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An Expert’s Top Choices for Bathroom Houseplants

By Georgia Madden, Houzz

Plants are a beautiful addition to bathrooms. They bring a touch of nature into the space and give anyone who enters an immediate sense of calm and well-being — perfect for a room that’s all about cleansing and relaxation. Plus, they soften the lines of tiles and bathroom fixtures. Here, Richard Unsworth, garden designer and owner of the Sydney firm Garden Life, answers your questions about choosing a plant for your bathroom.

sink with plant
The Design Villa, original photo on Houzz

What should I look for? The bathroom’s moist environment is generally good for plants. But you should choose ones that can cope with the room’s wide temperature fluctuations — warm when someone is showering and cold when it’s left unused for several hours.

And since many bathrooms receive low levels of sunlight, plants should be able to cope with that too.

tub with plant
Alexandra Crafton, original photo on Houzz

In fact, the most important thing is to pick plants that suit the level of natural light in your bathroom, Unsworth says. They should also suit the level of care you’re prepared to give them. Ferns, for example, require far more care to survive than succulents do.

Tropical plants are a good choice for bathrooms since they typically can deal with less direct sunlight than other plant species. They’re designed to grow in a rainforest, beneath a canopy of trees, which makes them ideal for indoor environments.

sink with plants
Beth Kooby Design, original photo on Houzz

What are the best plants? Unsworth offers his top picks for bathrooms below.

• Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata): This tough indoor succulent, pictured in foreground, has vertical sword-shaped leaves. It copes well in bathrooms, and it looks terrific. “I have [one] in my own bathroom, and it’s such a good performer. It’s easy to care for too — I simply run it under the shower every couple of weeks,” Unsworth says.
• Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior): This is another hardy, good-looking plant that thrives in moist spots such as bathrooms. It has relatively low water requirements — simply put it under the shower every week in summer and even less in winter.
• Zanzibar gem, or ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): This is an ideal choice for a hands-off gardener. it’s virtually indestructible and requires very little watering in summer and virtually none in winter.
Billbergia: This flowering plant usually grows on trees, which means it doesn’t need soil. The leaves come in many colors, but indoor varieties that receive low levels of light tend to become green over time. Keep water topped up within their leaves since they’re used to catching rainwater this way.
• ‘Hope’ philodendron: This easy-to-care-for plant thrives in tropical, humid conditions — perfect for bathrooms.
• Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and maidenhair fern (Adiantum): With their soft, feathery foliage, these plants look stunning in bathrooms. Be aware that they do require higher levels of moisture than the others mentioned, and they’ll quickly die if left to dry out, Unsworth says.

sink with plants
Lazcon Pty Ltd, original photo on Houzz

What if my bathroom is dark?It’s difficult to keep plants in a bathroom with no windows or very little sunlight, but there are solutions.

Start by choosing one of the plants mentioned above, which don’t require much sunlight.

Give them a spell in a brighter room every now and then, but make sure you don’t shock them by suddenly moving them from a dark spot straight to a hot location next to a bright window.

bathroom shelves with plants
M+A Architecture Studio, original photo on Houzz

What are nice ways to display them?How you display plants in a bathroom comes down to your personal style and the amount of space you have available. Unsworth prefers a single “hero” plant in an appropriate spot. His sits on an old wooden stool beside the tub.

But you could take a more maximalist approach and deck out your entire bathroom with plants if you want to. Most bathrooms won’t have the space to put plants on the floor, but you can place them on a windowsill, on shelves or next to the sink (small species will look best in this spot). Alternatively, hang a trailing plant such as pothos in a corner of the room (just make sure you can reach to water it).

tub with plant
Banda Property, original photo on Houzz

Although we all want our plants to thrive for years — and sometimes they do — you shouldn’t worry too much if that doesn’t pan out, Unsworth says. It’s easy to kill plants with too much kindness (or not enough), and that’s OK. When you consider how long a bunch of cut flowers lasts, one or two dead houseplants isn’t the end of the world. Simply pop them in the compost and start again.

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