Best House Plants of 2020
The American Plant Exchange Golden Pothos impresses us across the board. We love its beautiful, deep green variegated leaves, and its tendency to grow into long vines that will cascade over the edge of its container or off of a shelf. The plant arrived in excellent condition, well-protected in its box and adequately watered with very minimal damage to its leaves, especially appreciated due to the 8"x10" size of the plant. When it comes to maintenance, this plant requires very little care. Allowing the top two inches of the soil to dry between watering led to a weekly watering schedule in our testing period. While Golden Pothos benefits from a monthly fertilizing schedule, it is not completely necessary. This option is also very hardy, also known as devil's ivy because while it prefers bright indirect light, it will grow well even in limited light settings.
We struggled to find criticisms of the American Plant Exchange Golden Pothos. However, like most house plants, it is susceptible to overwatering damage, leading to root rot. It also is one of the faster-growing options on this list, which is exciting and gratifying, but if you have limited space it might not be the best option for you. Overall, the Golden Pothos makes for a beautiful, low maintenance, and resilient option.
The Shop Succulents Crassula Ovata, also known as Jade plant, led the succulents included in this review. With its looks this plant can blend into almost any home decor in our opinion, sporting gorgeous purple and green colors with petal-like leaf patterns. We unboxed this succulent to find it in a very healthy state, well packed with padding and not showing signs of dehydration stress. We transplanted this plant into another pot, and when we did, we revealed a well-established root system. The Jade plant is also a low-maintenance option in this category.
While not many, there may be a few disadvantages to this option. For one, the crassula ovata is sensitive to root rot if over-watered, although not as sensitive as some other succulents, as it comes from a more humid climate. The Crassula Ovata is also a slow grower. The Crassula Ovata has not shown much growth over several weeks, but seems to be adjusting well to its new abode nonetheless. However, the dropped leaves of this plant are easily propagated, so you can create a whole family of jade plants. If you are looking for a healthy, handsome succulent that is easy to maintain and grow, the Shop Succulents Crassula Ovata is an excellent option.
We love the succulents that Plants for Pets includes in this variety pack, consisting of five different echeveria (flat leafed, rose-shaped variety) plants and a crassula (round leaves) plant. This variety pack scored top points for its out-of-box appearance and health. Each plant arrived healthy, having been carefully packed, and with a strong root system. Despite claiming to be a five pack, Plants for Pets includes an extra plant in the box. We appreciate this generosity, as shipping can be hard on plants (especially smaller ones). Upon arrival, the soil was dry, but all six plants were healthy and showed no visual signs of stress.
If a combo pack of small succulents is what you're after, there's little to disappoint here. Like most other succulents, though, these plants don't grow very quickly. The other side of this is that their slow-growing tendencies also make them easy to care for. And, like most succulents we tested, these are all susceptible to root rot if overwatered, especially the echeveria. If you are looking for a one stop shop for a healthy variety of little succulents at a low price point, the Plants for Pets Succulent 5-Pack is a great option.
The American Plant Exchange Ponytail Palm is our favorite for a stand alone larger planting at a great value. This succulent has a unique palm look with wild spiraling tendrils and a bulbous trunk. Upon arrival it measured a respectable 24" tall, but this relative of agave can grow to be up to 18 feet tall. The fronds combined with the trunk-like stem would look nicely among desert decor but have a soft enough appearance to match many looks. The Ponytail Palm arrived in excellent health, packed securely in a tall box with ventilation and moist soil. This option is also easy to care for. Allowing the soil to dry completely between waterings meant that we only had to water this large pot once during the testing period. Additionally, care guidelines call for fertilizing only 2-3 times per year and the Ponytail Palm actually prefers to be a little root bound before being repotted, lowering this frequency too.
Like most succulents, what makes the Ponytail Palm easy to care for can also be its downfall. It is very susceptible to root rot and can be exposed to too much water if moved to a pot that is more than a few inches larger than its previous home. These considerations mean that if you are someone who tends to "love to death", aka over-water, your plants, this is not the best choice. Again, this little tree can grow to be quite large, so if you are trying to save space, or move around frequently, the size may become an issue. If you are looking for a large standing statement at a great value, the American Plant Exchange Ponytail Palm makes for a unique and easy to care for addition to your home garden.
The Fat Plants String of Pearls was another high quality single plant option that has the added benefit of cascading over the edges of its planter. The pearls hanging on the long tendrils are elegant and unique. The plant came already boasting 3-5" hanging tendrils filled with little pearl-like pods and well established in its grow pot. The delicate vines arrived protected, carefully and snugly padded with cotton. Following re-potting this plant, we saw signs of new growth in just two weeks. In our experience, this plant grows quite readily.
One disadvantage of Fat Plants String of Pearls is its fairly specific light requirements. It needs several hours of direct sunlight every day, as well as hours of indirect light. For this reason, ours seemed happiest in south and west-facing windows. More than some succulents, these pearls are quite susceptible to root rot. If you tend to be heavy-handed with your watering regimen, this might not be the best option for you. Most importantly, this plant is toxic to humans and pets if ingested. This plant is a little particular, but if you have the right environment, the long tendrils of this String of Pearls plant are our favorite recommendation.
If you are someone who tends to forget that those green things in their living room are actually alive and need care, then the Costa Farms Snake Plant may just be the choice for you. It arrives nearly three feet tall with beautiful light sage green and dark green striped leaves. In our opinion, its succulent appearance would match southwest or desert decor very well. Costa Farms provided an extremely healthy specimen, securely packaged with well drained soil and no signs of stress or damage. After it adjusted well to being repotted, and watering only when the soil was completely dry, we only had to water this plant once over several weeks of the testing period. Another element of its low maintenance is the recommended re-potting every few years and recommended fertilizing one to two times during its summer growing period, both of which are quite minimal in comparison to other plants we tested.
The Costa Farms Snake Plant has just a few drawbacks. The main is that its striking appearance makes quite the statement. The strong upright growth does not lend itself to softening a space. What it lacks in softness, however, it makes up for in the impact it has in a room. Again, like many low-maintenance options, this is also very susceptible to root rot and damage from sitting in too much water, so if you love to water, look elsewhere. All in all, the Costa Farms Snake Plant is an eye-catching, neglect-loving statement piece for your home.
The Costa Farms Clean Air 3-Pack provides you with three of 10 different plants that the manufacturer claims help clean the air (we did not verify the air-cleansing capabilities of any plants). Our sample included pothos, dieffenbachia (aka dumb cane), and a snake plant. This variety pack scored points for the quality and health of the plants upon arrival. All three varieties were securely wrapped in plastic with a bamboo support rod and packaged in styrofoam peanuts, resulting in very little damage to the product. The products also included three neutral-colored 4" pots with drainage included to replant in, all one has to do is add a little additional potting soil and water. Over the testing period, all three plants are adjusting well to the provided pots and new environment, with the pothos and dieffenbachia both showing signs of new growth.
The variability of this pack leaves some room for criticism. While the varieties we received were generally easy to care for, it's hard to know exactly what you are going to get, as the three selections are based on seasonality and selected by Costa Farms, not the customer. For example, as we've mentioned, the pothos and snake plant we received are some of the easiest varieties to grow, and will adapt to many conditions. The dieffenbachia is not quite as resilient, as it's slightly more particular about its humidity and light needs, and has milky white sap that can be irritating to skin and eyes while maintaining the plant. While this is manageable, some folks might not like being in the dark as to which exact plants to expect to arrive at their doorstep. Overall, though, we recommend the Costa Farms Clean Air 3-Pack as a healthy selection for someone who is looking to brighten and add some variety to their home.
The JMBamboo Ocean Spider, with its cascading green and off-white striped leaves, makes another attractive option for a hanging basket or a ledge planting. The Ocean Spider has long fronds that sprout vines and "pups" that act to propagate the plant. It has a soft coloration and style that make it adaptable to most spaces. The JMBamboo Ocean Spider arrived securely packaged with appropriately watered soil. Allowing the top inch of soil to dry resulted in watering once per week to keep the soil evenly moist, just as the Ocean Spider likes it.
While this makes an beautiful hanging planting, there were a few areas the JMBamboo Ocean Spider fell short in. Although it was securely packaged, the nature of the long leaves and the JMBamboo plastic wrap and bamboo support made for some of the leaves to become pinched and bent. The Ocean Spider is a moderately fast grower and this damage should recover quickly. Additionally, the Ocean Spider does require monthly fertilizing and the nature of the pup growth means that there can be more work repotting and maintaining. The pup propagation is also one of the most interesting aspects of this variety, so if you would like to have a plant that keeps on creating more, this is a great option. The JMBamboo Ocean Spider has a versatile soft look and has the potential to create many more plants to beautify your home.
This JMBamboo Fern Leaf Plumosus Asparagus has unique and delicate fronds, and is an unusual indoor plant. It arrives 5" tall and 4" wide, and is a slow grower, making it a great option for a countertop planter. This fern was very well packed, neatly wrapped in plastic, supported with a bamboo stake and packed in styrofoam peanuts, leading to no damage to the delicate plant. The soil was adequately watered, and it was easy to transplant this plant. An added bonus? The Asparagus Fern tolerates low light conditions, as it is used to growing in dappled light outside.
Although the Asparagus Fern's slow growth and small footprint contribute to easy maintenance, it can be a little more picky than a few of our other selections. The delicate nature of the leaves make them sensitive to humidity and receptive to a daily misting. We were able to see the results here after the fronds dried out from the arid climate of our test location, but recovered quickly with misting and a tray of water. Additionally, the soil must be kept consistently moist, but not soggy and temperature should be maintained above 60 degrees F. This being said, even though the fern may dry out, it is probably not dead and can be restored if returned to ideal conditions. As a whole, the JMBamboo Fern Leaf Plumosus Asparagus is a unique, slow-growing countertop option for anyone who is excited to give a little more care and thought to its living conditions.
The Hirt's Gardens Zamioculcas Zamiifolia otherwise known as the ZZ plant can often be found on "easy to grow" lists. This product arrived with deep green, glossy leaves and 10" tall. It was healthy and the soil had the proper moisture. In our opinion this look would be a great addition to a modern planter or design scheme. As an added bonus, this ZZ plant is tolerant of neglect, as it can survive drought, but is not incredibly sensitive to overwatering. Additionally, it is hardy to 45 degrees F and tolerates low light or artificial light conditions, making it more tolerant of drafty homes and winter light.
This Hirt's Gardens ZZ Plant did lack in the quality of the packaging. While it arrived securely in its pot in a box filled with styrofoam peanuts, it was growing at a right angle to its pot. This made re-potting somewhat difficult, but it did not seem to affect the overall health of the product, as when allowed to grow with the pot standing near a bright window it entirely straightened itself. The Hirt's Gardens Zamioculcas Zamiifolia is an excellent option for someone looking for a plant that requires little attention and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
The JMBamboo Parlor Palm, Spider and Snake Plant variety pack is an excellent selection for someone who is looking to make several additions to their indoor garden, but does not have the time to tend to fussy plants. Both the parlor palm and the snake plant in this pack arrived in nearly perfect condition, well wrapped in plastic, with a support rod and covered in styrofoam peanuts. The parlor palm is a small and slow-growing variety that would match many a desktop, tabletop, or room and the spider plant adds a softer touch of green. The parlor palm is not as particular about humidity as some other varieties, so it is a good beginner plant. All three varieties appear to be establishing well after being moved from their 4" grow pots to new planters in a new home.
Where this variety pack fell short was in its packaging of the Ocean Spider and the lack of versatility of the Snake Plant. As we saw with the individual version of the JMBamboo Ocean Spider, the long fronds are difficult to pack securely, resulting in bent leaves that will take a little while to recover. Also, as previously stated, the striking look of the Snake Plant make it a stand out in a room, and may not be the best quality if you are looking to soften your decorations. Overall, the JMBamboo Variety Pack is the perfect option for someone looking to start their indoor collection.
The Hirt's Gardens Red Prayer Plant Maranta won us over with its striking and beautiful color pattern on its leaves. It has deep greens, sage green, and a bright pink veining on the center of the leaves, with purple undersides to the leaves. The oval leaf pattern would make an elegant and colorful addition to nearly any space. The Maranta was 5" tall and 12" wide when it arrived and had a well-developed root system. When healthy it also has the unique quality of leaves the fold up at night and unfold during the day.
Despite its unique qualities and beautiful leaf patterns, the Maranta had a number of shortcomings in our experience. This product mainly lacked in quality packaging on its arrival. The new growth was dried out and the soil was dried out as well. The Maranta was beginning to show signs of stress, like browning at the tips of the leaves. This is a variety that is known to be sensitive to humidity levels and temperature, and in the relatively dry climate of our testing location, we had to take several steps to amend the humidity in the space. Once misting and a water tray were introduced, the Maranta began to bounce back and it's exciting to wonder how it will continue to grow. Additionally, the Maranta prefers temperatures above 70 degrees F and will only tolerate indirect light. This option can also be sensitive to water hardness, so if you live in a place with hard water you may need to use distilled or filtered water to keep it happy. In summary, although the Red Prayer Plant can require very specific care to thrive, it is truly one of the most beautiful living additions you can make to your home. If you are willing to put in the work you may just be rewarded.
The Costa Farms Majesty Palm Tree makes a statement as a large, deep green standing piece. On arrival, it stood 36" tall and 30" wide, ready for a pot and a new home as a centerpiece. If successfully cared for this beautiful plant can grow up to 20 feet tall. The large palm arrived extremely health and impressively packaged for its size, wrapped in plastic and placed in a tall well-ventilated box, growing in well watered soil. It also included a woven basket, that while attractive we found it better suited to just cover another pot as it was not incredibly stable.
Unfortunately, we found the Costa Farms Majesty Palm Tree a finicky palm, that rapidly deteriorated in health after transplanting. It should be noted that this tree is very sensitive to humidity and it was tested in an arid climate. The Majesty Palm might do better in a more humid environment or space in the house such as the bathroom. We found that the fronds rapidly dried before we could even notice browning at the tips, leading to aggressive pruning and a new misting regimen. Even though the climate was dry, this highlighted how delicate and sensitive this palm could be, making it not the best choice for a beginner gardener. The Majesty Palm also prefers warmer temperatures above 70 degrees F, drawing into question its ability to survive in drafty winter space. The Costa Farms Majesty Palm Tree might have very specific care needs, but if you can meet them you will be rewarded with a striking statement-piece for your home garden.
Why You Should Trust Us
We connected with a professional landscaper and vegetable farmer to lead this review.Jackie Kearney spends many hours with her hands in the dirt nurturing all things from carrots to flowers to trees. Each plant has its own care regimen based on its needs and its environment. She's learned how to identify plants that are showing signs of stress when their needs are not being met and subsequently learned how to determine which needs they are lacking. This gives her a strong framework to evaluate plants that are meant for life inside the home. After spending so many years caring for plants, she knows there are few things that can improve your living environment more than an array of happy, healthy house plants.
We start our review process with several hours of research, looking at the best and most popular house plants available online. After narrowing our selection down to the most promising plants, we bought them and sent them to our lead tester. We looked at individual plants, hanging plants, succulents, and variety packs. To assess this variety of plants, we developed care plans for each selection and replanted them where we thought their needs would be best met. We took care to consider each options' aesthetic potential, how it arrived, its maintenance needs, the abuse it could withstand and how it changed to the point of this review. After over a month living with and monitoring these plants, we got to know them very well.
Analysis and Test Results
Choosing the right variety of house plant can seem overwhelming, but is also essential to your success in your plant adventure. To help you select that perfect plant we scored these options on their aesthetics, state of arrival and shipping, maintenance, hardiness, and growth.
For this metric, we wanted to consider how this plant would match a variety of home decor. This involved assessing how it improves the quality of the space, as well as its footprint. To determine how it improved the quality of the space, as all plants do this, we considered the coloration of the plant, as well as its shape and patterns of growth. Does it vine softly over the edge of the container or create a striking vertical statement? Does its softness allow it to match multiple types of decors, or conversely is its sharpness better suited for a specific style? In considering the footprint, we considered how impactful the house plant would be to the space, with larger footprints having greater weight. Similarly, we wanted to consider how the coloration made a statement in the room, if it were more muted tones it would have less weight, but a striking pattern or coloring could have a greater impact.
The Red Prayer Plant scored top points in this category for its beautiful coloration. The red, deep green, and light green leaves are startling, yet the vining and oval shape of the leaves allows this plant to simultaneously blend in with any decor while making a unique statement. Similarly, the Crassula Ovata has a beautiful combination of deep purple and green in a simple, versatile rosette pattern. The Golden Pothos boasts beautiful deep green variegated leaves and has a cascading growth pattern that could soften the edges of any design of room. The String of Pearls makes for an appealing option with its draping tendrils that we loved for adding an interesting twist to your space, especially when in a hanging planter.
State of Arrival and Shipping
To evaluate the state of arrival and shipping, we considered the state that the plants arrived in and the measures each supplier took to protect the plant. Basically, everything that the seller did before the plant is left in the hands of its new caretaker. This included how well the plants were packaged, including whether they were cushioned from movement while traveling and had access to ventilation while waiting to be unboxed. It also included whether they were appropriately watered and how established their root systems were in that soil. We were looking for a well-developed root system that was prepared to be transplanted into its new home, but was not so developed that the plant was root bound and way overdue to be moved. Finally, we assessed each for damage or signs of stress once they arrived.
The Plants for Pets Succulent 5-Pack and the Golden Pothos had the highest scores here. They arrived without any signs of rough transit, showing healthy roots ready for transport. The Succulent 5-Pack had extremely thorough packaging, ensuring no harm would come to the plants. The Golden Pothos also had thorough packaging, but really shined for the impressive health of the plant upon arrival, it was hard to tell it even was boxed. On the other hand, the Hirt's Red Prayer Plant was bruised and showing signs of dehydration upon arrival. The ZZ Plant also did not score as well in this category, as it arrived growing at a right angle to its grow pot.
Every plant has needs. While many of the options considered here have similar watering and care needs, our research indicated that some were more specific than others in their repotting and watering needs. Based off of the recommended soil conditions, we established the frequency of watering and fertilizing necessary for each plant.
For example, the Costa Farms Snake Plant prefers completely dry soil between watering. In the large pot it was planted in only one watering was necessary over the four-week testing period. The other succulents scored well in this category, notably Crassula Ovata and Ponytail Palm. All of these plants not only require infrequent watering but also infrequent repotting, pruning, and fertilizing due to their slow growth rate. On the other hand, house plants like the Red Prayer Plant and the Asparagus Fern require additional misting and heavy feeding schedules to thrive.
Here we wanted to take into account how resistant these plants were to a variety of growing conditions. To score this category we considered characteristics of each house plant such as the various light conditions, soil moisture, humidity, and temperatures each could survive in. With a combination of following care guidelines and observing the way each plant adjusted to its care regimen we determined hardiness.
The ZZ Plant and American Plant Exchange Golden Pothos scored highly here. The ZZ Plant is able to survive in a wider range of temperatures than any plant in this category as it is hardy to 45 degrees F. Additionally, both of these are drought resistant, but not extremely susceptible to overwatering and root rot. On the other end of the spectrum is the Majesty Palm, which is known to be sensitive to humidity, and showed rapid decline as a result of the dry air in the test home. The rapid decline indicated that it would not be as resistant to new gardener mistakes as the ZZ Plant or Golden Pothos.
Most folks enjoy watching their plants grow over time, so we created a metric to encompass this aspect. It should be noted there is more variability here, as these were tested in a dry and sunny environment and results might change from home to home. The two main points of this metric were the way the plants established themselves after being transplanted and whether they showed any obvious growth over the four-week testing period. To determine the later we compared arrival photos to the plants at the time of this review and took detailed notes of the plants in the time in between.
The ZZ Plant and the String of Pearls had the most striking results in this category. The ZZ Plant righted itself after arriving at a right angle to its container within just a few weeks. The String of Pearls showed new growth at several ends of tendrils after just two weeks. New growth was also noted on the plants in the Costa Farms Clean Air 3-Pack. On the other hand, the dry new growth on the Red Prayer Plant and the Majesty Palm Tree indicate stress and that they are having a hard time adjusting to their new homes.
After completing thorough research and independent, hands-on testing, we feel confident in our assessment in a wide range of house plant options. Combining personal and professional experience, we were able to develop a detailed test plan that assessed every determinant of house plant success. After growing attached to our new house plant home additions we truly believe that we have identified the advantages and disadvantages of each product. We hope that you may use this review to find guidance and success in your house planting adventure.
— Jackie Kearney