Houseplants are the fastest way to brighten up a dull, lifeless house or apartment, and that’s why they make such great gifts. Outside of repainting the walls or replacing the furniture, nothing revitalizes a living space like introducing some real live flora to the environment.
But you have to remember that after you drop a living plant in someone’s lap, it’s on them to take care of it and keep it alive. So the best houseplant gifts are the ones that take the recipient into consideration, not only in terms of their personality, but also from a “How good are they at accidentally killing things?” standpoint.
For these purposes, we’ve put together a little guide to houseplants that make the best gifts, and split them up into a few categories (including easy to take care of) to help you make just the right choice.
So here they are: the all-stars of home greenery.
HARD TO KILL
There are many more people in the world with brown thumbs than green thumbs, so low-maintenance plants are always among the most popular varieties, including plants for people who live in low-light houses and dingy apartments. Here are a few great interior plants for people who struggle to keep their stuff alive.
The snake plant is virtually an icon of the black thumb club. They are unusual, striking looking plants, and they love to just be left alone. You can literally just let a snake plant hang out in a dark corner without a drop of water for months at a time, and it’ll be just fine. Avoid overwatering and make sure the pot allows for drainage, and this thing will last for years.
Chinese money plant
Known for its characteristic round leaves and bright green color, there’s something playful and sort of cute about Chinese money plants. They do like quite a bit of indirect sunlight, so this isn’t a great choice for someone who lives in a cave-like environment. However, they do best when the soil dries out between waterings, so they only have to be periodically attended to. Great for forgetful people who live in small apartments that get decent sunlight.
Many kinds of ivy are relatively easy to take care of, and Devil’s Ivy is definitely on that list. Another variety that’s difficult to kill, their long, drooping vines make them great hanging plants.
If you’re looking for something a little brighter or more out of the box, you can always opt for something totally different from the typical green leafy houseplant. Succulents and flowering plants both make great options for houseplants that really stand out, and here are three of our favorites.
Hibiscus plants are more often grown outdoors, but this is one tropical flowering plant that can work indoors too, though it will take a little more care and attention. The biggest concern is — not surprisingly — providing adequate light. They’ll also need to add fertilizer after watering and remember to prune the plant to keep it healthy. But if done right, hibiscus flowers can stay in bloom year-round.
Kaffir lilies are known for their large, attention-grabbing orange or red flowers. They are great for indoor environments because they do best with partial sunlight. The signature flowers will usually take a few years to appear, but the unique, tongue-like green leaves themselves make for an attractive plant in the meantime.
Trachyandra is a succulent that grows in a wild spiral or curling pattern. It’s such an unusual looking plant that almost everyone who sees it is bound to comment on it. They’re much easier to find as seeds than as sprouted plants, and they take a few years to develop. But if you’re buying for someone with a little patience and a green thumb, they’re worth the wait.
BEST AIR PURIFYING PLANTS
Houseplants do more than just make a living space more lively. They also help to support the health of the place’s inhabitants by filtering toxins and other impurities out of the air. If air quality is something your gift recipient is concerned about, these plants should be on your list.
Chinese evergreens are one of the most popular indoor houseplants for good reason. They’re nice to look at, super easy to take care of, and they’re real workhorses when it comes to cleaning up the air you breathe. A great set-it-and-forget-it air purifier.
Another classic indoor variety, the spider plant is popular as a hanging plant for its fast-growing vines that multiply quickly to create a very dense, lush appearance. All that surface area also makes them great at filtering out the air.
The aloe vera plant may be better known for soothing your skin, but it works just as hard to soothe your lungs by filtering gases and chemical compounds like formaldehyde and benzene from the air. Like most succulents, aloe plants love sunlight.
LARGE (Like, Really Large) INDOOR PLANTS
The plants listed above are probably more or less in line with the kind of houseplants that you’re used to seeing. But just because a plant is going to live indoors doesn’t meant that you have to go small. Here are a few room-transforming jumbo sized plants that will command whatever space they’re put in.
Rubber tree plant
Just because it’s called a tree doesn’t mean you can’t put it in the living room. With its large profile and broad, waxy leaves, a rubber tree has a way of dominating attention, so make sure you know the taste of the person that you’re buying for. But in the right room, this distinctive plant creates quite the impression. It’s not terribly difficult to take care of either.
Named for its visual similarity to (you guessed it) a cornstalk, this African plant will grow to over 50’ in the wild, but is perfectly happy to stay around six or seven feet indoors. A fully grown dracaena fragrans has a distinctly desert look to it, and because it primarily grows upward, it won’t take over a huge area of the room even at its peak.
Ficus is a broad category that covers hundreds of trees, bushes, and other plants in the same genus. But you’ve definitely seen the common indoor ficus a few times, because they make for great jumbo-sized indoor plants. The biggest challenge with a ficus is keeping it humid enough without letting the roots get too soggy. But if they can master this (and there are some good tricks for it, like setting the pot on top of a tray full of pebbles and water), a ficus can make a great indoor tree that will last for years.