A Complete Guide to Common Houseplants & Care Tips

April 6, 2020

My first plant was a $5.99 Hosta Perennial from Walmart my senior year of college. I brought her home, named her Pippa, placed her on a table in my living room and fell instantly in love. Unfortunately, I later discovered that like all perennials, Pippa would die in the winter. It led me to doing some research on future plant purchases and now I have a collection of over 50 houseplants that are alive and thriving (mostly–nobody’s perfect).

Most people are tempted to go to the nearest big box store and buy the prettiest Fiddle Leaf Fig they can find only to have all of its leaves slowly fall off because they are (pardon my french) finicky as hell. If this is you- I can help! I compiled a list of common houseplants and how to care for them (including the coveted Fiddle Leaf Fig). This is my complete guide to houseplants–check it out! 

Please note that I am not an expert, and the care tips I have listed below are based off of my personal experience with owning and growing these plants.

Watering Guide:

Stick your finger in the top inch or two of soil. If your finger comes out damp, there is no need to water. If it’s completely dry, water until you see the excess coming out of the drainage holes of your pot.

In the winter, water everything less frequently. Plants tend to be fairly dormant in the winter and will soak up water slower. (Make sure your pot ALWAYS has drainage holes, or your plant will eventually rot and die).

Yellow leaves = over watering | brown leaves = under-watering

Sunlight Guide:

Low light = place anywhere in a room with a window. Can tolerate shady spots and north facing windows

medium light = can tolerate being 8+ ft. from a window or in a north facing window. Prefers indirect light for a short part of the day

bright light = prefers several hours of direct sunlight, preferably in a south facing window

Snake Plant

Water: monthly | Light: any light conditions

Snake plants have got to be one of the easiest houseplants to care for. They can thrive in any light conditions and prefer a “neglect” approach to watering. You can water once a month to play it safe but I probably water mine every other month in the winter months. Just be sure the soil dries out completely in between watering.

ZZ Plant

Water: monthly | Light: any light conditions

The ZZ Plant is one of my favorites for sure because they are so easy to keep happy. They grow in chutes and can grow fairly quickly in the spring. I water mine probably once a month. However, if they are placed in a sunnier spot you will have to water more frequently.

Pothos Ivy

water: weekly | Light: medium-bright

The Pothos Ivy is probably one of the most common houseplants you will find. they come in many varieties and they love to trail! These are great for any hanging planters, shelves etc. They prefer to be in sunnier spots, which will help them grow faster and encourage larger leaf growth but can also tolerate low light. Their leaves will droop and appear wilted when it’s time to water. Once you give them water they will perk right back up in a few hours!

The Pothos Ivy is also one of the easiest plants to propagate. Cut right below a leaf node, remove the leaves at the bottom and stick it in some water. It should root within a month. When the roots are 1-2 inches long, you can pot it in some soil and have a whole new plant baby!

Small, trailing Pothos Ivy in my living room

Chinese Evergreen

water: monthly | Light: low

Chinese Evergreens are common in office spaces because they prefer lower light conditions and drying out between waterings. Mine is one of my biggest plants and I water it once every month or two and keep it in the corner of my dining room. Easy, happy and carefree!

Chinese Evergreen in my dining room

Hoya

water: weekly | light: medium-bright

Now a Hoya isn’t exactly one plant, it’s a whole species of plants. I have a Hoya Princess and Hoya Queen. While these two look very similar, you can tell them apart by the variegations on their leaves (queen wears a crown and a princess wears a gown). They have thick, waxy leaves that almost feel like succulent leaves. Hoyas tend to trail like an ivy would and they are truly so beautiful.

Cutie little Hoya Queen

Rubber Plant

water: weekly | light: bright

A Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica) is in the same family as the infamous Fiddle Leaf Fig, but is like it’s easier, less temperamental cousin. Keep it in a bright window and water it weekly. It is so satisfying to watch this plant sprout new leaves and see them unfurl from their red casing. These can grow super tall and are very popular for home decor!

My lovely Rubber Plant

Spider Plant

water: weekly | light: medium-bright

The Spider Plant is another easy one. I have one from a plant swap that I water when the soil is dry and watch it grow quickly. Eventually it will sprout smaller spider plant buds at the end of its’ leaves. These can be placed in water or soil and grown as completely new plants! So fun

Spider Plant (baby)

String of Hearts

water: weekly, when soil is dry | light: medium

My current favorite–the String of Hearts. It is breathtaking to me to watch its’ little hearts grow and trail longer every day. These are fast growers and their leaves are shaped like hearts that grow in pairs along their long string-like tendrils (hence the name). Be sure to put your plant somewhere high, because they will be touching the floor in no time! I have moved mine around quite a few times and it doesn’t seem to mind medium-bright light conditions.

Photo from Waitrosegarden.com

Fiddle Leaf Fig

water: weekly | light: bright, indirect light

The coveted Fiddle Leaf Fig *sigh.* She is beautiful, but she’s also very moody. Hear me out, I LOVE my Fiddles. I love them because I work hard to keep them alive and when they are happy and sprouting new leaves it is so satisfying and beautiful to watch! This is not an easy plant, but it’s a fun one. here we go–

When you bring your FLF home, place it in a bright window and leave it alone! They do NOT like being moved. The move to your home should be enough to make a few leaves fall off as it adjusts.

Water your plant weekly by placing it in a tub (or outside) and running filtered water through it until it runs out the drain holes and repeat once more. Once it’s finished draining and the bottom isn’t sitting in water, place it back in the window, dust its’ leaves off with a damp cloth, and rotate your plant a quarter turn so over time, all the leaves will be receiving an even amount of sunlight.

Fiddle Leaf Figs are prone to spider mites, so keep an eye out for any tiny specs moving on the leaves. For any questions you have about your fiddle’s behavior, FiddleLeafFigPlant.com is a great resource to go for answers! They also have a FLF fertilizer that is sold on Amazon and will encourage growth in your plant. Good luck!


I hope you found this guide helpful! I’m always happy to listen to any plant concerns you may have and if you have any plant recommendations- feel free to drop them in the comments! 

If you’re anything like me and have multiple plants throughout your home, pick one day a week to designate as watering day. Go around your home, feel your plant’s soil and if it’s dry, give ‘em a good soak. If the soil is damp, leave them alone until your next watering day. This way, you don’t have to keep up with what needs watered when, you just care for them all the same! In the spring, I fertilize my plants twice a month after I water them. This encourages growth by giving them nutrients they don’t get from water. I use this indoor plant fertilizer for all of my plants except my Fiddles.

My final piece of advice for you isn’t exactly scientific, but I think it really helps.

Talk to your plants.

Yep, like a full blown psycho. My plants are my babies and I talk to them as I care for them. I think it helps me acknowledge that they are living, growing things and it’s my responsibility to keep them happy and healthy. So have fun with it! Good luck, plant parents!

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

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