New Plant Parent? Here are my top 5 plant suggestions

The plant market has absolutely boomed over the last few years. We’ve gone from having the same few plants available in commercial nurseries, with magical gems being hidden away in the collections of private growers, to having almost every plant you can dream of being imported and sold through a variety of new plant shops.

While the temptation may be to go in and spend a lot of money on the latest it plant (and I’ve done it so no judgement here, am eyeing up a wishlist plant I absolutely cannot afford as we speak) but there are a couple of more readily available plants that I would suggest every time for people just getting into plants. 

I’ve seen people with no experience spend thousands on plants that are actually more complex to care for and end up killing them. There are a few more easily available plants that you can practise on (because yes-you may still end up killing them and that’s ok and normal but people just don’t advertise that murderous little fact. Use these as an experiment to get your lighting, water and humidity levels up to scratch without feeling too guilty if they perish-then head in with your cold hard cash for some of those more fancy plants.)

So, while there are so so many plants that I could have put on here, these would be the 5 plants I would suggest a beginner plant parent to bring into their homes first to get a taste of some different genus and slightly different care requirements while still being pretty and diverse looking.

Monstera deliciosa

It’s a classic-and that’s for good reasons. Monstera in general are easy-care plants. Or maybe let’s call them low care rather than easy care.

Out in the wild they’re climbers so will appreciate a pole and bright but indirect light (think what it’s like under a tree canopy in a jungle).

There are two types-for us here in South Africa most of the shops sell the smaller form. These have longer spaces between the leaves (aka more stem) and smaller leaves whereas the large form that gets the huge leaves has less stem space between each leaf. Both like to climb so will appreciate the support-you’ll notice aerial roots start to grow out of the stem. That’s when you know it’s pole time! Let them grab on and watch them climb and their leaves get bigger!


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Reasons I think they’re a good starter plant:

  • Relatively fast growing, so if you’re impatient for a big plant you won’t have to wait long
  • If given the right conditions (well draining solid, something to climb and ok light) they absolutely thrive
  • They’re a dramatic statement piece and it’s really exciting to watch each new leaf upfold and watch as the fenestrations develop as the plants mature

Scindapsus Pictus ‘Exotica’

In my opinion this is a criminally underrated plant and I don’t know why people aren’t shouting about it from the rooftops. Mine is heavily abused-living on a high shelf it gets watered far less often than my other plants-but is still out here living its best life. If I had to get rid of all but 3 of my plants this would be one I would keep.

There are lots of different cultivars of Scindapsus pictus (I made a Youtube video to help break down Latin names and nomenclature if that’s something you’d be interested in) but my number one go to would be the ‘Exotica’.

If you like a hanging plant they make beautiful trailing plants but if you’re more about that climbing, want to make the leaves as big as possible life, they also grow beautifully up a support. And best of all the leaves are silver. Not just a little bit silver but actually sparkly. And even if not given a pole the leaves are still large.

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 Reasons I think they’re a great starter plant:

  • You get all the beauty of a shiny silver leaf with none of the drama
  • Given the right conditions (as is the theme-well draining soil and bright indirect light) they’re fast growers which means you’ll have a full plant in no time.
  • They’re quite unique looking and add a lot of interest to a space without a hefty price tag
  • Bonus-they tell you if they need watering. Once their leaves start to curl in on themselves you know it's time to water.


Hoya publicalyx

Hoya in general I think are really nice plants for anyone to have in their homes. But! I do think that the family in general has been overhyped as being easy to care for. I say from experience that there are some Hoya that are really fussy as they have really diverse backgrounds and thus care requirements. The publicalyx is not one of them.

Hoya care is similar in a way to succulents. Their leaves are much thicker than most houseplants (if you’re a leaf toucher like me you’ll get what I’m talking about, they’re chunky rather than papery). This thickness means that the leaves are able to store more water. With Hoya my general rule is water them less than you think you should. If you see the leaves start to go wrinkly you’ve left them too long but on the whole, water less than other plants.

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Reasons I think they’re a great starter plant:

  • They flower under the right conditions! Enough said
  • The publicalyx really is very low maintenance. You can get away with keeping them in lower light conditions (low but not dark) and still have a lush happy plant. In very high light you’ll cause stress on the leaf and they’ll start to get red/pink hues.
  • Once established in their pot they grow like wildfire so you’ll have a dangling jungle in no time

ZZ (zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Another great plant for the easily distracted is the zz! Water it when you pay your rent. (And when I say water, for all plants not just the zz, I mean you want to water it until water is running out the bottom of the pot and the soil is fully saturated-not just tipping in the leftover water from your cup at the end of the day).

They’re native to Africa so that should kind of show you what environment they like (this is another thing I would suggest when you’re looking at a plant. Where do they live in the wild? This will show you if they need high humidity, bright light, lots of water etc, a plant from a desert area needs very different care to a plant native to an Indonesian forest).

I would also say that any ZZ is a good one to start with-be in the Raven with its jet black leaves or the compact little Zenzi, their care is similar.

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Reasons I think they’re a great starter plant:

  • The lowest of low care plants. Really. 
  • They will still grow even if you don’t live in a really bright house (obviously they prefer more light but it’s not like other plants where they’ll get really sad, they just won’t grow as much or as fast but they will not grow in no light)
  • If given the right conditions (as is the motto-well draining soil, bright indirect light, consistent fertilising) the regular zz can grow beastly huge. Big drama with zero fuss. They’re really sculptural so a large one adds a lot to a space.

Philodendron selloum (now known as Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum)

Picking one Philodendron was really difficult. I could have put many on here-the imperial green, hederaceum and rojo congo came close so are probably honorary mentions but I decided to go with the good old classic, Philodendron selloum. Although it’s been reclassified to a Thaumatophyllum as it gets a little trunk as it grows, because it’s still mostly sold as a Philodendron I thought I’d still pick it over another Philo. I see this plant posted on plant groups often as a delicious monster-they’re very much not the same plant so keep an eye out for that mislabeling.

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Reasons I think they’re a great starter plant:

  • They give you an interesting leaf shape, even when immature. The leaves just get even better and more wibbly and wavy as they mature and size up.
  • Again, low maintenance. Water well. Correct soil. This plant will love you for doing the bare minimum.
  • Once they get too big for a space, and there may come a point where that happens as these guys grow HUGE they have no trouble being acclimated to live outside. They’re a fairly common landscaping plant as they’re so hardy! 

So there you go. My top 5 starter plants. Again there could be so many more to have chosen from but I think on the whole these provide a nice mix of appearances, ease of care and ease of purchase to place them in the top 5.

If you’d like a way to keep track of all your plants and your plant care I actually have a plant care diary that a dear friend and I (Britt from Mamma’s Plants-you should check her out she’s amazing) designed based off of our own plant collecting and care experience. You can purchase it here!

It helps keep all your records in one place. It’s the only way I have any idea the last time I watered my plants! It’s important to have a general care routine-watering (but only water when they need so watering ‘every Sunday’ won’t work if you have a diverse collection), fertilising and pest control.

New Plant Parent? Here are my top 5 plant suggestions