The 3 Best Houseplants for Beginners & More! w/ Lisa Steinkopf

August 21, 2019 | Episode #47
Lisa Steinkopf, better known as The Houseplant Guru, shares the 3 best houseplants for beginners. Plus, 3 common questions answered & 3 myths busted!

The 3 Best Houseplants for Beginners & More!

Make Work Easier

We’re diving deep into the best houseplants for beginners. My fabulous guest Lisa, also know as The Houseplant Guru, is here today to help us with caring for our houseplants.

She’s answering common questions, debunking strange myths, and she’ll share the 3 best houseplants for beginners.

Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, The Houseplant Guru

Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, also known as The Houseplant Guru, is a blogger and speaker who’s obsessed with houseplants!

lisa eldred steinkopf

She brings her audience practical tips, tools, and advice that helps them find success with plants, no matter the situation. On her blog, she covers everything from common myths to best practices.

Lisa has been published all over the web, including on HGTVGardens, Michigan Gardener Magazine, Michigan Gardening Magazine, and Real Simple Magazine. She’s been featured on a number of podcasts and is often asked to speak to groups around the Metro Detroit area!

How I Met Lisa

Lisa is a friend of a long-time computer repair client of mine. That client, Sally, referred me to Lisa to help her out with her computer.

From there, Lisa asked me to redesign her website (which you can find at

We worked so well together, and her topics are so relevant to the Easier audience, I couldn’t wait to have her on the show!

3 Most Common Questions About Houseplants

1. How do I properly water my houseplants?

  • Never water on a schedule!
    • The weather changes, the light changes, and so the water your plants use changes.
    • The more light a plant has, the more water it’ll use
  • Check your plants on a schedule. Water when they need it.
  • All plants should be watered the same: Water until the water comes out the drainage hole.
    • Your potter needs a drainage hole! If it doesn’t have one, drill one

2. What kind of soil do I need?

  • Lisa’s family owns a garden center, so she mixes her own soil
  • But, she knows that most folks can’t do that, so do this:
    • Buy a quality houseplant soil (also called potting medium)
      • Be sure not to buy soil for indoor plants with water crystals! They hold too much water for indoor plants.
      • Also, don’t buy a potting soil with fertilizer. It’s best to buy it without
    • Also, buy a bag of perlite and a bag of vermiculite
      • Perlite and vermiculite help water to flow through the soil
    • Then, mix 1/3 of each of them for your indoor plants

2b. How do I fertilize my plants?

  • Get a 20/20/20 balanced fertilizer
    • Nitrogen
    • Phosphorus
    • Potassium
  • Don’t use it full-strength indoors
    • 3/4 strength, once per month (or every fourth time you water)
    • Or, can use 1/4 strength each time you water
  • Only need to fertilizer March through September
  • Fertilizer is not food for plants!
    • Light helps the plants create food
    • Fertilizer is like giving plants a vitamin

3. How do I know how much light I have?

  • Determine what kind of light your plant needs by looking at the tag
  • Determine what direction your window faces. If the sun…
    • Rises in your window, that’s east
    • Sets in your window, that’s west
    • Rises to the right of your window and sets to the left, that’s north
    • Rises to the left of your window and sets to the right, that’s south
    • To check with more accuracy, you can use a compass (or compass app on your phone)
  • Determine what kind of light you have:
    • East-facing: Medium light
    • South-facing: Bright light
    • West-facing: Medium / Bright light
    • North-facing: Low light
  • Use the information from the tag and the chart above to determine where you should put your plant

3 Strange Houseplant Myths, Busted!

1. I should bake my soil!

  • Older houseplant books suggest you should bake your soil to help eliminate pathogens or bugs. This is nonsense.
  • Plus, it’ll smell terrible.
  • Don’t do this. Buy some houseplant soil.

2. I should shine my leaves with mayonnaise!

  • Or milk. Some folks suggest using milk.
  • No.
  • Both of these will attract dust and clog the pores (or stomata) of the plants.
  • Just use water. You can even run the plant under the shower (

3. I should put gravel in my pot for drainage!

  • The potting medium above the gravel gets over-saturated when you put gravel at the bottom
    • This can cause root rot at the top, and dry roots at the bottom
  • Instead of gravel, use a drainage hole!
    • If there’s not one, drill one
  • If you don’t want to drill one, you can use a cachepot.
    • Cachepot (pronounced cash-poe) is a French word which means “hide a pot”
    • All this means it that you keep your plant in the grower’s pot (the plastic one) it comes in, and put that whole thing inside of a decorative pot.
    • When you water, the cachepot will catch any liquid that drains and prevent your plant from becoming over-saturated

The 3 Best Houseplants for Beginners

1. ZZ Plant

best houseplants for beginners zz plant

  • Low-light
  • Fleshy root system that doesn’t need much water
  • Shiny leaves
  • Super easy to care for
  • Not pet friendly

Get this plant

2. Spider Plant

best houseplants for beginners spider plant

  • Also called an airplane plant
  • Pet friendly!
  • If your plant is all green, it can tolerate lower light
  • If it’s variegated (meaning striped green and white), it’ll need higher light
  • Keep it barely moist: Don’t let it dry out, but don’t over-saturate

Get this plant

3. Peace Lily

best houseplants for beginners peace lily

  • Can tolerate low light
  • It might flower if you put it in a north window
  • It’s very forgiving with water!
  • This one is not pet friendly

Get this plant

Connect with Lisa

If you’re interested in houseplants at all, check out Lisa’s website! Not only does she talk about the best houseplants for beginners, but she covers basically everything to do with houseplants. If plants are your thing, definitely check her out.

And, bring her out to speak at your next event! She’ll teach and entertain your guests.

Plants I’ve Got at Work

Make Work Easier

Right now, I keep two plants in my office, a ZZ plant and an aloe plant.

best houseplants for beginners zz plant and aloe plant

You can see the red mark on the blinds behind the ZZ plant. That’s the size it was when I first got it. Look how big it’s gotten!

Also, Kevin recently got sunburned pretty badly on his back. I harvested one of the aloe leaves and used the gel to help his burn. It worked incredibly well.

I’m thinking about getting a bigger pot for the aloe now so it’ll grow bigger. If that happens, I’ll update you ?

Get a Soil Tester

My Favorite Things

A nifty gadget I’ve had for a while now is my  Sonkir soil tester.

sonkir soil tester

It requires no batteries, and it checks for soil moisture and pH as well as lighting.

If you’ve got houseplants, this is a nifty tool to try!

See all Favorites from this Episode

Dealing with a Low-light Apartment

Riding the Struggle Bus

All of my apartment windows face south. That means that I don’t get a ton of light inside past a few feet from the window.

So, I’ve struggled with keeping a few plants alive. I’ve killed a beautiful Chinese elm bonsai tree and my new baby tears plant, and I think it’s because of the lack of light where I put them.

Have any thoughts about how to deal with growing plants in low lighting. I really could use your help.

Call in to the show using the number below and let me know what you think!

Dial 313-242-7473

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