5 Houseplants That Are Really, Really Hard to Kill

Plants are to the 2019 adult home what Limited Too inflatable furniture sets were to pre-teens’ bedrooms circa 1998: they are EVERYWHERE. The hashtag #plantmom boasts over 200,000 posts on Instagram, and the New York Times recently published an article all about “plantfluencers”—you know, those people you follow on Instagram who convince you that maybe you, too, can care for an urban jungle in your apartment.

But if you’re anything like me, you believe these people, go out and buy a bunch of plants, only to watch them shrivel up and die despite a billion Google searches pleading with the Internet for information on “HOW TO KEEP PLANTS ALIVE.” Womp, womp.

I want to be a plant person so badly, and not just because they look pretty on Instagram: Research shows that indoor plants not only help to clear air of toxins, but they also help to ease anxiety and increase productivity. And in the middle of winter, when green is so darn hard to find, they serve as a much-needed reminder that it won’t be 23 degrees forever.

So, to figure out how I could be a #plantmom without also being a #plantkiller, I asked Emily Kellett, the co-owner of Northern Liberties’ plant shop/green oasis STUMP, to dish on the best (and the worst) indoor plants for people who are prone to killing plants. Her suggestions, along with super-helpful expert care instructions, are below. Fellow black-thumbers, rejoice!

But before you run out and buy all of these, a few notes from Emily: As she pointed out to me, the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to caring for their plants are over-watering and under-watering them, so most of the plants she’s chosen require pretty laidback maintenance, needing to be watered at most once a week.

She also notes that, despite what plantfluencers’ pretty Instagram feeds may indicate, certain super-popular plants right now, like fiddle-leaf fig trees and succulents, are very particular in their care needs and are best avoided if your home is a plant graveyard.

5 Indoor Plants That Are Hard to Kill

Snake plant

“This one comes in many different shapes and colors and it one of the easiest indoor plants to keep alive,” Kellett points out. Say it with me: Phew! “The worst thing you can do with this one is over-water it, so it’s best to just ignore it for a while. They can last months with no water and still look perfectly healthy.”
Water: once a month, or when soil has dried out completely.
Light: direct sun, indirect sun, or low light (as long as there is a window in the room, you can pretty much place them anywhere!).

ZZ plant

“This one has green waxy leaves and almost looks fake,” Kellett says. Sounds sturdy, eh? “The new growth is a lime green color, and as the new leaves age, they turn a darker shade of green. It’s fun to watch this one grow because you can clearly see the difference between new and older growth. It is also a good choice for someone who always forgets to water their plants, as these don’t require much water at all.” *Adds to shopping list.*
Water: once a month, or when soil has dried out completely/
Light: bright indirect light, or low light; these plants don’t do well in direct sunlight

Heartleaf philodendron

Plant-shopping specifically for your Instagram feed? Listen up: “This is a good one for a bookshelf or hanging planter because it is more of a trailing plant that will cascade down as it grows,” Kellett says. Pretty! “They can even grow all the way to the floor. If they get too long, they can easily be trimmed, and the trimmed portions of the stem can be placed in a vase of water and will begin to root within a month or two. It’s an easy beginner plant to propagate, which will leave you with many many plants over time.”
Water: once a week, or once every two weeks. Allow top half of soil to dry out between waterings. (This one is also forgiving if under-watered and the leaves will begin to wilt if the soil becomes too dry. After watering, the leaves will perk up and look healthy again.)
Light: bright indirect sunlight.


Forgetful friends, this one is for you. “A cactus is a good choice for someone who is prone to under-watering or forgetting about their plants for long periods of time,” Kellett says. “The main thing a cactus needs to make it happy is lots of direct sunlight.”
Water: once a month at most, or when soil has dried out completely.
Light: direct sunlight; south or west-facing windows are ideal

Air plant

This plant doesn’t even require a planter, making it perhaps the most low-maintenance plant of the bunch. “Air plants are a good soil-free option that can easily be placed on a bookshelf or coffee table—no planter needed. These are perfect for a bright bathroom, as they love humidity caused by the shower. ” Kellett points out.
Water: soak in a bowl of water for about an hour once a week; dry upside-down to allow all water to drain from the base of the plant.
Light: most air plants require bright indirect sunlight, so you’ll want to place it within a few feet of a window, while avoiding exposure to direct rays from the sun.

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