Healthy Houseplants
Photos by Bonnie Helander

The houseplant movement has taken off since the pandemic forced people to nest at home. Beautiful greenery not only can transform your outside landscape, but can provide a healthy and lush look in your home as well. Interior plants are portable and can be placed wherever you have enough filtered light. In addition, they clean the air of chemicals, boost air quality, reduce dust, and lower stress levels. Get rid of those dust collecting faux plants, and “go green” with healthy houseplants.

Popular and trending houseplants are succulents, tropicals, and terrarium plants. Prized for their unusual shapes, sizes, textures and color, succulents store moisture in their stems, are drought-tolerant, and need good light. Tropicals need tropical conditions (more water and humidity) to thrive. Terrarium plants (grown in a glass jar) are petite tropical plants that respond to high humidity and low light conditions.

Wendy Barnes, Retail Manager at The Gardens Flintwood in Fayetteville, is passionate about houseplants. “It’s exciting to see young families and a new generation discovering (sometimes remembering) the joy of caring for plants. People are finding comfort in gardening and tending to houseplants. Houseplants are often more accessible than outdoor gardens. Nurturing plants and seeing them grow is very rewarding.” Some of Wendy’s favorite houseplants include the prayer plant (Calathea), prized for its patterned foliage, swiss cheese plant (Monstera) for its lacy, exotic leaves and Pothos, known as “the friendship plant” because it is easy to grow and propagate by clippings to give to friends.

Bryan McBrien, owner of the charming, new plant shop, Green p.s.., in the upscale town of Trilith, across from Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, reflects on the heightened interest in interior plants: “I think with people spending more time at home, not only do they want to accent their homes with beautiful, healthy plants, but they are also seeking the opportunity to assist in the growth and care of their own plant baby. We have been seeing a fair amount of newbies, but also more and more people wanting more challenging plants. They seem to be drawn to the more difficult varieties, the Stromanthe triostar (a member of the prayer plant family), which can be complicated, or even some of the alocasias like the Frydek (a.k.a. Green Velvet).” Brian’s assistant, Kate Schwarz, loves the tropical starfish snake plant (Sansevieria cylindrica) because it has great structure and can take low light.

My favorite houseplants are any variety of succulent, including the lovely cascading string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). Another go-to houseplant I enjoy is Bromeliad with its spiky foliage and colorful flowers.

How to Care for Interior Plants:


Tropical interior plants appreciate day-time temperatures between 65-75 degrees, with humidity between 40-50 percent. Since most homes don’t have a high humidity level in the winter, you can increase humidity by grouping plants together in one area. Place saucers filled with pebbles and water under the bottom of each plant’s pot, being careful to keep the pot above the water line. Misting tropical plants throughout the day can have some limited benefit.


Lighting is a key element for healthy plants. If you don’t have a sunroom or greenhouse, it is difficult to provide sufficient light levels in the winter for plants that require bright light. Some of the plants with high light requirements are: geranium, hibiscus, wax begonia, cactus, coleus, jade, English ivy, weeping fig, and schefflera. Try to place these plants near windows with a western or southern exposure.


Plants that need filtered light include: African violet, most ferns, bromeliad, Christmas cactus, dracaena, orchid, and spider plant. Plants that need low levels of light include: cast iron plant, maidenhair fern, fuschia, and pothos.


Houseplants do not need much watering during the winter. More plants decline from over-watering than under-watering. Use water that is room temperature and keep water off the leaves. Most plants can be watered when the soil is almost dry to an inch deep. Ferns need a consistent moist soil environment. Succulents only need to be watered when the potting mixture is completely dry. When you determine it is time to water, water deeply until water is draining out of the drain hole into the saucer below. For best results, check the watering needs of your specific plant.