The Best Plants for Your RV and How to Care for Them

plant image header for rv plants

Over the past few years, keeping houseplants has become extremely popular. You can find plant “influencers” all over Instagram, YouTube, and other social media. Some trendy but rare plant varieties can sell for hundreds of dollars. There’s a lot of good reasons to keep plants – they make your living space more attractive and inviting, improve your air quality, and may even help improve your focus. You may think that it’s impractical to keep plants in your RV, given the limited space and lighting, and the fact that you’re likely moving frequently but it’s very possible! All plants have just a few basic requirements: light, soil, water, and fertilizer. If you choose the right plants and plan well, you can easily keep plants in any size camper.

A few things you should always keep in mind is that if you’re travelling with children or pets, you should avoid plants that are toxic  (Note that not all of the plants on the “toxic” list are deadly – some cause stomach upset, so can still be kept with pets that don’t eat them.) Lilies in particular are extremely toxic to cats – even a small amount of the pollen can be deadly to them, so it’s best to avoid them entirely if you have cats. If you’re travelling internationally, be sure to check the rules for crossing the border with your plants. Also keep in mind that many plant species are considered invasive in many areas, so use caution if you bring them outdoors.

Getting your plants adequate light may be your biggest challenge. A lot of plants are labeled as being “low light” plants, but the fact is that they’re merely tolerant of these conditions and will thrive with higher light levels. Your snake plant will grow faster, your pothos or philodendron will put out more leaves and have better coloration with more access to light. Many RVs don’t have a lot of natural light, and you may keep the curtains closed or cover them with Reflectix for insulation purposes. This is actually not a problem at all since grow lights are easily available and very affordable. You could switch out your regular light bulbs for ones designed for plant growth or get lamps and direct them at your plants or get LED lights. Depending on where you’re putting your plants, you can get clip-on, stand, or strip lights. These use very little electricity and many plug in with a USB cord and have built-in timers. They do tend to have a fairly weak output, so you should put them quite close to your plants.

There are certain plants that will be easier than others to keep in your camper.

List of Best Plants to Grow in Your RV

  • Pothos: These are very easy keepers and come in a variety of cultivars, such as marble queen and neon. The coloring on the leaves (variegation) will be more intense with better lighting. If they don’t get enough light, the plant will put out smaller leaves and become “leggy” (more distance on the vines between the leaves). Wait until the leaves start to droop just a bit, then give it a thorough watering.

  • Snake plants: Another “low light” plant that will thrive if given better lighting. There are a number of varieties, some of which can get quite large. Check out the whale fin and banana types. These plants prefer to have their soil dry out before being watered.

  • Orchids: If you’re looking to add some color to your RV, phalaenopsis orchids are an excellent choice. Despite their stunning looks, these plants are quite easy to care for. Their blooms can last for months and they typically have roots poking out of the pot that are a good indicator of their watering needs – when these roots start to look more silver than green, check the potting medium, if it’s beginning to dry out, it’s time to give your plant a good drink. Orchids have special needs when it comes to their potting mix and should not be repotted while in bloom. Read more about their care here.

  • Sundews: These are very cool carnivorous plants, similar to Venus Flytraps, but are much easier to keep. Two types in particular are good for beginners: the Cape Sundew and the Alice Sundew. Their leaves have little hairs on them, and they produce a sweet “dew” that attracts insects. When a bug lands on this sticky dew to feed, the hairs trigger the leaf to curl up, trapping it for the plant to feed on. These can be kept on a sunny windowsill and will show a beautiful red color when getting adequate light. Because they come from boggy areas, they need to stay wet and should always sit in a tray of distilled or rainwater and need to be planted in soil for carnivorous plants or sphagnum moss.

  • Holiday cactus: Most of us are familiar with Thanksgiving or Christmas cacti. The difference between the two is the shape of their stem segments, with Thanksgiving cactus being spikier and Christmas cactus a bit more rounded. There’s also a less common Easter cactus, which has oval stem segments. The care for all three of them is the same. They prefer less light and more water than typical cacti. If you notice that the tips of your plant are turning reddish, your plant is getting too much light. Don’t let the soil dry out completely, water when the top inch or two is dry.

  • Air plants: These neat plants don’t need any soil or pots, so you can keep them almost anywhere there’s enough light. You can keep them in an open terrarium, a hanger, or on a shelf. Since they don’t need to be rooted in soil, they can even be glued to a hanger – a popular way to display them is to hang them from a sea urchin shell, making them look like jellyfish! You water these plants by soaking or dunking them in water for about 30 minutes once a week or so, then leaving them upside down to dry. You can also mist them in between waterings, just be careful not to allow water to sit in between the leaves, as this can cause the plant to rot. One fun place you can keep your air plants is in the shower. The skylight will provide bright, indirect sunlight, and the humidity will help keep the plants happy.

Plants To Avoid Keeping In Your Camper

  • Succulents and traditional (desert) cacti: Succulents have a reputation as being easy plants that are good for beginners but I and many other plant people find quite the opposite. Most succulents and cacti have very high light requirements, which can be difficult to meet in an RV. If you’re using LED grow lights, it’s suggested to keep them just inches from the plants. If they don’t get enough light, they can stretch out and while not really a problem, it’s not very attractive. They also have very particular watering needs. The biggest mistake most new “plant parents” make is overwatering, and this is especially easy to do with these plants.

  • Humidity loving plants: Keep in mind your potential plant’s natural habitat. While nearly every houseplant is going to come from a more tropical environment than the inside of your RV, many will be able to adapt and thrive. Since your ideal humidity level is around 40%, calatheas (prayer plants) and ferns are unlikely to do well, as they prefer humidities upwards of 60%.

  • Fast growing plants that get large: Monsteras are all the rage. Mature plants have glossy deep green leaves that develop holes and splits in the leaves (called fenestrations). While you may find yourself tempted by a small one of these beauties, realize that these plants can grow fast and you might have to give up the garage space in your toy hauler in a year or two for the plant!

  • Ficus trees: Two of my favorite plants are my Ficus Elastica, or rubber trees. I also have a fiddle leaf fig (Ficus Lyrata) on my wish list. Both of these trees can get to be 10 feet tall when grown indoors. They also have a reputation for being somewhat fussy, especially in response to being moved, so probably a poor choice for a mobile lifestyle.

So, you’ve chosen some plants, now where do you put them? You have more options than you probably realize. Aside from placing pots on tables and countertops, you can hang them from hooks or use a tension rod (like a shower curtain rod) placed across a smaller slide out, attach a flat-sided pot to a wall using a Command adhesive. One neat display I’ve seen quite a bit is a shelf with holes drilled in it that pots sit in about halfway. If you attach one of these to a counter so it doesn’t move, your plants will also be secure for when you move. Choose plastic or other lightweight pots with drainage holes and be sure to read up on the proper potting mix for your particular plant.

I suggest bringing your plants to the sink or shower for watering. The reason for this is to keep your RV cleaner – the correct way to water your plants is to pour water over the soil until it begins to come out the drainage holes in the bottom – much easier done in the sink than to empty lots of saucers! After you let them drain for a bit, move put them back in their spots.

When it’s time to hit the road, how do you travel with your plants? If they’re hanging or loose on countertops or tables, you’ll obviously want to secure them. Placing them in a sink with some towels around them to keep them from rattling against each other is one idea. You could also do this with your shower if you have a lot of plants. This may be a good option for longer trips, as the skylight will allow them to get the light they need. Always keep the temperature in mind – some plants are very sensitive to slight variations in temperatures and may drop leaves or flowers.

Hopefully this post has given you a good idea how to add some greenery to your home on wheels. Let us know in the comments if you have any tips of your own or questions!