The 3 Most Underrated Houseplants, According to Houseplant Experts
The ’70s are back, and that means eclectic decor, macramé, wicker and rattan furniture, and most importantly, houseplants. There’s never been a better time to add some greenery into your living space. Nurseries and greenhouses are supplying more houseplants than ever, specialty plant stores are popping up in nearly every city, and you can even order plants online and have them shipped right to your door.
So where do you start when it comes to picking out a new green friend for your space? The choices can be overwhelming, and it usually feels easiest to go with the popular options. All it takes is a quick look at Instagram to see that plants like the Monstera deliciosa and fiddle leaf fig have cemented their place as some of the trendiest and most sought-after houseplants. However, so many other amazing plants exist that don’t get the same love and attention online. I asked a few houseplant experts and self-proclaimed green thumbs which plant they think deserves a bit more attention, and here’s what they had to say.
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When it comes to houseplants, air plants (Tillandsia) probably aren’t one of the first things to jump to mind. These versatile little plants are called air plants because they don’t need soil to survive — they can literally be grown successfully, well… in the air. That’s because Tillandsia are epiphytes, meaning in their natural environment, they grow primarily on other plants and derive their nutrients and moisture from the air and from the debris around them. Over 650 kinds of plants exist in the genus Tillandsia, so you won’t be hurting for options when it comes to finding the perfect air plant for your space.
Air plants “make amazing houseplants…they can literally be used to decorate any boring space” says Instagrammer Kim from House of Botanical. Since they don’t need soil, they can truly be integrated into your home decor and displayed on bookshelves, nightstands, and even countertops. “They are also super fun to add to hanging glass domes and make great DIY projects for terrariums” she adds. Kim’s favorite air plants include Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides), Tillandsia magnusiana, and Tillandsia xerographica. The best part about air plants? They’re super easy to care for —perfect for plant beginners and experts alike!
Often categorized as ideal low-light houseplants, ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) typically don’t get the recognition and clout that other tropical houseplants do. Also commonly known as Zanzibar gem, ZZ plants are characterized by tall arching stems and thick, waxy leaves. Instagrammer Erin Kobayashi loves ZZ plants for their low-key nature and naturally upright growth habit. “ZZ plants have been unfairly categorized as a basic plant you’d find in a corporate environment or a hotel lobby because they are undemanding, low-light, and slow-growing” she says. “What I love about ZZ plants is that they grow upright without the help of a trellis or moss pole, so they make terrific plants for a small space.”
Plus, what many people don’t know is there are actually a few different cultivators of the standard ZZ plant that you can choose from. The most common cultivator is the Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’ which is a dwarf variety that tops out at about 6- to 8-inches tall and is characterized by thick, chubby stems and slightly curled leaves. You can also find some rarer varieties like the Zamioculcas zamiifolia “Raven,” which has elegant dark green to black foliage, and the Zamioculcas zamiifolia “variegata” which has brilliant light green and yellow variegation on its leaves.
My favorite underrated houseplant has got to be the prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). Prayer plants are a species of tropical flowering plants that gained their nickname thanks to their leaves, which fold up and down throughout the day like praying hands. They do well in a variety of lighting conditions, from low light to bright indirect light, and enjoy warm temperatures, which is why they thrive indoors. Plus, you can find them in a few different cool and interesting colors. My favorite prayer plant is the Maranta leuconeura “Lemon Llime,” which sports striped oval leaves in several shades of green.
While houseplants like ZZ plants and air plants thrive with minimal watering, prayer plants enjoy consistent moisture, which is actually one of the reasons that I love them. Personally, I have to be super careful not to overwater my houseplants, so I enjoy plants that like a little bit of extra attention. So if you’re anything like me and find yourself over-loving your houseplants, the prayer plant may just be the perfect fit for you.