20 Hard-to-Kill Houseplants Anyone Can Grow
Don't have a green thumb? Don't worry! These low-maintenance plants will stay green with even the tiniest bit of TLC.
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Pretty…and pretty indestructible
The best indoor plants not only enhance your space—they’re also good for you! Research shows plants can reduce stress levels, boost your mood, and even increase memory retention and concentration. There are even some plants that can clean the air. All you have to do to reap the health benefits of gardening is keep your plants alive. Does that sound easier than it actually is for you? If you opt for one of the hard-to-kill plants on this list, it won’t be.
According to Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, founder of The Houseplant Guru, certain low-maintenance plants just need a little TLC—and we really do mean just a little! Find out which surprisingly sturdy varieties are right for you and where to buy these plants online, and if you’re still a bit concerned about your lack of a green thumb, opt for the best artificial plants no one will be able to tell are fake.
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)
This tropical plant thrives in a well-draining soil mix and in slightly humid rooms with temperatures over 65 degrees. It prefers medium to low light or indirect sunlight, as well as moderate watering. “Other than a thorough watering now and then, you can pretty much ignore it and it will still grow,” says Steinkopf. Just make sure to dust off the leaves occasionally and periodically check them for pests such as spider mites, scale insects, mealybugs, and aphids. And make sure you learn what it means if you see powdery mildew on your plants.
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
These little “good luck” plants are often found for sale in grocery and home-decor stores because their care needs are minimal. They are truly hard-to-kill plants. Interestingly, lucky bamboo isn’t technically bamboo. It’s more of a novelty plant that can grow hydroponically—it doesn’t even need soil to survive! Often displayed in decorative containers with pebbles or rocks at the base to help support the stems, these plants will survive in natural or artificial indirect light.
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Need something to brighten up an office that doesn’t get much (or any) sunlight? The pothos is the plant for you! It does well in various light conditions, even in fluorescent light, but a word of warning: If you choose to go with a variegated variety, it needs sun to maintain its variation. “Variegated plants need more sun than their all-green counterparts,” says Steinkopf. “Though pothos don’t need full sun, such as a south exposure, some direct light (east or west) will help keep them variegated and thriving.” Plant them in a basic houseplant soil mix, and allow it to dry out between waterings. Check out this simple trick that will keep you from killing your houseplants.
African violet (Saintpaulia)
These pretty flowering plants are virtually indestructible. African violets need indirect light and moderate temps, and they prefer small pots. Keeping them slightly root-bound can encourage flowering. A common misconception about these plants is that they do not like to get their leaves wet. “African violets are fine getting wet foliage,” says Steinkopf. “I take them to the sink and wash them off.” However, do not use cold water on them, allow water to sit in the crown, or place them back in the sun to dry if their foliage is wet.
Air plant (Tillandsia)
Air plants are resilient little plants that don’t require soil and can survive for an extended period without water. However, eventually, they do need water. “Give them a 30-minute soak, shake them out, and let them dry out upside down,” says Steinkopf. FYI, these hard-to-kill plants are epiphytes—which means they grow on top of other plants and derive their nutrients from the air and water around them. They prefer bright, filtered light and warm temperatures.
Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides)
The trendy Chinese money plant is known by many nicknames: missionary plant, lefse plant, pancake plant, UFO plant, and pilea. It likes bright, indirect light and well-draining soil, which needs to mostly dry out between waterings. Perhaps the best thing about this plant is how easy it is to propagate it. It will eventually send plantlets up through the soil, which can be separated from the mother plant and potted to gift to a friend or to expand your own houseplant collection. You might also want a plant like this for good feng shui.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants, which you’ll often see in hanging baskets and rank among the best indoor hanging plants, feature a rosette of long, thin, arched foliage that is solid green or variegated. In the summer, they send out tendrils with small white flowers or baby spider plants, also known as “pups.” To propagate this plant, all you have to do is pluck one of the pups and pot it. Spider plants like a well-draining potting mix and even moisture—not too dry or too wet—as well as bright to moderate indirect sunlight. They also do well outdoors in the warmer months. Once you get the hang of keeping your plants alive, add to your indoor plant collection by signing up for one of these plant subscription boxes.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
If you want a plant that truly pulls its weight around the house, look no further than an aloe vera plant. This succulent not only greens up your space—but it also has medicinal benefits. The juice from its leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically, which is why many people keep it in their kitchen. Aloe thrives in a succulent potting mix in a porous pot, like terra cotta, and in bright, indirect sunlight or even artificial light. Water the plant deeply but infrequently, and allow it to dry out in between waterings. Just be aware that this is one of the houseplants poisonous to cats.
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Tough as iron, these aptly named plants can survive a wide range of conditions and grow up to three feet tall. The cast iron plant prefers low light with no direct sun, and it isn’t picky about humidity or temperature, so it can live almost anywhere in your home. All it requires is basic potting soil mix and occasional watering. As with most houseplants, it’s better to let a cast iron plant dry out between waterings. Here are more low-light houseplants that thrive in near darkness.
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
This tree-like houseplant features large, deep-green leaves, and it can be the perfect focal piece for any space. Rubber plants like well-draining soil and bright, indirect sunlight. The best place for them is in a sunny spot shielded by a sheer curtain. Their watering needs vary according to the season: In the growing season, keep the soil moist, and mist or wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. During the dormant season, you only need to water the plant once or twice a month. Once the plant is as tall as you want it, snip the top off, and to maintain a fuller shape, prune back any unwanted branches.
Split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)
The split-leaf philodendron (aka Monstera plant) will grow in low light, but it will grow faster and form better split foliage in a spot with bright, indirect light. Monsteras should only be watered just enough to keep the soil from completely drying out. When you do water, make sure to give your plant a thorough watering; you can also shower the plant to get rid of dust on the leaves. Of course, even a hard-to-kill plant can only take so much. If you end up neglecting your greenery a little too much, here’s how to revive a dead plant.
Mother-in-law’s tongue (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly sansevieria)
Also known as snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue has stiff, upright leaves that range from one to eight feet tall. It’s tolerant of low light but does best in bright light, though it does prefer warm temperatures. Although it’s not picky about water, Steinkopf suggests watering it thoroughly when it needs it to ensure all the roots receive water and then allow it to dry out almost completely before watering it again. While it’s tough to kill, overwatering and exposure to cold will do just that. In general, mother-in-law’s tongue generally prefers being ignored—which makes it the perfect plant for most homes.
Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)
Does anything actually thrive on neglect? Yes—this houseplant! Also known as the Madagascar dragon tree, it features green sword-like leaves edged with red. So, what do you need to do? Just put it in a general potting-soil mix, don’t leave much root room in the pot, and stick it in a bright spot (though it will also tolerate low light). The main thing is not to overwater this plant; in fact, you should err on the side of underwatering. It can even hold up to drought conditions.
ZZ (Zamiifolia zamioculcas)
This plant can also survive most neglect. It does fine in low light conditions and under fluorescent lights, and due to its rhizomatous roots, it will not die if it misses a watering or two. Steinkopf says it’s perfect for forgetful plant parents. Not only is it not fussy, but it also features smooth, shiny, bright green leaves that spring from thick, slightly bulbous stalks. ZZ plants can grow up to two feet tall. Just be aware that this plant is toxic if ingested, so it’s best kept out of reach from children and pets.
The plant gets its common name from the temporary speechlessness that occurs after chewing a piece of the stem. Yes, that means dieffenbachia is toxic to humans and animals. However, it features large, showy foliage that will make a beautiful statement in your home, and the other perk, of course, is that it’s hard to kill. Steinkopf says all these plants need to keep them happy is moist (but not wet) soil and medium to bright light.
Austral gem fern (Asplenium dimorphum x difforme)
Ferns are notorious for being difficult to grow indoors, but if you have your heart set on one, Steinkopf suggests giving this variety a try. “It’s one of the easiest ferns to grow because it has a thicker frond,” she says. Most ferns prefer high humidity to keep their delicate leaves from drying out, but the austral gem fern is very forgiving if you miss a watering or two. It needs medium light, so an east-facing window is the perfect spot.
Bromeliad (Bromeliad neoregelia)
There are more than 90 species of the bromeliad neoregelia that grow in South American rainforests, as well as hundreds of hybrids. They range in size and form and have colorful foliage, which makes them attractive to houseplant lovers. Plus, they are super easy to grow, thriving in indirect light or moderate shade. And while they’re more cold-hardy than many tropicals, you shouldn’t expose them to temperatures lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. When you water it, Steinkopf suggests filling the central cup of the plant to keep it happy. Bromeliads, by the way, are not toxic if animals nibble on them, unlike these plants that are poisonous to dogs.
Wax plant (Hoya carnosa)
“Hoyas are the hottest new plant family,” says Steinkopf. These plants, in general, live for a long time if properly cared for; have beautiful deep-green, vining foliage; and produce fragrant, light pink and red star-shaped flowers. Although they are easy to grow, they need bright, indirect light to flower, and they don’t mind being a bit pot-bound. They also best in a well-draining potting mix and aren’t needy in terms of fertilizer or water.
Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis)
This epiphytic plant is available in many forms—more than 35 different species, which come in various shapes and sizes. And the adorably named mistletoe cactus is happy in a pot or not! “You can grow it mounted on a wall plaque as an epiphyte,” says Steinkopf. “And it’s often found as a hanging basket.” When a Rhipsalis is thirsty, its tendrils lose rigidity, and if they turn brown and dry, you’ve waited too long to water it…but it’s not the end of the world. They are forgiving plants and easily bounce back once you give them some love.
Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis orchid)
By far the most popular orchid for houseplant lovers, this surprisingly hard-to-kill plant produces large, colorful blooms that last for weeks. Although Phalaenopsis orchids are sold as “throwaway” plants, it is possible to get them to rebloom with proper light, watering, and fertilizer. “It only needs a medium-light to bloom each year,” says Steinkopf, so east or west sun exposure will work. Proper watering is also important for reblooming. Most of the time, these orchids are sold in a cache pot. Remove it and soak the medium every week but don’t let it stand in water. Also make sure to re-pot it at least every two years. Make sure to bookmark this list of the best online flower delivery services for every occasion.
Next, check out the best indoor fruit trees for your space.