The 3 Best Houseplants for Beginners, According to Experts

Houseplants are definitely having a moment. But for those of us wanting to jump on the bandwagon, it’s important to know that not all varieties are created equal. You might opt for succulents or cacti, because well, the prevailing belief is these plants don’t require much water. They do well in the desert, so why not a bright corner in the home?

In actuality, succulents are deceptively tricky. Talia Halliday, the founder and owner of Bloomington, Indiana–based plant shop Oak, argues that everyone opts for cacti and succulents because they think they’re low maintenance when they’re the complete opposite. “I may not be the first, and certainly won’t be the last, but I will be the loudest when I say, ‘Stop it!’ They’re not easy, they’re not low-maintenance, they’re not great first-time-owner houseplants,” she says.

Indeed, there are other options besides the ubiquitous rose-shaped succulent out there. Here are the top three houseplants for beginners, according to plant experts.

ZZ plant

With its shiny leaves, the ZZ plant is often confused with an artificial plant. No wonder, since it basically thrives on neglect. Yet this plant offers so much more than a faux plant: It is said to improve poor air quality and even cognitive function, while working great as a tabletop plant. The ZZ plant loves dryer soil and bright, indirect sunlight, but can survive lower light as well. “If your place doesn’t get great light, then I suggest a ZZ plant,” says Paul Thompson, a plant consultant, stylist, and chemistry teacher. In terms of matching your home’s decor, he says you can’t go wrong with a ZZ because “they add a bit more texture and come in regular green or black.” Paul adds, “While they generally grow upward, they can sprawl out a little bit.”

Thus, a small ZZ’s stalky base and waxen leaves render it an elegantly modern centerpiece, particularly since it can tolerate lower light and rarely needs repotting. Paul highly recommends only repotting your plants in pots with a drainage hole: The easiest way to kill a plant is by overwatering it and not allowing the water to drain out. If the pot you have your eye on doesn’t come with a drainage hole, he suggests drilling a hole in it or placing the nursery pot into your chosen vessel.


If you regularly forget your plants, this meandering vine of heart-shaped leaves may be for you. Pothos grow quickly and work great in hanging pots. Not to mention, they can help remove pollutants from the air like carbon monoxide, making indoor air safer to breathe. While a pothos likes sunny, indirect light, it can do well in fluorescent lighting. Talia says, “I call them ‘the good communicators’ because although they’ll need more water at once a week, they will let you know because their leaves will get super droopy. It’s very noticeable, even for beginners.”

According to plant influencer and I Rap to My Plants owner Courtney Warwick, pothos don’t require a lot of attention and still thrive under some neglect. “I own pothos plants, and they’re very happy with the minimum amount of attention,” she says. “Prior to becoming a plant parent, I assumed plants need care daily, but honestly they don’t.” However, it’s more than okay to talk to them. She adds, “I personally rap to my plants and all of my plants love it.” Coming in varying striations of yellow, white, or green, pothos plants really can fit any plant parent’s style.

Snake plant

Because this plant produces oxygen throughout the day and night, it could actually improve your quality of sleep. But the snake plant may be the best for one reason alone: It’s difficult to kill. Snake plants can survive in almost dark light. And unlike the others, this plant is actually a succulent. While other succulents seem visually flat, the snake plant grows tall. It also doesn’t need the same high level of care as other succulents that grow toward the sun, need to be rotated regularly, and get “very leggy right away,” Talia says. As a matter of fact, snake plants are drought-resistant, and in the winter months, they can go two months between waterings. Courtney says, “Make sure that you always keep in mind underwatering is better than overwatering. I have noticed that a lot of new plant parents think that their indoor plants need to be watered daily, and that’s not true!”

“Snake plants are by and far the lowest maintenance plant,” Talia adds. In terms of decorating, “they can be very stark, so a lot of people use them in more modern decor. They have a very specific aesthetic but come in varieties of color.” Paul agrees. “There’s such a great variety of snake plants to go with any home decor,” he says. “The good thing about these is they can come very small or very big. They grow upwards, so if you’re looking for something to add height to an area, snake plants are a great option.”

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