10 Houseplants to Beat the Winter Blues

shelf of thriving houseplants under a sun mirror with person in pink sweater spritzing water

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

While it's intuitive to think that houseplants naturally brighten moods and make spaces feel extra cozy on bleak winter days, scientists are beginning to discover the real benefits houseplants have on mental health. Research has found that being exposed to indoor plants reduced both psychological and physiological stress in a sampling of young adults. What's more, houseplants are believed to improve air quality—although some research indicates that a copious supply would be needed to do so—and happiness and environmental quality have long been linked.

Here are 10 houseplants that could help banish the dreaded winter blues with their serene, calming presence.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
of 10

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

spider plant in metal pot sits in kitchen next to glass jars of food

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Native to tropical and southern Africa, the spider plant will remind you of warm, sunny days in the winter. Comprising a rosette of thin, leggy, green-and-yellow foliage, the common houseplant is famously easy to care for. Though it prefers indirect sunlight, it can tolerate low-light conditions and drought. In the winter, once-a-week (or even less frequent) waterings are sufficient.

You shouldn't expect your spider plant to grow much over the winter, but when it does spring to life, look for long, arched stems giving birth to baby spider plants, "spiderettes," which you can pinch off and plant on their own.

  • Light: Bright to moderate indirect light.
  • Water: Occasionally during initial growth, sparingly after one year.
  • Soil: Well-draining potting soil.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.
2
of 10

Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)

swiss cheese monstera houseplant with shadow against pink wall

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Known for its large, split, and glossy green leaves, this big beauty also hails from the tropics and will bring a piece of the jungle to your house when it's cold and grim outside. Also known as the Mexican breadfruit or hurricane plant, the Instagram-favorite Swiss cheese plant lies dormant in the winter, preserving its stately, holed foliage for warmer times. It prefers indirect light, so display it on a bookshelf or end table near a window and water only when the top inch of water feels dry. You want to be careful not to overwater your monstera, especially during its dormant period.

  • Light: Bright to moderate indirect light.
  • Water: Once every one to two weeks.
  • Soil: Peaty, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.
3
of 10

Air Plant (Tillandsia)

two air plants in glass containers sit on wooden table with Adirondack chairs in background

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

There are roughly 500 species of air plants, all known for their long, springy leaves and lack of reliance on soil. This is what makes them especially good for winter: While other plants become finicky during winter dormancy, these pot-free anomalies require the same care all year round. Simply soak them in room-temperature water every one to two weeks, display them in a terrarium or hang them on the wall, and watch as their appearance remains consistent through the changing of the seasons.

  • Light: Bright to moderate indirect light.
  • Water: Soak every one to two weeks.
  • Soil: None.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.
4
of 10

Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)

chinese money plant in metal watering container on rattan side table next to pillows

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

With its namesake promise of wealth and abundance, the Chinese money plant brings hope to the dreary season. The belief that it's lucky is rooted in traditional feng shui. Endemic to China's Yunnan province, this quirky beauty's leathery leaves—reminiscent of a lily pad or a UFO—shoot enthusiastically from its crown.

The Chinese money plant is simple to propagate, so you can potentially brighten up your home with a whole flock given just one. To adhere to the principles of feng shui, place your pilea in a southeast corner, associated with financial prosperity and abundance.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Once a week.
  • Soil: Well-draining, peaty potting soil.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.
5
of 10

Aloe Vera

overhead view of spiky aloe vera plant on laminate wood table

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Commonly incorporated into skincare products, aloe vera acts as a natural moisturizer, which is especially handy in the dry winter months. The soothing properties of this succulent make it a popular topical treatment for eczema, burns, and other skin issues, while its nutrient-richness can treat abdominal pain and cramps when taken orally. (It's not, however, meant for pets.)

Aloe vera's soft, leathery flesh loves to sunbathe, but be careful: Too much direct sun can result in browning leaves.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Once every two to three weeks.
  • Soil: Sandy cactus potting soil.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.
6
of 10

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

jade plant hangs from macrame holder near a window with sheer curtains

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

A lack of ventilation is to blame for the atmospheric staleness so typical of winter. Air-purifying plants become increasingly important, and while research is notoriously torn on the issue (how many plants are needed to make an impact remains unknown), jade plants are thought to be some of the most effective. In a 2016 American Chemical Society meeting, chemistry professor Vadoud Niri of the State University of New York said jade plants excelled at removing toxic toluene from the air. Also, in the practice of feng shui, the jade plant symbolizes good luck, growth, and renewal.

  • Light: Direct sun.
  • Water: When soil is dry.
  • Soil: Sandy, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.
7
of 10

Fern (Polypodiophyta)

large fern house plant is displayed on wooden shelf next to other house decor

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Ferns are the quintessential outdoor plants. In fact, in most parts of the world, they can't even survive outside in the winter. That they thrive on high humidity makes ferns good bathroom plants—there, they reap the rewards of hot, steamy showers and give off rainforest vibes, even when it's snowing. Many common fern species are found on the forest floor, so make sure their soil drains well and contains plenty of organic matter, to mimic that environment.

  • Light: Indirect sun.
  • Water: Once or twice a week; keep soil moist.
  • Soil: Potting soil with ample organic matter.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.
8
of 10

Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

overhead view of two devil's ivy pothos house plants with colorful rug in background

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Though it also goes by the name golden pothos, this vine's "devil's ivy" reference hails from its ability to stay alive (and green) even in dark and neglectful conditions. It won't take too much of a hit from shortened days and dry conditions, and its large and variegated green leaves are great for adding life to your home when the weather outside is grey and bleak.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Once every week or two when soil feels dry.
  • Soil: Nutrient-rich, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
9
of 10

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

Dracaena house plant in white pot with studio apartment kitchen in background

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

This small tree features long, stiff leaves in a bright shade of pinkish red, the perfect pop of color to get you through overcast, flowerless winter days. Madagascar dragon trees prefer indirect light indoors, but don't need much—not even a window seat—to survive. Its spraying, swordlike leaves match the aesthetic of the Malagasy forest from which it originates. The tree can grow between three and seven feet tall and three feet wide.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Once every week or two when soil feels dry.
  • Soil: Nutrient-rich, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
10
of 10

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

parlor palm house plant in white pot on wooden furniture next to other larger house plants

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

With the ability to look like it came straight from the rainforest even through drought and poor light conditions, the parlor palm is an ideal choice to include in your indoor plant family come winter. It can grow up to six feet tall, which adds some serious green volume to your living space when you need it most. Parlor palms grow well in three-gallon pots.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Once every week or two when soil starts drying.
  • Soil: Peaty potting soil.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.