes, I did just make that up. The real word is phytophile, but that’s not as fun is it), people have told me on many occasions that they would love to have houseplants to help with air quality but that they kill plants. One person said, “I even killed a cactus!” I didn’t say it, but I thought, “That’s because cacti are picky little divas who die and leave their spiky corpses just to spite you for your lack of catering to their every soil, sun, and water whim.” If you can relate though, no need to despair! I’m pretty sure I can get you past your plant-killer status and to, “Look, it’s still alive!” If I can’t, you have a new bragging point, “I kill plants that even the plant lady said I couldn’t.”

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Don’t be deceived by the promises of the tag on an orchid. Three ice cubes a week, and it will still die on you.

In my experience, people kill plants for one of two reasons: over-watering or under-watering. A good air filter plant for over-waterers is a peace lily. As a bonus, if you don’t water it enough, its leaves droop dramatically to remind you that it’s thirsty, but they perk back up once it’s been watered. Another good one for over-watering is a Pothos. It’s just a forgiving plant. While it doesn’t need a lot of water, if you manage to over water it, it will drip the excess out of its leaves. If your problem is under-watering, spider plants or bamboo are good air filtering plants that should do well for you. Spider plants actually like to be drenched and then left to dry completely before the next drenching, though they’re cool with being watered normally. Bamboo, well, it’s planted in rocks with water up to it’s first section. You can literally just look at the water level. If the water is below the rocks, give it some more.

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This Pothos lives in my son’s room, and whether it gets floods or droughts, it’s happy.

Other easy plants that are not necessarily super filterers are succulents. These look kind of like cacti, but won’t prick you. They are also a lot less picky. Aloe and Jade are great plants for beginners. If you tend to over water, just fill their saucer with water from time to time (under-waterers rejoice). Succulents let you know when they are thirsty by their “leaves” getting thin and a little wrinkled. If the “leaves” look full and round, let it be.

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This aloe is full and round.

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This leaf is thin and wrinkled. A leaf may get this way, but when the whole plant gets a little wrinkled, it’s time to water!

The plants I listed are forgiving when it comes to soil type, but noting the kind of light they like will help them to be happy. I’ve had both peace lilies and bamboo in a sunless room, and they were just fine. Pothos and spider plants can take a variety of light, but prefer more to less. Before you go to get your plant, think of where you are going to put it. Is it a sunny windowsill or a room with no direct light? That can help you make your choice. There will be a little marker in the plant’s dirt that will remind you of what light it likes best.

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Spider plants add a touch of fun along with fresh air.

Now, go out and find your new leafy companion. I leave you only with this warning: Once you know how to take care of them, it’s hard to just have one. You may find yourself in the store looking at a plant near the register that just needs to be sitting in that patch of sun in your spare room. Next thing you know, you are a plant-o-phile.

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Not sure what you did wrong? You can allows get a little device like this to tell you what the plant needs. This plant just came from the store, so I refused to be blamed for it’s unhappy state. 😉

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