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Here's Where You Should Put Houseplants If You Want them to Grow

More sunlight isn't always the answer.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials
  • She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Before, during and after earning his BA from Northeastern, he toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or tinkering with a toaster. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools | Appliances | Food science | Subscriptions | Meal kits
Erin Carson
David Watsky
3 min read
A selection of potted plants in front of a window.

Where you put your plants in your home matters.

Sara Monika/Getty Images

Plants and greenery have personalities of their own and various species prefer distinct environments for maximum growth. If you take care of your greenery, they'll take care of you. Choose the right plants and you'll have cleaner air to breathe and some common houseplants are even known to keep bugs away. And putting houseplants in the right places can boost growth, particularly during busy times when you're off traveling and can't water them as often.

Even for the most novice indoor gardener, there are approaches you can take to increase your odds of keeping plants happy and healthy -- and a few bits of houseplant philosophy to help you along the way. A big factor in having a home full of thriving indoor plants is making sure you're putting those houseplants in the right place. 

Here's what to know about where you should (and shouldn't) be placing your leafy friends. For more, check out four easy ways to keep your plants alive while you're travelinghow to grow your own herbs at home and tips for using an AeroGarden.

Bright windows vs. dark corners

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Whatever kind of plant you have, you're going to be chasing a balance between the amount of water and sunlight you give it, according to what the plant needs. This means that not every plant wants to sit in the direct light of a sunny window, and not every plant can handle being placed in a dim corner. Some plants need water often; others can go without for longer stretches. (For a more in-depth, no-nonsense dive into the science behind this, written by an engineer, The New Plant Parent by Darryl Cheng is a great read.) Often when people talk about low-light plants, as Cheng writes, they mean plants that "starve gracefully." Less light means less food. Some plants can keep appearances up for longer despite that. 

When you buy a new plant, do some research on the environment it prefers, but also know you might have to make modifications. For lots of folks getting started with houseplants, there's a certain appeal to low-light plants. They seem harder to kill, they don't need copious amounts of light, although it's important to remember that low light doesn't mean no light. 

Here are a few tips for where to put plants that don't need to sit in your sunniest window. 

Where to put a snake plant

A snake plant sitting on a granite countertop in a ceramic pot.

This snake plant hangs out in the bright, indirect light of my living room.

Erin Carson/CNET

Snake plants (there are many varieties) are sturdy plants whose leaves grow vertically from the ground. The leaves are somewhat stiff and the plant generally grows slowly, particularly in lower light. This one isn't going to wilt. The great thing about snake plants is they can deal with a range of lighting situations, all the way up to full sun. They also prefer drier soil, which means you're going to water them less frequently. Admittedly, many folks may struggle with overwatering if they're newer to the plant world. Still, it's hard to say water your plant a certain amount of times per month. I keep my 4-year-old snake plant a few feet from a window in a room that's generally bright, and I water it once a week.

Where to put a pothos plant

A pothos vine sitting on a granite countertop.

There's a pot buried under the vines.

Erin Carson/CNET

Pothos is a classic house plant. It's a vine, so it can get long, and you can let it hang down from its pot if you want. This is another that can get by with lower light, but again keep in mind that lower light means it won't grow as much. That said, you'll probably want to avoid putting your pothos in direct light. It likes moist soil. One way I've learned to tell if my Pothos plant is happy is if the leaves look and feel springy and perky. 

Where to put a coffee plant

A coffee plant in a wooden planter sitting on a granite countertop.

This coffee plant looks perky after being watered.

Erin Carson/CNET

I wouldn't call a coffee plant a low-light plant, but it will not enjoy the pounding sun of a window sill. Bright, indirect light suits a coffee plant much better. Keep your coffee plant's soil moist, but don't drown it. One quirk of the coffee plant that I've come to appreciate is its drama: If it needs water, the leaves will droop, but they'll bounce back relatively quickly after you give it a good drink. Ideally, it won't have to droop to let you know it's thirsty, but at least it'll give you some clear communication if you forget. 

For more plant tips, check out CNET's picks for the best garden and seed delivery services, and how to plant a tree the right way.