You Can Grow Houseplants in the Arid Southwest

Celebrate National Houseplant Appreciation Day, January 10!

Houseplants look good in our homes and work places, plus they are proven to clean indoor air of toxins while they create oxygen for us to use. Problem is – in the Southwest our humidity is often low, and this is hard on many better known houseplants. Plus our light is brighter than other areas, so traditional instructions for houseplant care can be inaccurate for our region.

Spider plant has narrow leaves that use less water than some other houseplants.


Most traditional houseplants come from the understory of tropical forests where they have close to 100 percent humidity and low light levels – making them fine indoors “back East.” Think about schefflera and philodendron – with their large leaves they need lots of humidity and low light.

For the Southwest, select houseplants with smaller and/or succulent leaves, like spider plant, kalanchoe, dracaena, or peperomia.

Silvery areas of this peperomia leaf help make it able to take higher light situations than plants with solid green leaves. Plus they look cool!


Avoid putting your houseplants where they get direct sunlight for long periods. Meaning – avoid putting plants right in windows that face east, south, or west. The sunlight that comes streaming in can cause sunburn. Generally 3 feet from a window will give the houseplant ample light without sunburn. North-facing windows, while bright, do not get direct sunlight. Yes, cacti and succulents can be sunburned!

Arizona fan palm is slow growing and can make a cute indoor plant for many years.

Temperature and Air

Cool in winter and warm in summer is fine, if you shift watering to respond to plant needs. Also note air ducting! Don’t allow hot dry furnace air or cold dry AC air to blow on houseplants.


If you have calcium-rich “hard” water, try to use rainwater or filtered water for your houseplants. Do not use distilled water, because it has the minerals removed, and can lead to nutrient issues for your plants. Water until water comes out the bottom of the pot, and then let the soil dry well (but not bone-dry) before watering again.

Kalanchoe make pretty houseplants even when they are done blooming. Just do not over-water them!

More Information

You can grow houseplants in the arid Southwest – and we will return to this topic on this website to flesh it out more fully. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to “follow” us and stay updated.

Also consider our online course “Houseplants for the Southwest,” which we will be offering for a limited time through January 10 – National Houseplant Appreciation Day.

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Check our events page for locations and times. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press, $26). Note this link will take you to Amazon and if you buy the book, we get a few pennies.
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