Houseplants anyone can keep alive

Plagued with a brown thumb that kills just about any plant? Have no fear, there are some houseplants out there that are pretty darn indestructible for even the most neglectful gardener. Houseplants seem to be making a comeback in popularity, likely due to the millennial generation’s love of trendy indoor plants. This means your selection of plants at your local garden center is even better today.

There are many factors that contribute to your success with houseplants, but just like outdoor landscapes, choosing the “right plant for the right place” is important. Depending on the situation, choosing houseplants that can survive a wide range of indoor conditions, so called indestructible houseplants, may be just the strategy to turn a brown thumb to a shade of green. Consider the following plants:

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)

Extremely brown thumb resistant—will tolerate a lot of neglect and poor cultural practices. Look for variegated leaf cultivars ‘Asahi’ (white-tips), ‘Milky Way’ (white spots) and ‘Variegata’ (white-stripes).

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema sp.)

A low light loving houseplant with nice variegated foliage or it can also be solid green. It can last for years and will also tolerate a lot of neglect and poor cultural practices.

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

This commonly sold houseplant is easy to find and prefers low light. It’s recommended to give it a dose of fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Make sure to water thoroughly but let dry out a bit between waterings.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

A native of Central and South America, it tolerates low light, but growth slows dramatically. Too much light inhibits its white, long-lasting blooms. Another brown thumb resistant plant, it performs well in average temperature homes, but cool temperatures increase likelihood of problems with crown rot. It is susceptible to brown tips because of fluoride in tap water or inconsistent watering.

Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)

Native to South American rain forests, it can be found as a vine, tree or shrub. It is very tolerant of low light, but not low temperatures. Provide average temperatures to discourage root rot.

Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

It tolerates a wide range of light levels, though in low light leaves will lose variegation. Extremely tough, this plant will survive extreme neglect, though it may lose most of its leaves in the process. Cut back bare stems and provide more consistent care to encourage new growth. It is easy to propagate as cuttings root easily in water.

Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Native to Africa, its cream to yellow variegations are reminiscent of a snake. Probably the most brown thumb resistant plant of all, many dead-looking plants will miraculously revive when proper care resumes. Repotting is seldom necessary since roots are sparse and the plant looks best when allowed to crowd the pot. Scientists report that six to eight Sansevierias per bedroom produce optimal amounts of oxygen for occupants while they sleep.

Wax Plant (Hoya sp.)

Native to Asia, these plants thrive under low light and dry conditions. Beautiful blooms may be influenced by available light, temperature, age and size of plant.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Native to East Africa, this plant is adapted to long periods of drought. ZZ prefers bright indirect light but will tolerate a wide range of light levels. It is difficult to propagate and slow growing so it’s often expensive to purchase.

For more information, call your local Extension office and talk with your local Master Gardener volunteers about all things houseplants. They can help you select just the right plant for your indoor location.