If the light inside your home streams in from an east-facing window, you’re in luck. When it comes to keeping your houseplants happy, the usually indirect but still bright light of an east-facing window is the ideal location. Even if an eastern exposure means the sun does shine directly on the plants, it’s far less intense and for a far shorter period of time — and therefore less prone to burn them — than a southern or even western exposure.
Whether you’re a novice at tending to houseplants or you’ve been keeping them alive for years, here are seven good choices for this prime location, as well as many others you may want to try. However, don’t be afraid to branch out and experiment with other plants as well. Chances are they’ll also thrive.
Quality of light. Ideally, east-facing windows get either bright indirect light all day or direct sun in the morning hours, when it’s less intense, and indirect sun for the rest of the day. Every location is different, however, and if the morning light you get is very bright or hot, it might result in scorched or wilting leaves or simply a failure to thrive. If that’s the case, either move the plant further away from the window or install a sheer curtain to filter the sunlight.
On the other hand, trees and tall buildings may filter the light so it’s no longer bright, or may even block the light during a good portion of the day. if a plant is leaning toward the light, getting leggy or struggling to grow, try moving it closer to the window. If it still struggles, you may need to look for plants that do well in low light, such as those that thrive with a northern exposure.
Basic houseplant care. Houseplants, not surprisingly, tend to thrive in the same conditions that we do. They prefer house temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) in the day and 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 13 degrees Celsius) at night, plus normal home humidity levels.
Taking care of houseplants is also fairly straightforward. Water them thoroughly, draining off any excess so they don’t stand in water. Don’t overwater; many do best if you let them dry out slightly before watering again.
It’s also easy to over-fertilize, so most experts recommend fertilizing lightly but regularly. You can do this by applying about a quarter of the recommended dose weekly when the plant is growing, then cutting back to the same amount about once a month the rest of the year, generally late fall and winter. Check leaf color to monitor fertilizer levels: If the leaves are small but dark, you are probably overfertilizing; if they are light, you are probably under-fertilizing.
Finally, keep houseplants out of drafts and extremely hot or cold spots.
Easy-to-grow favorite. It’s hard to go wrong if you start with a philodendron. They’re the workhorses of the indoor plant world, growing in almost any indoor location.
Heartleaf philodendron is the best-known of the easy-care philodendron family. It’s a vigorous climber, though it will need support; it also shines when grown in a hanging basket or on a shelf where the long stems can be appreciated. For a bushier plant, cut or pinch back the stems at a node.
Keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize throughout the year, more heavily in summer. Don’t worry about a few leaves dropping unless it becomes excessive. Wash or wipe off the leaves monthly to keep them dust-free.
More: Other plants that are easy to grow indoors include split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa), pothos (Epipremnum aureum), dumb cane (Dieffenbachia maculata) and baby rubber plant (Peperomia obtusifolia). Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and many of the plants known as spiderworts are ideal candidates for hanging baskets.
(Schefflera actinophylla and Schefflera arboricola)
Another familiar choice. The umbrella tree (S. actinophylla) and the dwarf umbrella tree (S. arboricola) are old favorites that are being rediscovered. The first has leaves that can reach 1 foot across, while the latter’s leaves are much smaller. It’s still not a true dwarf, however, as it can reach 6 feet tall.
Let the plants dry out slightly, then water thoroughly and drain off any excess. Fertilize while they are growing, generally spring through fall, and pick off any yellow leaves. Pinch off branches to shape.
More: Other good options include the miniature grape ivy (Cissus striata) and the Japanese fatsia (Fatsia japonica).
Classic fern. Boston fern, the standard Victorian parlor plant and a midcentury favorite, is also at home in a contemporary setting. Show off its drooping fronds in a hanging basket or on an elevated plant stand.
Boston ferns prefer indirect light but will get spindly if light levels are too low. Keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize lightly (about a quarter of the recommended dose weekly) throughout the year.
More: Other favorite ferns include the delicate delta maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum) and the tough staghorn fern (Platycerium spp.), which doesn’t even need soil to thrive. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus), while technically not a true fern, is a good choice if you’re new to growing houseplants.
Flowering plant. Bright or even direct sunlight is often a prerequisite for growing flowering plants indoors, but one of the most popular orchids, the moth orchid, prefers east-facing windows. It will also give you weeks of blossoms and is equally at home in both traditional and contemporary settings.
Moth orchids prefer slightly higher temperatures during the day, generally from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius), but can handle both higher and lower indoor temperatures. They like slightly higher-than-average humidity levels, so consider growing them on a pebble tray. Give them good air circulation.
Water with room-temperature water when the roots are silver and the potting mix is slightly damp, then drain thoroughly. Feed with quarter-strength fertilizer weekly, cutting back when the plant is in bloom. Give them good air circulation.
More: Other flowering plants that love an eastern exposure are African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) and their fellow Gesneriads, which include the cape primroses (Episcia and Sinningia genera). You might also want to try growing the winter-blooming cyclamen, the colorful pocketbook plant (Calceolaria spp.) or the striking zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa).
Tree-like plant. An indoor tree is a statement plant in any space. If that’s what you’re looking for, one of the best choices is the versatile fiddleleaf fig, named for its violin-shaped leaves. It can reach 10 feet tall, though it is usually shorter. If the light levels are too low, it will start to lose leaves.
The fiddleleaf fig does best when it receives three to four hours of filtered sunlight a day. Let the soil dry out slightly between watering, then water thoroughly and drain off any excess. Fertilize year-round, slightly increasing the amount of water in summer. The leaves may drop if it is moved to a spot with less light.
More: Other figs to consider include the longtime-popular weeping fig (F. benjamina) and the easygoing Indian rubber plant (F. elastica). Two popular dracaenas that can reach tree-like heights are the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’) and the dragon tree, or red-margined dracaena (D. marginata). Other plants to consider are the slow-growing Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) and umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla).
Indoor palm. The butterfly, or areca, palm is a popular choice if you want to create a tropical paradise in your home, or if you simply enjoy the graceful fronds of a palm. Despite its exotic look, it’s fairly easy to grow.
Keep the soil evenly moist it is growing in the spring and summer, then cut back in late fall and winter. Feed monthly while it’s growing. Butterfly palms can get large, but it will take them some time.
More: Other good palm choices for indoors include Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis), fishtail palm (Caryota spp.), lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and pygmy date palm (Phoenixroebelenii). You can also try growing a bird of paradise (Strelitzia spp.) or a coffee tree (Coffea arabica), although neither is likely to produce either flowers or coffee berries.
Youth on Age
Humidity lover. Providing slightly higher humidity can be a big help to plants that like the atmosphere a bit damper. Simply misting may not provide enough of a boost in ambient humidity levels, as its effects will quickly fade, but you can try growing them on pebble trays — low trays filled with pebbles and water that sit beneath the pot — placing them in a kitchen or bath, or grouping them near a humidifier.
Fast-growing youth on age, also called piggyback plant, is a popular houseplant that does best in a cool location out of direct sun. It gets its name from the plantlets that form on top of the existing leaves. Grow it where you can admire the leaves as they hang over the edges of the pot or down the side of a shelf.
Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy, and fertilize lightly (about a quarter of the recommended amount) weekly from spring through fall. Cut back in winter. Keep the plant out of direct sunlight, intense heat and dry air. Pinch back to keep it bushy.
More: Other humidity lovers include the silver-leaved aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei), the popular arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum) and the awkwardly named fatshedera (x Fatshedera lizei), or tree ivy. Both peacock plant (Calathea makoyana) and prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) are humidity lovers known for their unusual leaves.