There is something very natural about keeping plants in the kitchen. It can be awkward to keep houseplants on the table though, especially if you have an eat-in kitchen, so the counter tends to be where plants end up.
Best Plants for the Kitchen Countertop
So, what kinds of qualities make a houseplant work well on the kitchen counter? There are a few traits you should consider before getting new plants to fit in this space.
First of all is size. Any plant that has to live on your countertop is going to have to stay relatively compact, especially if there are cabinets above. You’ll probably have around 16 inches or so to work with, so any houseplants that get to be 2 or 3 feet high are out.
Next up is light levels. If you have a nice, bright kitchen or at least a spot on your counter near a sunny window, you will have no problems. But many kitchens can be a little shady under the cabinets, which should influence your plant choices.
You can also make some choices with plants that are known to help clean up the air of toxins and trace chemicals in the air. While handy anywhere in the house, the kitchen tends to have a larger supply of cleaning supplies in use, which can create a poor air quality for the house.
1 – Pothos
As usual, the pothos comes out on top as a perfect houseplant for this situation. It will grow very well in low-light areas as well as brighter kitchens. If the light is on the low side, the yellow stripes in the leaves will darken to green as it adapts. Nothing to worry about.
Pothos (aka Devil’s Ivy) isn’t all that finicky about watering care either. The soil can dry out between waterings without any harm done. Chemicals like formaldehyde and other solvents will be filtered out to help freshen up the air.
It does produce vines, which can start to take up space on your counter as it grows. Giving your pothos a little trim when it gets too spread out will keep it compact for the kitchen.
2 – Aloe Vera
Aloe vera earns a special place in the kitchen as a natural first-aid kit for burns. Use a sharp knife to slice off a piece of a spear, and the clear gel inside can be applied right onto a burn for cool relief.
You’ll have to rely on a very sunny spot for an aloe in your kitchen as it’s not really a low-light plant. It is a succulent after all, and prefers the sun and will tolerate dry soil if you forget to water it a time or two.
Actually, it’s better if you do let it dry right out before watering. Aloe can be very prone to root rot if left in soggy soil too often.
3 – Boston Fern
The Boston fern is only one example of a great fern for the kitchen. Many other varieties can also work, though some ferns will be too large for the counter.
Overflowing with feathery green leaves, a Boston ferns does nicely in indirect light but will need a high level of humidity to stay healthy. A weekly misting may be necessary, or keep a dish of pebbles and water nearby to evaporate a little extra moisture into the air.
A fern should never be sitting in dry soil either. Water regularly, and add a layer of mulch or peat moss to the top of the soil to really hold onto the moisture. You’ll know that your plant is too dry when the tips of the leaves start to turn yellow.
4 – Philodendron
Like with the ferns, you can choose from several different kinds of philodendron for the kitchen. The lacy leaf is more compact, but the heartleaf will vine a little more. Roho can get up to 2 feet high but has lovely red leaves as they open up.
Take your pick depending on your space limits. The care is the same no matter which one you choose. Water when the soil starts to get dry, and find a spot with indirect light. They will be fine in brighter light if that is what you have too.
You should only get a philodendron if you have a space for it that is not accessible to pets or small children because it is toxic if eaten (touching it is fine). And speaking of toxins, philodendron plants are great at air filtering and will help clean up any organic solvents in the air.
5 – Lucky Bamboo
A little trendy, but lucky bamboo plants will work nicely in the kitchen. Though not truly bamboo, these little plants sure look the part and might bring your home a little extra good luck.
They’ll thrive in low-light, and usually live in vases of water rather than the usual pot of soil. Empty out the container and replace with fresh water at least every two weeks. Plant care doesn’t get much simpler than that.
6 – Calathea
This striking plant goes by a mix of common names, like peacock plant or zebra plant. Not only are the leaves impressively patterned, the new leaves are often bright red as they emerge. It can be lovelier than a flowering plant. The leaves will keep their stripes in low light but start to fade if you put your calathea in a too-sunny spot.
They can be a little particular about their growing conditions so they are a little more work than some of our other kitchen houseplants. It should be kept warm and away from any cold drafts.
Humidity should be high, and don’t let the soil dry out. Pot your peacock plant in loose, well-draining soil. Even though it likes damp conditions, it will get root rot if the soil is too wet.
7 – Peperomia
Any peperomia variety will work nicely in the kitchen, and these houseplants are known for their interesting wrinkled leaves, though some varieties are a little plainer with smooth leaves.
The emerald ripple variety is probably the most popular one, but none of them will get taller than 18 inches. It will be fine in either a bright window or a spot with indirect light.
They can tolerate some dry soil, so you don’t need to water until the soil is dry through the top inch.
8 – Succulents
Since they do so well in very small spaces, we should mention the entire succulent family. Related to the cactus, they are very slow-growing and will stay small for years, making them excellent counter options. Jade plants are one exception. They can get quite large.
Unfortunately, though succulents are small they do require bright sunlight so hopefully you have a good window to work with. For watering, they love dry conditions so you can let their pots dry right out before giving them a thorough watering.
Look for hen n’ chicks, or varieties of kalanchoe or sedum. There really are dozens of succulents that work well indoors, so you don’t have to worry too much about finding just the right one.
Don’t limit yourself to keeping any of these helpful houseplants in just the kitchen either. They will do quite well on a bathroom counter for all the same reasons. There is nothing to stop you from adding natural greenery to every room in the house.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.