Modern city living has us indoors a lot. “So, go outside” you might say. But between the anxious energy pooling in the wind and the time it takes to recover, sometimes comfort means staying under one roof.

So why not bring the outdoors in? Having a personal plant oasis isn’t difficult. At The Sill, we believe plants make us happier and healthier — so we made it easier to get your boost of creativity via a dose of green.

Here’s a guide to finding your new plant, because the process should be, well, foolproof.

Lights and planning — let’s go.

Our No. 1 rule of thumb for choosing plants is to determine exactly how much natural sunlight your space gets. To keep it simple: Does your space get bright light, moderate light, or low light?

OK, it’s easy to guess, but the trick to figuring it out? Facts.

Generally, south-facing windows provide bright light, east and west-facing windows provide moderate light, and north-facing windows provide low light. And the farther away from the window you move, the less natural sunlight there will be.

After you do a little compass check, do a gut check.

Do you have to pull down the blinds to watch TV on a sunny day? That’s generally a sign of bright direct light. Is there anything blocking the window? How long does the brightest sunlight actually hit your space? Because an hour in the morning is not the same as 4 hours in the afternoon.

Most common houseplants — think snake plants, philodendrons, pothos plants, and peperomias — are native to sunny tropical environments and will prefer brighter light. That being said, many of them can tolerate moderate to low light too.

When it comes to these tropical houseplants, you’ll want to protect them from super-intense direct sun. They enjoy that brighter light but don’t want to be scorched! If the summer sun streaming through your window is intense enough to burn your skin, it can certainly be too much for your plant’s leaves.

To protect your tropical, leafy plants from burning — if they’re in front of a window that receives bright direct light — move them a foot or two farther into the room.

Don’t fret, though, if you’re lucky enough to have ample bright light in your space. Succulents and cacti, which are native to desert environments, won’t mind that intense sun.

Contrary to popular belief, most common houseplants don’t require all that much of your time to survive. They do most of the work themselves but will depend on you for watering, and maybe pruning every month or two.

But there’s also no shame in being honest with yourself about how much time you can dedicate.

Before agreeing to some plant love, consider your weekly work schedule, how often you travel, and your general availability. It’s like a relationship style: Casual? Committed? Convenience?

If your general forgetfulness or hectic work schedule is what stands in the way of plant ownership, don’t worry — some plants are skilled at tolerating a little absence.

Got bright light streaming in while you’re away? Stick to succulents, like haworthia, aloe vera, or echeveria, which have adapted in many different ways to dry climates where rain is sparse.

If you have moderate to lower light, go with a snake plant or ZZ plant. These varieties can tolerate a few weeks without water.

If your commitment style is just the opposite — i.e., you have plenty of time on your hands and can’t wait to dedicate it to your plant babies — try a bunch of air plants, orchids, or a few ferns. These plants require a little extra TLC: high humidity and frequent waterings.

Plants, just like most humans, like when it’s 75 degrees and sunny! Extreme fluctuation in a plant’s environment can stress it out.

Do your best to avoid placing your plants near temperature hazards like vents, radiators, and exterior doors, which might create hot or cold spots and drafts.

Plant chart

Plant nameLightWaterCare tips
snake plantthrives in bright to medium indirect light but can tolerate low lightabout once every 2–3 weeks; allow soil to dry out completely between wateringsSnake plants are hardy succulents that don’t require much care.
heartleaf philodendronthrives in medium indirect lightabout once every 1–2 weeks; allow soil to dry out completely between wateringsFeel free to prune this fast-growing trailing plant.
pothos plantthrives in medium indirect light but can tolerate low lightabout once every 1–2 weeks; allow soil to dry out completely between wateringsNicknamed the cubicle plant, pothos are tolerant of less-than-ideal environments.
peperomiathrives in bright to medium indirect lightabout once every 1–2 weeks; allow soil to dry out completely between wateringsPeperomias are pet-friendly (non-toxic).
ZZ plantthrives in medium indirect light but can tolerate low lightabout once every 2–3 weeks; allow soil to dry out completely between wateringsZZ plants are succulent in nature.

Now that your new buds are in the room, here’s the key to keeping them alive: Water them properly.

Overwatering is the easiest way to kill a houseplant. You may be tempted to water your plants on a strict schedule or even create a calendar alert, but the best thing to do is water your houseplants only when they need it.

Always check the surrounding soil first to make sure it’s dry. When checking the soil, dig your finger at least halfway down to make sure there’s no moisture still lurking below the surface.

Another way to see if they need water: Pay attention to them. Just as you might notice a beau’s haircut, look for your plant’s aesthetic signs. Wilting and curling leaves or bone-dry soil pulling away from the sides of the planter? Watering time.

Let the soil soak up the water for half a day or so, and then empty any remaining water from the saucer. If the plant soaks up all the water rather quickly, you can add one more round, let sit for an hour or so, and then empty the saucer.

Plant watering 101:

1. Always use tepid water, about 1/3 to 2/3 the volume of the planter.

2. Keep track of environmental and seasonal changes. In the winter, house plants generally need less water (unless you’re blasting your heater — then their soil might dry out quicker.)

3. Water directly into the soil, around the base of your plant. Never water directly on top of the plant, as most plants do not absorb water through their leaves (unless they’re epiphytes like air plants).

Most importantly, remember to have fun! Being a plant parent should be a positive experience. Enjoy learning about your new plants, caring for them, and watching them grow.

If you want to get to know the plants more before you commit, visit us at TheSill.com.