3 Easy Houseplants for City Life (And How to Keep Them Alive)

White, industrial dining room with metal wardrobe and wood table | @ Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
White, industrial dining room with metal wardrobe and wood table | @ Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
Photo of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor16 February 2018

New York City may be the largest urban space in the United States, but with all that concrete it falls a little short on greenery. That’s why the city’s parks, greenmarkets, and indoor plants are so necessary, so vital for New Yorkers. But how do you go about choosing the perfect plant?

Modern interior of spacious cozy living room | © Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

You’ve decided it may be time to buy some new greens for your digs. But where to start? There are so many choices, so little time, so many questions on care. Walking into a plant shop can be a little daunting if you have absolutely no idea what you’re looking for. Plus, you’re bringing a new life in your home, so you want to make sure you get it right the first time—not the second, or the third, or the 10th. No one likes the guilt of having to throw out yet another plant from last year’s purchase-on-a-whim anyway.

While there are many options for plant shops around the five boroughs, there’s nothing quite like NYC’s greenmarkets. Originally created in 1970, GrowNYC is dedicated to all things green in the urban sphere, and they’re also responsible for the many greenmarkets open year round all over the city. They’re a vital part of the cityscape, offering up a hearty sampling of some of the best greens, plants, veggies, and produce from the surrounding New York and New Jersey farms.

Culture Trip reached out to Gerard Lordahl, director of GrowNYC’s Open Space Greening program, to find out the best houseplants for apartments and some tips on how to actually keep them alive. The following three indoor plants are thriving under limited lighting conditions at their office on 100 Gold Street (and they’re the plant experts anyway), so these little miracle greens are sure to be a good fit for your apartment, too.


‘Sansevieria trifasciata’ in pot on old wall background | © karimpard/Shutterstock

What Gerard Lordahl from GrowNYC says: “These plants can be neglected for weeks, so they are very low maintenance. However, avoid getting leaves wet when watering. [This plant] prefers indirect light and avoid overwatering, especially in winter. Allow soil to dry out between waterings. Avoid temperatures below 50°F.”

Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

3D digital render of ‘Monstera’ isolated on white background | © deckorator/Shutterstock

What Gerard Lordahl from GrowNYC says: “How can you resist with such a name? Keep soil evenly moist, allowing it to dry out between waterings and water less in winter. Overwatering causes yellow leaves. Leaves will develop smaller if there is insufficient light. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves as it grows naturally on the jungle floors of the tropics. Prefers 60°F but tolerates short exposure to cold.”

Spathiphyllum x Mauna Loa Peace Lily

A potted peace lily houseplant on a dining table | © John C. Evans/Shutterstock

What Gerard Lordahl from GrowNYC says: “Tolerates low light (minimum light to read by) some surface drying and cool temperatures (45°F) without damage. Tough and undemanding; white flowers indoors when light is strong enough, glossy dark green leaves.”

Gerard’s three rules of (green) thumb on how to keep your plants alive

Saucepans hanging over sink against potted plants on window sill in domestic kitchen | © sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

1. Avoid overwatering houseplants.

2. Refrain from fertilizing in winter when most houseplant growth slows down.

3. Timing is critical when bringing in houseplants which have been on your terrace or in your backyard all summer. Maintain the same air temperature indoors as out, to lessen transition shock. For New Yorkers, that means 70°F and translates to moving plants indoors around September.

Want to learn more about plants for the home? Check out the 17 best air purifying houseplants, according to NASA.

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