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A Touch of Green

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One of the quickest, and least expensive, ways to perk up your interiors is to add a few houseplants. The good news is, you don't have to be a green thumb to bring live plants into your home. Select the right plants for your level of expertise or interest, as well as for the amount of light your interiors receive throughout the day, and you're good to grow!

In addition to bringing color and texture to your decor, the right houseplants will also purify and detox the stagnant air in your home. Says Heather Shively, of The Girl & The Garden, "plants help increase oxygen levels in your home. And, low levels of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed by the plant's leaves. They also increase indoor humidity during dry months, like winter. This can help soothe dry skin, sore throats, and dry coughs." In addition to health benefits, Shively says having plants in the home can also help with emotional wellbeing. "Know how you feel when you're in nature for just 10 minutes? Bring nature inside with you and reap similar benefits, such as lower stress and anxiety, increased concentration, and less fatigue." Shively also says to note that not all house plants can be considered safe. "Many are toxic to cats, dogs, even children, if they are ingested. Please do some research before you accidentally bring a poison plant into your household." A list of toxic and non-toxic plants can be found on the ASPCA website.

Air plants are the most sought-after houseplants of the moment. Known for their low level of maintenance and for their distinctive and modern look, air plants are the perfect entry-level houseplant for those who struggle to keep even a fern alive. Taber Olinger, owner of Fancy & Staple, stocks about 20 - 30 different varieties of air plants in her store, which range from $1 - $15. With different sizes, shapes and even colors, the selection of air plants at Fancy & Staple is always changing and the shop has become the city's go-to destination for air plants. Says Olinger of the popularity of air plants, "They're great, not only because they're a little easier than regular plants, but also because they're really fun to accessorize! Since they're not actually planted in soil, there are endless styling options as far as the container or display goes. And when it's time to switch things up, it's as simple as just moving the air plant from one vessel to the next. No mess, no worries, no limitations." Olinger says to get creative with your air plants. "You can put an air plant in virtually anything. I like to keep it simple and just place them in a shallow dish or on a small plate. But, if you're up for some more creative ideas, you can add them to a wall hanging, attach them to a special rock or piece of driftwood, tuck them into a teacup or other glassware, hang them with fishing line so they appear to be floating, or just place one on a shelf next to all your favorite tchotchkes." To create an easy terrarium, add an air plant to a beautiful glass container, filled with sand, shells or pebbles, and battery operated twinkle lights on a timer, for a natural look that also provides ambiance. At Fancy & Staple, Olinger gives printed care instructions to those purchasing air plants, to ensure they live as long as possible. "Your air plant likes bright, indirect sunlight. It does not require soil, but it does need water. It likes to drink for 10-15 minutes by taking a soak once or twice a week. After its bath, give it a gentle shake so the excess water falls away. Your air plant appreciates a mist from time to time, but it doesn't replace bathing."

For larger, more standard houseplants, look for "Plants of Steel" by Costa Farms (available at Lowe's, among other big-box greenhouses), which are hearty varieties that don't require a ton of maintenance but offer lots of look, such as Chinese evergreen, ponytail palm, zeezee and snake plants. Shively says the following list of plants are also generally easy to find and to care for:

Pothos - The absolute best plant with which to start plant ownership. They can grow in any light, handle being neglected, can grow in both dry soil and in a jar of water. The variegated variety is a little more picky and likes more sunshine, so start with a non-variegated plant if you're new to houseplants.

Bamboo Palm - Bright sun? Sure. Low light? That's fine too. Water when surface of soil feels dry and only water until soil is evenly moist, not fully saturated. These can get up to 3 - 5 feet tall and will bring a vacation vibe to your home.

English Ivy - This needs plenty of light and good drainage. Only water when top of soil is dry and always let dry out between waterings. Every Cubs fan needs a pot of English Ivy in their house for a touch of Wrigley's famous ivy covered walls.

As for more unique houseplant options, Shively has a couple of recommendations:

Mint - Most think of mint as an herbal plant for outdoors in the summer. However, they grow very well in an indoor container year round. They only need a bit of sun but be sure to keep them moist. In addition to being fragrant, you'll also have fresh mint for cooking and cocktails.

Sensitive Plant - This one is really fun, especially for demonstrating to kids and guests. It's my absolute favorite plant. The leaves are sensitive and curl up on contact as a natural protection from predators. It needs bright indirect sun and average room temperatures. Water just enough so it doesn't dry out. On drier days, mist leaves.

Succulents - These do take more care but are so interesting and good looking. Don't crowd them in with other plants, they like room to breathe. They need lots of sun to keep them happy so place in a sunny windowsill that gets at least 6 hours. Water thoroughly but not often. Let them dry out between waterings and be sure they have great drainage.

When it comes to incorporating your new plants into your home decor, look to design/event brand Photanical for lots of dreamy inspiration. From macrame wall hangings that incorporate air plants to tabletop arrangements and even charming flower crowns, the duo behind Photanical, Eden America and Ruth Yaro, have elevated a love for plants to an art form.


*A version of this article originally appeared in the Journal-Gazette.