As stay-at-home orders kept people indoors for most of 2020, people found themselves looking for hobbies as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down leisure activities. Along with an increase in pet adoption and at-home workout equipment, house plant sales soared as people looked for new ways to keep busy.
Although it may seem easy to care for plants, different breeds require different care, water and sunlight, said James Green, manager at Green Landscape Nursery in Santa Clarita, which saw a 75% increase of houseplant sales since the start of the pandemic.
“We had to constantly be restocking and ordering new plants,” he said, “because they were being sold so quicky.”
“There are four or five really solid starter plants people can buy,” he added. “You want to start with plants that are forgiving in case you forget to water it for a while. Once someone gets into the habit of caring for a houseplant, then they can move on to others. But in the beginning, it can be easy to forget.”
The most popular starter plants are the snake plant and ZZ plant, Green said, since both plants can survive in any type of light, including no light, and don’t require frequent watering. He added both plants have a small root system, allowing them to soak up a large amount of water over a period of time, then drying out until they’re watered again.
Porthos, specifically the golden porthos, is another popular and recommended plant for beginner since it is known as the “forgiving plant,” Green said. The plant is usually potted in a hanging pot, but can also be planted in a regular pot to put on a shelf or can be placed on a countertop to give the space a tropical touch.
For those who would want a floral plant, the peace lily is a good choice for someone who doesn’t have a routine for watering plants, Green said. He added the leaves on the plant will hang low when water is needed, but will quickly perk up, and the flowers on the plant are long-lasting.
Pro tips for plant care
“Do research on the specific plant you buy,” Green said. “Signs of over or under watering for one plant will differ from another, so it’s best to look into the plant you have or take it into a professional to get advice.”
Green added another tip, saying he frequently sees people transferring house plants to large pots before they are ready which can lead to plants wilting. He also added using an organic fertilizer for any type of house plant, but warned that having fertilizer that is continuously wet can attract fungus gnats, which aren’t harmful to people, pets or plants, but can be infuriating to deal with.
“Always check after about 30 minutes after watering,” said Sandy Cudmore, nurseryman and buyer for the Green Thumb Nursery in Newhall. “If water is sitting in the saucer, clean it out. Soil that stays too wet deprives the plant of oxygen and can encourage gnats.”
For those with pets, picking pet-friendly plants should be a high priority, according to Cudmore. Plants that are easy to care for and are also pet friendly are the money tree and pachira aquatica. “You can go away for two weeks and they won’t need to be watered. They’re pet safe, not picky about the light and not known to get many pests,” Cudmore said.
Space and light
Available light in a home should also be considered before buying a houseplant as some plants require more or less light than others. For open places which have a lot of sunlight, Cude more recommends ficus lyrata, crotons or anthuriums but also require to be rotated after watering so each side can absorb sunlight.
Plants which require little to no light are sansevierias, money trees and ficus decora, also known as rubber trees.
If a bigger plant is desired, Green said dracaena is a good choice that doesn’t take up too much space, as the plant has a slender trunk and can grow up to nine feet tall. “It’s a great plant for the corner of a room,” he added.
If an herbal plant is desired, starting with soft-tissue herbs such as basil and cilantro can help people ease into growing edible plants. Green said these plants can survive best in a kitchen window that doesn’t get direct sunlight, but the owner will have to frequently prune the plants, since they grow many tiny branches which can weigh down the stem.
“It’s great to collect houseplants because they clean your air and give off oxygen,” Cudmore said. “They’re also good for you mentally because it’s a type of nurturing. During covid, houseplants became very popular and created a lot of communicating and sharing about favorites.”