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Fill your living space with houseplants to improve your mood and help clean the air. While you may think you need a big space to grow houseplants, nothing could be further from the truth. Just like our homes and our bodies, houseplants come in all shapes and sizes. But people who live in apartments, condos, lofts, or other tight living quarters need to think a bit harder about which houseplants are best for them. Thankfully, there are a whole host of perfect apartment plants for even the most petite home.
Ideal traits for apartment plants
A word to the wise for apartment dwellers: Don’t just go to IKEA and buy whatever plant catches your fancy. Instead, carefully consider how large the plant will grow, its light needs, and how much care it requires. For the greatest chance of success with your new plant baby, take care in selecting the best variety for you. When looking for a plant for your apartment, here are a few things to keep in mind.
What the best houseplants for apartments have in common:
- Apartment plants are relatively low-maintenance, meaning they don’t require much care beyond watering and the occasional dose of fertilizer.
- Houseplants for apartments are very forgiving and bounce back quickly if you forget to water them.
- Indoor plants for small apartments don’t drop leaves or blooms everywhere and make a mess.
- Apartment plants are long-lived.
- Plants for apartments don’t produce flowers with a heavy, overwhelming fragrance.
- Houseplants for small spaces are fairly flexible in terms of their light needs.
- The best plants for apartments are typically smaller in stature, though floor-sized houseplants can be beautiful, too.
- Good apartment plants are eye-catching and unique.
Now that you know some of the traits the best apartment plants have in common, let me introduce you to a few of the plants that meet these needs.
Small apartment plants for table tops
These small-statured houseplants are ideal for small spaces. They don’t take up much room because they don’t grow very large, but yet they offer tons in terms of beauty and “green” appeal.
1. The Happy Bean or Pincushion Peperomia (Peperomia ferreyrae):
Who can resist a plant called The Happy Bean? I’ve grown this plant on a shelf in my kitchen for a few years now and it’s become one of my favorites. This houseplant for apartments matures to just 10 inches tall. It requires bright, but not direct, sunlight. Happy Bean plants have thick, succulent leaves shaped like green bean pods. Though you have to keep the plant regularly watered, they prefer to be kept on the dry side. Skip the fertilizer on this one, except from May through August when you can fertilize with a liquid organic houseplant fertilizer once every three weeks.
2. Silver Sprinkles (Pilea glauca):
Another houseplant with a can’t-resist name, Silver Sprinkles has tiny, silvery leaves that aren’t much bigger than a mustard seed. It’s very low growing, making it a terrific choice for a side table or a book case shelf. In its native habitat, Silver Sprinkles is a groundcover, but as apartment plants go, it’s perfectly happy in a decorative container. With four to six hours of bright light per day, Silver Sprinkles is a happy little houseplant. Keep it evenly moist and don’t let it get too dry or it will drop it’s leaves in an unwanted sprinkling of silvery snow.
3. Panda Paws (Kalanchoe tomentosa):
It seems that I’m on a roll when it comes to apartment plants with fun names, but the truth is that there’s a reason common names become common names. Yes, the leaves of this plant do look like fuzzy panda paws. And the plant is loved by both kids and grown ups, just like pandas. Covered in fine, fuzzy, white hairs, Panda Paws is a succulent that needs to dry out between waterings. It requires an area of high light, so a south- or west-facing window is best. Growing up to two feet tall, pinch Panda Paws back once a year to keep it shorter if you need to. It’s one of the more resilient apartment plants on this list, as long as it receives enough sunlight.
4. Dwarf Mother-in law’s Tongue or Snake Plant (Sansiveria trifasciata hahnii):
As a woman with a very kind mother-in-law, I’ll make no comments on this houseplant’s common name. What I will say about it, though, is that it’s among the most fail-proof apartment plants out there. Even if you’ve always killed houseplants, you stand a very good chance of success with a dwarf Mother-in-law’s Tongue. Forgetting to water this plant only makes it happier as it much prefers to be on the dry side. A perfect addition to a bedside table, coffee table, or kitchen table, this houseplant tolerates low light conditions as well as areas with high light. Buying the dwarf form means it will only reach eight to ten inches in height.
5. Zebra Plant (Haworthia fasciata):
It’s no wonder that the Zebra Plant is among the most popular apartment plants these days. It’s small (8 inches tall, tops), low maintenance, and tolerant of low light, especially when compared to other succulents. The tentacle-like, thick, green leaves are striped with white, and over time the plant grows into a small clump with baby offsets easily be separated from the mother plant and repotted. Zebra Plants should be allowed to dry out between waterings as they’ll turn to mush if overwatered. This little guy is a perfect addition to the kitchen table, book shelf, or bathroom vanity. Heck, it’s even a good choice for the back of the toilet tank, as long as there’s a window in your b-room.
Trailing apartment plants for shelves
The apartment plants on this list don’t grow tall, but they do grow long. With leaves and stems that tumble and trail, these indoor plants for small apartments look great perched on a plant stand, corner shelf, book case, or even in a hanging basket.
6. Heart-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum):
My all-time favorite indoor plant for an apartment, Heart-leaf Philodendrons are gorgeous plants with lightly variegated, glossy foliage. They cascade down over the edge of their pot, or the vines can be trained to grow up and over a curtain rod or a long shelf. The ease of care of this houseplant can’t be beat, requiring little in terms of light or maintenance. Low to medium light is best. Heart-leaf Philodendron does wilt when it dries out, which serves as an easy reminder to give it a good soaking. After doing so, the plant bounces right back with no worries. If the stems grow too long, simply cut them off with a clean pair of scissors.
7. String of Bananas (Senecio radicans):
A succulent plant with long, drooping tendrils covered in small, 3-dimensional, banana-shaped leaves, String of Bananas is about as fun as you can get. It’s closely related to another succulent called the String of Pearls, which has round, pea-like leaves. String of Bananas looks great in a hanging basket or growing in a small pot on a high shelf. It prefers to stay on the dry side with moderate to bright light. The vines of String of Bananas grow three to four feet long but can readily be trimmed back.
8. Wax Vine (Hoya carnosa):
Wax Vines are unique, trailing houseplants with slender vines covered in leathery leaves. Train the vines to grow on a topiary form or leave them to stretch out of the pot and grow however they wish. When they’re happy and healthy, these apartment plants produce clusters of star-shaped blooms. The flowers are waxy and shiny, and they often have a wonderful, but not over-powering, fragrance. There are many different varieties of Wax Vine, and all require bright but indirect sunlight. Though they survive at lower light levels, Wax Vines won’t bloom unless they receive ample light. Don’t overwater Wax Vines; the plant can dry out a bit between waterings. Less water in winter is important, too, as the plants will easily rot if left too wet.
9. Devil’s Ivy Pothos (Epipremnum aureum):
Another houseplant that’s easy to care for and doesn’t require much light, Devil’s Ivy Pothos is one of the most common indoor plants of all time. Their sprawling vines trail for several dozen feet from the plant’s crown, if left untrimmed. The heart-shaped, variegated leaves are tolerant of very low light levels; the plants are great for home offices, dim hallways, and anyplace else with low to medium light levels. Devil’s Ivy Pothos is one of those apartment plants that tells you when it needs to be watered. The whole plant will wilt, which is your signal to soak the roots. Ideally, you’ll want to water just before that level of moisture stress occurs, but don’t worry if you miss it every now and then.
10. Wondering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina):
This purple-leaved houseplant was the first one I ever grew. Working at a greenhouse at just 15 years old, I was asked to pot up some cuttings of this plant, and I could hardly believe they actually grew into something gorgeous! Wondering Jew produces colorful leaves that fill a hanging basket or trail down over the edge of shelves or plant stands. It’s very easy to grow, as long as it has medium to bright light. An east-or west-facing window is ideal. Wondering Jew likes to be consistently wet, but it doesn’t like to sit in waterlogged soil so balance is key. The height of the plant is a mere six inches, but the stems can trail up to two or three feet in length.
11. Silver Philodendron or Satin Pothos (Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’):
Among the loveliest of the trailing apartment plants, this heart-leaved, speckled houseplant shrugs off poor plant parenting with style. If you’re worried about being able to properly care for a houseplant, Satin Pothos is a very forgiving plant for beginners. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. The more sun the plant receives, the brighter white the spots are, but Satin Pothos does fine in just about any range of light conditions, from moderately low to high.
Medium-sized apartment plants for floor display
Plants in this group are well-suited to table top displays when the plant is young, but once it’s a few years old and in a larger pot, these beautiful apartment plants are best displayed as floor plants. Tuck these stalwart plants into the corner of a room, next to a glass balcony window, or beside the apartment door, and they’ll be happy as can be, as long as they receive a suitable level of light.
12. Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium podophyllum):
The variegated, arrow-shaped leaves of Arrowhead Vine make it easy to see how this low-maintenance houseplant earned its common name. Though it is among the best houseplants for apartments, it grows larger than some others mentioned here. The vining nature of this plant doesn’t become evident until the plant is a few years old, but it can be kept bushy by trimming any reaching vines off along their stems. An attractive plant with an easy disposition, Arrowhead Vine loves high humidity and consistently damp soil. Do not allow this plant’s soil to dry out. Reaching two to three feet in height, you can give the plant a pole to climb, too. Bright but not direct light is best.
13. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema species):
There are so many species and varieties of this houseplant on the market, it’s tough to pick a favorite. Some varieties are solid green while others are variegated with white, pink, red, and even a soft orange. Chinese Evergreens are super-easy to grow. Green varieties tolerate low light conditions without a problem, but the colorful selections require the medium light of an east- or west-facing window. Don’t over-water this easy-care houseplant or root rot could be the result. Maxing out between one and three feet in height, Chinese Evergreens make wonderful apartment plants for floor display.
14. Dragon Tree Dracena (Dracaena marginata):
Though there are many Dracaenas suitable for apartments, the Dragon Tree Dracaena is the most colorful option in this horticulturist’s humble opinion. With pompons of thin, strappy leaves sitting atop slender stems, as this plant ages, it begins to look like a tree in a Dr. Seuss book. There are many cultivars, but those with bright pink-streaked leaves are the most popular. Slow growing, Dragon Tree Dracaenas tolerate low light levels but much prefer medium to bright light instead. A consistent soil moisture level is best, but do keep the plant on the drier side during the winter months. Maximum height (after many years!) is eight feet.
15. Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia):
One final plant with a common name worthy of its looks, the Rattlesnake Plant has long, tongue-shaped leaves with very unique variegation. The undersides of the paddles are a burgundy red-purple, while the tops bear patterns and shades of green reminiscent of the skin of a rattlesnake. A humid site is ideal for this plant; the bathroom and kitchen are perfect choices. Medium light levels and consistent soil moisture result in a happy, healthy Rattlesnake Plant that grows twenty inches tall at maturity.
Choosing the best houseplant for you
Selecting apartment plants is a fun task for sure, but take your time doing it. Don’t rush into a buying decision without taking a careful look at the growing conditions of your home and picking the perfect plant partner for whatever those conditions happen to be. Visit our guide to fertilizing houseplants for more information on how to keep your plants happy and healthy.
And, remember, despite your best intentions, sometimes houseplants don’t make it. Promise not to beat yourself up if you kill a plant or two along the way. I’ve certainly been responsible for a few accidental houseplant deaths myself over the years, as most indoor gardeners are. Don’t sweat it. Try a different plant next time, and enjoy the many benefits of bringing a bit of green indoors. And, remember, air plants are always another great option. Click here for our primer on how to care for air plants.
For more on growing houseplants check out the following articles:
– How to transplant a Phalaenopsis orchid
– Types of houseplant bugs: Who they are and what to do about them
– Easy projects for mini holiday houseplants
– Air plant care: How to tend, water, and fertilize Tillandsia