Which house plant for which room? Advice from a local garden center

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Keeping plants alive can feel like a part-time job. Many of us gravitate toward beginner-friendly species and often remain on that level. But if you’re looking to embark into a leafier, more colorful world, it may be time you moved on to “level two.”

El Jardín del Mono, a plant nursery north of Mérida. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Liz, from the plant nursery El Jardín del Mono, thinks their customers divide their plants into two categories.

“There are the people who are looking for easygoing, common house plants,” says Liz. “They are not ready to make a huge commitment, or don’t have a lot of time to spare.”

Planters and decor sold by El Jardín del Mono. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Potos, monsteras, and snake plants are examples of resilient, durable house plants we can enjoy without much care or hassle at all.

The second category of buyer, as Liz dubs it, are “in-style” plant parents. These are the customers looking for exotic species, still somewhat common and unchallenging, but that certainly requires you to have your basics down.

Plants, lined up on shelves in El Jardín del Mono. Photo: Verónica Garibay

“Part of being a level-two plant owner is the ability to distinguish what your space is actually like,” says Liz, “and how the plants will react once they’re there. How much light is in the room, how dry it is, how much air flows? Once you know all these things, you can assess if you’re able and willing to care for them.”

When thinking about popular level-two house plants, Liz shares a list of some of their most-adopted species.

Aglaonema: A noble plant, says Liz, as long as it’s near a window. They like indirect sunlight, as direct exposure can scorch their leaves. Be wary of overwatering this plant, as it enjoys dry soil. Usually recommended to water once or twice a week, depending on the weather.

Aglaonema, a lover of indirect light and low watering. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Tradescantia zebrina: These fast-growing vines are perfect for shelves and hangers. They prefer indirect sunlight and high humidity, but be careful not to leave their leaves wet, as they rot easily. Liz recommends placing them in kitchens, bathrooms, or humid environments, as long as they have access to indirect light. 

Tradescantia zebrina, a colorful vine that needs indirect light and high humidity. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Maranta leuconeura: Sometimes referred to as prayer-plants, they receive their name through their unique movements — known as nyctinasty. This means their leaves move throughout the day, looking to capture the sun’s rays. They need high humidity and a good amount of indirect sun, as direct light can burn their leaves.

Colorful Maranta leuconeura, with its leaves pointing towards the sun in El Jardín del Mono. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Ficus Pandurata: This super-popular plant is usually bought to be placed indoors. But a lot of people don’t realize that it actually needs a good amount of sun. Placing it near a window or skylight will ensure it has enough light to remain healthy. Be wary of overwatering, as their roots rot easily. Best to water once the soil a couple of inches below the surface is dry, around once a week.

Baby Ficus Pandurata, also known as Fiddle Leaf Fig. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Cacti and succulents: Once perceived as beginner-friendly plants, Liz says people often treat them as if they were artificial, which is why they are now thought of as difficult. These plants should be watered once every couple of weeks, and a little more often in hot weather. And, most importantly, cacti and succulents should receive plenty of sunlight. A good rule of thumb: the more colorful the succulent, the more light it needs.

Different kinds of cacti and succulents in Liz’s plant nursery. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Calathea Picturata: Calatheas need high humidity, which means they’ll need to be watered often but not daily since they won’t do well sitting in waterlogged soil. For signs of how you’re doing, look at their leaves. If they are curled up, you’re under-watering them. If they’re yellow, they are overwatered. It will do well in medium to bright light conditions as long as it is protected from direct light.

Calathea Picturata under the sun. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Fittonia: This plant should be right next to a window. They prefer bright, indirect sun, as lower light can cause it to lose its vibrant colors, and too much light can burn its leaves.  And it needs plenty of water or else they’ll “faint,” says Liz, But nothing to worry about. After a thorough watering, the leaves should soon perk up. 

Fittonia on an outside shelf. Its bright colors are lost when under-watered. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Peace Lily: This popular species is a big fan of water. It needs indirect sunlight and prefers warm and humid spaces. Ideally, it should be watered once or twice a week, but Liz recommends soaking it up once in a while if your pot allows it. This way, it can get fully replenished and hang on longer until the next time she’s watered.

To the far left, a Peace Lily next to a fern. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Finally, Liz notes that while these plants are a bit more challenging than beginner plants, they are still fairly easy to look after, as long as you know their language.

Different kind of Calanthea, on a shelf in El Jardín del Mono. Photo: Verónica Garibay

“I would consider them level two only because they need more attention. Plants are wonderful, they are made to adapt to their space, and are great at communicating when something’s not right. Once you’ve got your basics down, and your eye trained for plant signals, your transition into level-two house plants will be easy as pie.”

Learn more about El Jardín del Mono on their social media or contact them in the number +52 1 999 111 5679

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