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  • Dana Tutela

How to Group Houseplants by Care Requirements

Updated: Jan 25

Group your houseplants by their care requirements and watch them thrive!

maidenhair fern on black woodstove

Houseplants are more than interior decorations. They help us out intellectually, physically and emotionally. Studies show that live houseplants in classrooms, office spaces and hospitals aid the people who interact with them. Students perform better on tests and tasks. Employees show greater job satisfaction. Patients heal and recover faster. I've also read that horticulture therapy is used to treat patients who suffer from anxiety and depression. The simple task of repotting a plant can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Not to mention, they really do add that finishing touch to interior decorating.

The National Institute of Health details the benefits of houseplants in Effects of Indoor Plants on Human Functions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses.

person holding Boston fern in front of them

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We know they take care of us, but how do we take care of them? Raise your hand if you think you have a black thumb (or maybe give a thumbs up). That's okay! I have developed a plan that will make owning houseplants easier and more rewarding.

My latest visit to the nursery resulted in the addition of two houseplants: an anthurium and a cyclamen. What can I say? Valentine’s Day is coming up and I fell for the pink heart shaped leaves and blooms. However, I neglected to look up their care requirements until I got home. After a quick Google search, I not only learned that they are both different in needs, I realized that I essentially was treating all of my houseplants the same. Place near a window. Water on Monday. Repot when they look too big for their container. Feed once a month. Wrong! Some of my plants actually want to be dried out periodically. Some need humidity. Others thrive in low indirect light. Apparently one wants to be crammed into a tiny pot. I had no idea what I was doing and my stress level was definitely not lowering!

cyclamen plant next to bowl of soil

That's when it hit me. I garden outside according to my USDA zone, my frost dates, my sunlight hours and soil conditions. I've learned over the years what my outdoor plants need to thrive, but in the beginning I relied upon the tags in the plant for guidance. I need to group my houseplants based on their care requirements.

plant tags with care information

I would never plant heat loving annuals in the shade, and the plant tag usually says so right on it with the yellow full sun icon. My houseplants don't have plant tags with easy to follow icons like this which would have been helpful for inside my house. At the same time, who wants big plastic plant tags staked in their delicate orchid?

This is the plan I devised to help organize my houseplants and develop 'zones' in my house to make sure everyone is receiving the proper care.

Step 1: Make a List of the Houseplants

woman at computer

Begin by creating a record of every houseplant in your home. I'm a former teacher and index cards work for my hands-on organizer brain. You could also use post it notes, a gardening journal or make a spreadsheet if you're tech savvy.

*Ginger Tip: If you need help identifying your plant and have an iPhone, take a photo of it. Then tap the 'i' and 'Look Up Plant' to identify it.

Step 2: Identify Each Plant's Care Requirements

Every plant requires a certain level of sunlight, water, food and humidity. Label each plant's card according to those needs. I have found that understanding the plant's native origin to be helpful in this part of identification. Is this plant originally from South Africa? Asia? South America? Where does it grow naturally and what is the climate there?

In my research for this post, I found a well organized and user-friendly website that allows you to search by houseplant names alphabetically and download their care requirements into a card format. I like cards, remember? This has been unbelievably helpful! Check out Lively Root for useful plant care information.

group of houseplants on wood floors

Step 3: Group the Plants Together with Similar Needs

I made a simple organization plan that works for me. While I was studying each plants origin, I found my houseplants fell into 3 categories:

*Disclaimer: raising three daughters, I have watched A LOT of Disney movies!

Is this a tropical plant that grows in the understory of a jungle? Then it wants warmth, lots of humidity and dappled sunlight. Let's call these the Tarzan plants.

Is this a succulent or palm from an arid desert environment? Then it needs well draining soil, very little water and lots of sunlight. Let's call these the Aladdin plants.

Is this a plant that is highly adaptable to most conditions and can thrive anywhere? Let's call these the Cinderella plants.

The Tarzan Group

The tropical jungle plants that like humidity and low to medium indirect light can be placed together near an eastern facing window for that morning sunlight and shady afternoon. Spritz with a water mister periodically and keep the soil moist. Think Monstera, Calathea or Anthurium plants.

monstera plant in window

anthurium plant in white pot

The Aladdin Group

The arid desert plants that want lots of light, low humidity and infrequent watering can be placed together near a southern or western facing window. Wait until the soil is dried out before watering and do not mist. Think Ponytail Palm, Bird of Paradise and Money Tree Plant. These are great plants for people who travel often!

bird of paradise plant in white room with leather sofa

The Cinderella Group

The Cinderella plants are the most flexible and can go pretty much anywhere! Even with a little neglect, they still look lovely. They are very forgiving, best for beginners and help round out the other groups. Think Pothos, Philodendron, Snake Plant, ZZ Plant and Peace Lilies.

pothos plant on white end table

snake plant in modern wood container

ZZ Plant

Step 4: Care for Your Plants by the Zones in Your House

Now for the easy part: take care of them! Keep a hand held mister or a small humidifier next to the Tarzan plants. Water them once a week and feed once a month.

Wait for the Aladdin plants to dry out before watering and feed every two to three months with a liquid fertilizer.

As you progress with your houseplant collection, pay attention to their growth habits and any signs of suffering. Be flexible and experiment with various locations in your home. A small adjustment in water or sunlight can make a huge difference.

*Ginger Tip: Grouping your houseplants by care requirements makes it so much easier for house sitters when you are out of town!

Some Final Thoughts

dog sitting at table hiding behind plant and stack of books

In my research about houseplant care categories, I found that houseplants are usually determined to be either safe or toxic for pets and people. I have raised both children and pets in my home over the years and have my own opinion about this subject.

If you are concerned about the toxicity of plants, do not buy houseplants. And if you absolutely have to have houseplants, put them up out of reach. Children and pets (especially labs!) will go after these plants. Even if the plants are labeled safe, it's not going to look very pretty if Fido is nibbling on it every day. In addition, it's a choking hazard for children. So stop worrying about the toxicity; assume they all are dangerous! Better safe than sorry.

two labradoodles next to home office area

If you're still having trouble remembering which plants are in which category (perhaps it's been repotted or moved) using a small label will help.

Again, former teacher here, I like these colored plant markers that can be used to designate each plant's requirements until you have everyone in their suitable location. You could also put a colored dot sticker on the back side of the container. Perhaps similar container colors for each group. Color coded houseplants for the win! Do what works for you!

junk drawers being organized

In my post Hit Refresh, I detail using houseplants as one avenue to combat the winter blahs and for starting the new year refreshed.

I hope this system inspires you to incorporate houseplants in your decor with confidence and success! Put down some roots and happy gardening!

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Jan 20

I found your new posts so helpful. In the winter, my focus is houseplants! They bring such joy and oxygen and color and comfort - and affirmation that spring will return with all the lovely "green!" I miss the green: so nice to bring color and plant life inside. Your suggestions for grouping plants has been so helpful. Thank you!!



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