In my early twenties, I was sharing an apartment with a buddy. I asked him why his girlfriend rarely came over.
“She says this place feels scary,” he replied.
I looked around. There was everything a living space needed: couch, coffee table, toilet paper in the bathroom and food in the fridge. But it needed more. It needed color, form, intention. It needed life.
Many young men struggle enough to make their living spaces inviting, hip and personal —the last thing they need is to fuss over houseplants.
But plants create contrast in your living space. They bring some of the untamed wild to your well-organized home. They send a message that you are in touch with nature and responsible enough to keep something alive. Houseplants are the opposite of scary.
Furthermore, many houseplants are very easy to take care of and easy to decorate with.
Simple Steps to Not Kill Your Plants
People ask me about their plants all the time. A typical interaction involves them approaching me in a frantic state, pushing their phone into my face. I am expected to look at a two-inch picture of their plant while they fire off a series of questions:
- Is it getting too much light, not enough light?
- Does it need more water?
- A bigger pot?
- Does it like Mozart or Beethoven better?
First, I ask them to get their phone out of my face. Then I explain that indoor plant care does not require a botany degree. While every plant is different, most indoor plants are hardy and can be kept alive with some simple guidelines.
Give Your Plants a Drink, Not a Bath
The largest killer of houseplants is overwatering. People are quick to bring out the watering can at every sign of a plant problem. In general, do not water until the top 1 inch of soil is dry. This will vary depending on your living space, but I water about once a week in the hot part of the year and once every 2 to 3 weeks in the Winter.
Light: Bright and Indirect
Most houseplants originate in tropical forests where they live under the thick growth of large trees. This is why they can tolerate the low light of our homes. Keep your houseplants in a bright room that gets indirect light. Succulents (aloe vera, jade, barrel cactus, zebra plant) enjoy the more direct light of a sunny window.
Treat Your Plants to Gourmet Soil
Houseplants like a loose, well-draining soil. Do not dig some dirt up from your yard for your houseplants. Buy a “potting mix” from any place that sells plants.
Fertilize With Jon Snow
Fertilize your houseplants twice a year during the growing season (Spring and Summer). I remember to do this by adding fertilizer after the season premier of Game of Thrones and then once again in the season finale. Use an organic all-purpose fertilizer.
Give Photosynthesis a Hand By Cleaning Your Houseplants
In the wild, plants are cleaned by the wind and the rain. Inside, dust builds up on the leaves and can block sunlight. Wipe the leaves off with a damp cloth about once every month or every other month.
Keep in mind that even when you do everything right, your plant may still die. It’s not that your plant didn’t like you, it’s just that shit happens. Try taking your dead plant back to the nursery—many will replace it for free.
11 Houseplants for Every Type of Guy and Home
1. Dragon Plant: Harder to Kill Than Steven Seagal
The Dragon Plant (Dracaena marginata) thrives on neglect. This is the perfect plant for the traveling man or the guy who kills every plant he touches. It is a tall plant with long, pointed leaves that are bordered in red. If you’re going for the industrial aesthetic, try planting the Dragon Plant in a metallic container and placing it in an empty corner of your home.
2. Snake Plant: The Plant to Take to Bed With You
The Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), unlike most plants, continues to produce oxygen at night. This makes it a better bed companion than some. It also goes by the less kind name, mother-in-law’s tongue.
3. Areca Palm: A Plant for the Mai Tai Drinker
The Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) brings a tropical look into your home—a perfect complement to the coconut monkey you brought back from Hawaii. Furthermore, this plant can produce one quart of ambient water every 24 hours—so you not only get the look of the jungle, but the humidity too.
4. Aloe Vera: The Medicine Cabinet
Aloe Vera is a true miracle plant. Its leaves are filled with a gel that has been used to keep skin clear and hydrated, treat sunburn and cuts, lower blood sugar and treat constipation. The ancient Egyptians knew it as the “plant of immortality” and presented it as a funeral gift to pharaohs (but for you it just means less money spent on Neosporin).
5. Barrel Cactus: A Plant for the Lone Cowboy
The Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus) comes from the harsh deserts of Mexico and the American Southwest. Plant it in a concrete or stone container to bring a piece of the desert into the home. The dangerous spikes proudly declare, “I don’t have children and I never plan on it.”
6. Zebra Plant: The Conversation Starter
The Zebra Plant (Haworthia fasciata) is a small succulent plant ringed with white stripes like a certain horse-like animal from Africa. Plant it in a small pot and cover the soil with small, decorative pebbles. Sit back and enjoy the oohs and aahs from anyone who visits.
7. Pothos: Your Bathroom Buddy
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is another plant that is almost impossible to kill. Its fast, invasive growth in certain parts of the tropical world has earned it the nickname, “devil’s ivy.” It can survive in very low light, so it works well in the office or the bathroom. In a pinch, use its soft leaves as toilet paper.
8. Jade Plant: A Plant for the Established Man
The Jade Plant (Crassula argentea) is also known as the money plant. It is possible that if you buy this plant as a young man it may live into old age with you. Get one and train it into a bonsai to add interest to any living space
9. Peace Lily: The Housecleaner
The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) is not going to scrub your toilet but it does clean the air. NASA did a study on the best houseplants for cleaning indoor air pollutants and the Peace Lily topped the list for cleaning formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene—all common household toxins. If that does not convince you, it is also one of the few houseplants that produce large white flowers.
10. Rubber Tree: The Tree in Black
The Rubber Tree’s (Ficus elastic) distinguishing feature is its large black leaves. It works perfectly in a black ceramic pot in the modern home. Those who never grew out of their Goth phase will also find a friend in the Rubber Tree.
11. Fiddle Leaf Fig: What All the Other Houseplants Want to Be
The Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) is the current “in” plant. Its large leaves and tree-like structure have been featured in all of the home design magazines. This plant says you are established and rooted (its size makes it a pain to move). It is popular for its looks but not its sturdiness, so beware: this plant takes a little more know-how to keep healthy.
When you think of manly living spaces, houseplants are probably not the first things to come to mind. You may have described yourself as a ‘brown thumb’ in the past, or you may not know a dandelion from a doorknob. However, I guarantee: there is a plant for you.
Houseplants are easy to care for, show intention in your home design, and, when chosen carefully, can reflect your personality. Furthermore, I am willing to bet that as you feed, water and watch your plants grow, they will become some of your most treasured household items.
Do you have a favorite houseplant not on the list? Share it with us in the comments below.