Turn Your Kitchen Into A Garden Oasis

At this point in the year, we are all beginning to suffer a bit from the winter blues. Be it the heaping piles of snow outside our doors or the brisk weather endured on the walk to work, winter has a way of making us really miss the beauty of spring. However, just because the weather frightful, that doesn't mean it has to be bleak indoors.

Aside from cranking up the heat and sipping on tropical drinks, you can perk up your winter blues by transforming your kitchen into a useful garden oasis that will thrive while the elements outside remain less than ideal. To help us better understand not only why plants in our kitchen are useful, but which plants will thrive best indoors, we chatted with Justin Hancock of Exotic Angel Houseplants to help you make your garden grow. Here are a few tips to get your green thumb ready:

The Daily Meal: What are the best houseplants to keep in the kitchen?

Justin Hancock: If you have a bright kitchen, any houseplant should enjoy the extra humidity a kitchen offers. If you're always on the go, some particularly fun varieties include snake plant, Chinese evergreen, and ZZ plant — they hold up well if you get too busy cooking to water them regularly. If you want a splash of color in the kitchen, look at red Aglaonema. It's incredibly easy and its foliage is edged and streaked in rich, ruby red.

What are the most low-maintenance houseplants?

Snake plant, Chinese evergreen, and ZZ plant are three of the most low-maintenance plants of all time. Snake plant, in particular, has been enjoyed for generations — a testament to just how easy it is! Pothos, philodendron, and spider plant are three more super-easy plants; they're particularly good choices for growing from hangers if you don't have enough counter space to enjoy plants.

What are some ways to help a dying plant revive itself a little?

If you have a plant that's struggling, first check to make sure you're giving it the conditions it needs (you should be able to find this information on the plant tag, or on websites like costafarms.com). If your plant isn't in a prime spot, either move it to a better one or replace it with a plant that is suited to the space you'll grow it in. Moving a plant isn't always the answer — and can do more harm to the plant than good, so resist the urge to keep placing your plant in a lot of different areas to see if it does better.

Why should we fill our kitchens with plants, outside of obviously useful ones like aloe for burns?

Aloe is the classic one. But all plants actually offer some great health benefits. Being around plants can lower our blood pressure and make us feel more relaxed, happy, and creative. Because plants are so good at cleaning the air (of harmful VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds], as well as bacteria, mold, and other substances), houseplants can also help keep us from getting sick. They're no substitute for washing our hands, but some scientific studies show plants can reduce mold, mildew, and bacteria counts in the air by 60 percent.

Which plants are the worst to put in your kitchen and why?

It depends on the plant and your kitchen. If you have a relatively low-light kitchen, for example, any high-light plant is going to have a tough time getting by. If you have a pretty small kitchen, you probably don't want a palm, money tree, or other plant of large proportions.

Which are the hardest herbs to grow and maintain? The easiest?

In general, most herbs are going to be something of a challenge indoors. Most herbs come from the Mediterranean and like sunny spots. That said, rosemary can be grown for years indoors if you have enough light and are careful not to overwater it. We recommend considering most herbs to be short-term houseplants — those you enjoy for two or three months before you replace them.