I rarely like labeling plants as "beginner-friendly" or "perfect for a black thumb" for this one reason: it puts a lot of pressure on newbie plant parents. (What does this have to do with ChatGPT? We'll get there.) Imagine being excited to try something new: becoming a plant parent! You are reassured that you couldn't possibly kill this particular plant because it's no-brainer to care for. A A few weeks later it's dying. Talk about a confidence boost!
Anyway, despite those sentiments, I still thought I would have some fun with ChapGPT (an AI, prompt-driven text-generator) and ask it what the perfect houseplant would be for someone just starting out. Here is what it said:
What ChatGPT recommends for new plant parents
The perfect houseplant for beginners is one that is easy to care for and forgiving of common mistakes, such as over or under-watering. Here are a few great options to consider:
Snake Plant: Snake plants are incredibly easy to care for and can tolerate low light and infrequent watering. They also help purify the air, making them a great choice for any home.
Pothos: Pothos are another great option for beginners as they are fast-growing and can adapt to a wide range of lighting conditions. They are also forgiving of occasional over or under-watering.
Spider Plant: Spider plants are low-maintenance and can tolerate a range of lighting conditions, making them perfect for beginners. They also produce small plantlets that can be easily propagated, making them a great option for those who want to expand their collection.
Peace Lily: Peace lilies are known for their beautiful white flowers and are easy to care for, tolerating low to moderate light and infrequent watering. They also help purify the air and can be a great addition to any home.
ZZ Plant: ZZ plants are incredibly low-maintenance and can tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions, from low to bright indirect light. They are also drought-tolerant and can go for long periods without water.
Overall, these houseplants are all great options for beginners due to their ease of care and resilience. With a little bit of attention and care, these plants will thrive and add some greenery to any living space.
My honest opinion about ChatGPT's recommendations
Well let's go ahead and get this out in the open. I've killed at least one of every single one of these plants. Except for the Peace Lily because I haven't ever owned one. If I let that stop me from owning plants, I wouldn't be here writing this post...or running a business centered around plants.
Snake Plants and ZZ Plants
Snake Plants and ZZ Plants fall in the same camp for me. I agree with ChatGPT mentioning how these plants are "drought-tolerant" and need "infrequent watering" but I tend to neglect them because they really do need so little attention. As I've learned more, I've become terrified of overwatering my plants so my poor snake plants and ZZs tend to go a little too long without a proper watering. If you want to start off with this plant, put something on your calendar to check the soil every few weeks until you get into a good habit.
Pothos plants are really good at letting you know when they need water which does help with keeping it alive. However ChatGPT states that they can be forgiving with occasional over or underwatering.
I have found that they tend to overwater easily, which is not only a common cause of houseplant deaths but a mistake that many well-meaning new caretakers make. That's okay though! Err on the side of letting it dry out a little as it can be difficult to come back from root rot.
Last but not least, spider plants are one that I have yet to figure out...mostly. Contrary to ChatGPT's recommendations, this one would not have gone on the list. Here's what I mean. No one is keeping count but I have killed no less than three full sized spider plants. From these, I have harvested many babies though. If you know me, you those those babies went straight into water!
These are one of the few plants that I do get excited about planting in soil because when they are small, spider plants are so good at showing when they need a bit of water. A simple desaturation in leaf color and I know it's time. Simple. I don't get those signals from full-grown spider plants until the damage is done and I have BOTH over and underwatered these.
If you're going to try this one out, find one with a lot of babies. That way, if things go south with the mama plant, you can snip those babies off and plop them in water!
In general, I don't think the ChatGPT response was wrong but it could probably be a bit more nuanced. I'm definitely NOT getting a job as a prompt engineer any time soon, that's for sure!