It’s undeniable how much life, movement and energy houseplants bring to an interior, not to mention their excellent air purifying properties. We all want them in our homes but many people are turning to faux plants because they don’t know what plants to get that they won’t end up killing.
There are lots of posts flying around the blogosphere about easy houseplants that are apparently hard to kill. It amuses me when many of these articles list plants like English ivy and fiddle leaf fig. This winter my English ivy bit the dust despite not being totally neglected. So unfortunately for me, it is killable. And I often come across a distressed conversation about fiddle leaf figs dropping leaves, so they definitely aren’t easy. Some articles even list maidenhair ferns – ha! I’ve honestly never come across a bigger diva of a plant. If you’re not misting it every few hours and pretty much serenading it, it’ll probably die on you.
I class a plant as easy only if it can happily survive in a dry centrally-heated home during the dark months of winter with just occasional watering. This post is an actual-experience roundup of reeeeally easygoing plants that have survived a couple of winters in my home with very little care. These plants are content in a range of light conditions. They are also relatively easy and cheap to obtain, so there’s no fear of being much out of pocket if the worst should happen, although with these plants, that can only happen if you drown them. Nothing kills a plant faster than overwatering.
1. Zamioculcas zamifolia (ZZ plant / Zanzibar Gem)
The ZZ plant, for me, is most handsome plant on this list, and the easiest. It’s an upright plant with gorgeous glossy leaves that almost look fake! It’s fine in any light away from direct sunlight – I have one in a corner that gets bright indirect light [image above] and another in a very shady corner. The one in the lighter location gets more growth but the one in shade is still fine, it just grows slower. The ZZ plant likes it very dry: this winter I’ve watered mine just twice. Once would probably have been enough. In the warmer months I water it approximately once every 6-8 weeks… depending on when I remember. This plant is so chilled out it really doesn’t care. Do not water it if the soil is even remotely damp. The only reason not to have it in your home is if you have pets or kids who may try to eat it as it is toxic if ingested.
2. Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron plant)
This magnificent plant can survive conditions that most indoor plants would die in, hence the name Cast Iron plant. It prefers bright indirect light but also grows well in low light areas and is not fussy about regular water either. Keep it away from direct sunlight so you don’t scorch the leaves. Overwatering and repotting too often can cause problems for this plant, so it’s perfect for neglectful indoor gardeners. Just leave it alone for the most part! The bigger it is, the better it looks, but it grows very slowly so if you find one that’s a good size for a good price, snap it up!
3. Sansevieria (Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s tongue)
The snake plant is nicknamed Mother-in-law’s Tongue, because it’s virtually unkillable :-). Well, you can kill it if you overwater it. Snake plants are succulents and like it dry. I tend to water mine approximately monthly in summer and very rarely in winter. Snake plants come in many different varieties as displayed in the image above by Darryl Cheng of @houseplantjournal. They prefer bright indirect light but are content in shady corners too. If you’re keeping yours in a shady spot, you’ll need to water it even less because it is not able to use up excess moisture as much as if it were in brighter location. Remember to water the soil and not the leaves because if water is left in the leaf rosette it can lead to rot. They really don’t like being wet!
4. Chamaedorea elegans (Parlour palm)
For such a pretty plant, the parlour palm is remarkably tough and easy to look after. It is happy anywhere away from direct sunlight (although a very dark location is not recommended) and tolerates dry air well. I only water it when the soil feels dry. If you have the inclination to mist plants, this one will enjoy the attention, but I rarely mist mine and it has been absolutely fine.
5. Philodendron scandens (Heartleaf philodendron)
This easy to keep plant has beautiful deep green heart-shaped leaves that trail down (great for shelves!) or can climb up a moss pole. They’re happy anywhere away from direct sunlight, although could get a bit scraggly in very low light. Pinch out the stems to encourage bushy growth. The soil needs to be left to dry out before watering during winter, but it will appreciate slightly moist soil and monthly feeding during the growing seasons of spring and summer.
6. Chlorophytum comosum (Spider plant)
The spider plant can be kept in almost any position away from direct sunlight, except the darkest of corners. If it gets pale and droopy, it definitely needs a drink, so it’s easy to judge when it needs water. It’s a smashing plant for a hanging basket or shelf where the leaves and stems can grow freely.
7. Haworthia Fasciata / Haworthia Attenuata (Zebra cactus / Zebra plant)
Isn’t this just the cutest little succulent? I love its zebra stripes! It’ll be happy in bright to medium light and is very tolerant to underwatering, but will succumb quickly to rotting if overwatered, so only water when the soil feels dry.
8. Aloe vera
The Aloe vera is also called the First Aid plant because the gel in its leaves is renowned for its healing properties – a great plant to have in the home. Place it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and water it when the soil feels dry. Easy peasy.
9. Ceropegia woodii (String of hearts)
This trailing succulent vine has the loveliest little heart shaped leaves, hence the name String of hearts. This charming plant is happy in bright light or medium shade and needs very little care. It hates being overwatered (notice the running theme?) so only water it when the soil feels dry.
10. Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)
The Swiss cheese plant is an absolute stunner but needs a fair bit of space in a room. It’s so popular that much of the current interiors botanical trend is modelled on the gorgeous shape of its leaves. This is a fast growing plant that makes a big impact, and can be pruned to keep it looking tidy. It has aerial roots which I gently push into the soil but you can leave them be if you prefer. I have it in bright indirect light and water it when the soil feels dry, with occasional feeding during growing seasons.
So these are the 10 plants that I find to be low maintenance in my home. If you want to explore even more plants, I have the following on my wishlist which I hear are all easy-care: Rubber plant, Peace lily, Chinese evergreen, Swedish ivy, Kentia palm and String of pearls.
A few pointers to keep in mind for happy plants:
- Plant them in pots with good drainage. About 10 minutes after watering them, if there is any excess water in the saucer or catch pot, discard it. Do not leave them soaking in water.
- Good appropriate potting soil will really help your plants. I have found IKEA use very heavy soil that stays wet for ages so any plants I buy from there are promptly repotted when I get them home.
- For many plants, allow the soil to dry before the next watering.
- As far as possible, keep your plants away from radiators or draughts.
- Most plants should to be kept away from direct sunlight to avoid scorched leaves.
- Read up about your plants to understand the care (soil, light, water, plant feed, humidity and repotting) that they need and also to check their toxicity if you have kids or pets. Websites such as www.guide-to-houseplants.com and www.houseplantsexpert.com are great for such information.
- Finally, even though they tolerate a fair bit of neglect, don’t leave them to gather dust. Show them some love by occasionally wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth or showering them to keep them looking gorgeous.
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