5 No-Kill House Plants for Any Home

March 16, 2015

Whether you can never remember to water your plants or you have a tendency to smother them with love, Tara Heibel from Sprout Home has the house plant you need to get your (indoor) garden growing.

A recurring request that we hear at Sprout Home is: "Can you give me a plant that I can’t kill?" While it is possible to kill any plant, as each is a living thing, there are some that can be a little harder to kill than others. Each person has a slightly different definition of “no-kill,” but some plants can deal with more havoc than others, whether an overdose of love (that is, water) or almost complete neglect.

Shop the Story

Here are some of my favorite plants that might just fit the “no-kill” bill:

1. Sansevieria

First off is Sansevieria, which is commonly known as mother-in-law's-tongue -- or better yet, devil's tongue. Yes, this plant is truly as tough as it sounds. It's great for a lower light environment and where neglect is prevalent. The thick succulent-like leaves store water in order to survive in dry regions, and that makes these plants perfect for those who go out of town frequently or forget that they own plants -- the devil's tongue can handle dry soil for quite some time. In fact, it’s more dangerous to over-water them, as they can get root rot and die from too much love. Sansevieria is also great for tight spaces where you need vertical rather than horizontal growth. Even with all the neglect, these tough guys continually give back. Not only are they visually appealing, but they are great air purifiers, releasing oxygen at night. Win, win.


2. Euphorbia tirucalli

If you are that person who is blinded by the amount of sun you have, I would suggest a Euphorbia tirucalli, or pencil cactus. This awkward beast is normally found in environments not suited for anything else -- they can survive almost any amount of abandonment. Sculptural in form, the pencil cactus can be pruned to the will of its caretaker, but be careful, as its milky latex can irritate your skin and eyes. Its seething visual reproach is not a typical beauty, but I am more than happy for that -- the pencil cactus always makes me smile. 


3. Cyperus
Do you have a container that has no drainage -- one where you continually drown every plant you put in it? I know, you worry about them and pay a little too much attention to them and think that more is better? For those of you that are heavy-handed with the watering can, you should check out the mighty-yet-delicate-looking Cyperus. These mostly aquatic plants like the wet feet you want to give them. Cyperus is a very large genus of plants, so you’ll be able to find the right one for your lighting and container type. The most ornamental Cyperus are the umbrella papyrus and dwarf umbrella. Without too much fear of permanent damage, you can water them to the point where you see liquid pool on the top of the soil, or you can let them dry out a little bit. If you take the dry-time to extremes and the fronds turn brown and crispy, simply cut off the dried parts and let the plant send out new shoots from the soil. I have had the same Cyperus in the same container for five years now, and every time after I have (of course not purposely) neglected it, I am surprised by how well it bounces back.


4. Tillandsia

Or perhaps you do not want to deal with the dirt and the grime of soil. You want to reap the benefits of living flora but are a little bit of clean freak. Tillandsia, or airplants, are your ideal plant counterpart. They require no soil, as they take in nutrients or water through their bodies, not their roots. They’ll be no messing with dirty potting stations or soil all over your floors if you need to re-pot. There is some care needed, however, to mimic the humidity of their native habitat. In Chicago, for example, we soak them in water for a half hour every seven to ten days and let them dry out for a couple of hours afterwards. If your plants need to be watered between soaks, you can mist them lightly with a spray bottle. Try using them with containers that normally would not provide adequate depth for planting. Use a bed of dried moss for texture, or place them out in the open with no bells and whistles.


5. Monstera deliciosa 
Perhaps you want bigger leaves in order to give your home that tropical paradise you crave yet the thought of something that lush and large seems overwhelming. You want a maintenance schedule to help guide you, something to put into the calendar on you phone. Meet the Monstera deliciosa, commonly known as the split-leaf philodendron. A monster indeed, its huge leaves can stop you in your tracks. These guys are easy to take care of and also a great bang for your buck. Their soil can handle going slightly dry to the touch, and if the plant goes through stress for any reason, its leaves will normally tell you by changing color and texture prior before they drop, which will help you prevent an ugly naked period. Don't be scared, grab a Mai Tai, and relax.

Which house plants have you had the best luck with? Share with us in the comments below, or Instagram a photo of your favorite plant and tag it with #f52home!

Photos by James Ransom

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Megan
  • heidi
  • Karin Byars
    Karin Byars
  • Corinne Connors
    Corinne Connors
  • susie
Tara Heibel is the founder of Sprout Home, a home and garden store with locations in Brooklyn and Chicago.


Megan September 18, 2020
I was hoping there would be a of great places to purchase these plants. I have no idea where to start!
heidi March 15, 2018
where are pics for #3 & #5? be helpful to actually "see" what you're talking about.
Karin B. May 2, 2016
The success of your plants is directly related to your mental health. If your life is balanced and you are happy your plants will thrive too (provided you have informed yourself about their requirements. You could also check the state of your linen closet, if that is a mess don't get a plant.
Rain E. October 9, 2016
No. The linen closet does not dictate whether you should get a house plant.
Rain E. October 9, 2016
That's really stupid and discouraging suggestion.

Corinne C. June 6, 2015
The Pothos Vine never fails....low light, little watering!
susie May 22, 2015
Be careful with the pencil cactus; the sap is toxic.
Misty D. October 5, 2015
Good to know! I have cats. :(
Thomas W. April 20, 2015
Thanks. I'm always looking for hardy house plants. It's hard to keep them happy through a cold, Colorado mountain winter. Lighting isn't really mentioned in the descriptions. Any particular requirements? Do you have any recommendation of plants for locations in the house with no direct sun or low (or even no) light? Also, do you have any rules of thumb for how to water? Is it best to move house plants to the sink and give them a dousing, or is that over-doing it? Thanks again.
Maria August 28, 2015
Check out ZZ plant, you can get them at IKEA or HomeDepot or Lowes. They are super easy to care for and can survive just about any conditions.

My advice on watering - have a nice deep saucer under your plant and water by pouring water into saucer, rather than plant's soil. This way you aren't washing out nutrients from the soil. And the plant can suck the water from the saucer at the rate it needs it. Ussuly all water is gone from the saucer within few hits and you can see the soil moist even at the top of the planter.
Note, I'm not suggesting fur a plant to permanently seat in a saucer full of water.
After watering - give it few days and observe. If next time you pour water in the saucer the plant isn't drinking it - you watered it too soon. :)

Here in CO the air tends to be so dry, that even having some water remain in a saucer for a day or so won't harm your plant.

Lastly, plants do not appreciate being moved at all, so I wouldn't recommend drugging it to a sink for watering.

But if you get ZZ plant - caring for it will be very easy. Mine did ok in a room with very little light, although started to rally thrive with more light at a new house.
cajoto58 March 18, 2015
Leslie L. March 17, 2015
I am looking for ideas for outdoor plants on a 12th floor balcony where the winds can reach up to 30 kts. with a afternoon of full sun, where temps coming off of the brick and glass can reach up over 100 degrees F. I live in southern Ontario.
Tara H. March 18, 2015
Hi Leslie,
For those conditions, we would suggest plants that can thrive in heat and drought (strong winds can be very drying) - choosing succulent type plants that are hardy PAST your planting zone will increase their success rate over the winter. Many, in fact, can be grown as cold as zone 2. Exposure of plants in containers on higher balconies and roofs necessitates this extra consideration when choosing plants. Consider different types of Sedum and Sempervivum. Their color palette will be sure to amaze you. Long winters can be harsh on any container grown plant - so some replacements are to be expected. Hope this helps!
Ashley C. March 16, 2015
Where can I find that bench/table in the first photo? :)
BrooklynBridget March 16, 2015
Isn't it amazing?! I believe it's a place in Brooklyn ( of course :-) I'll check with Amanda but stay tuned. We're going to write a post in next week or so with all our design choices and where to go!
Nancy M. March 16, 2015
I have killed at least one of these pictured and many more besides. Right now my Chinese evergreen is gasping for either air or water, how should I know which. I can kill pothos. My favorite tip when I ask why the leaves are turning yellow is that I am watering it too much or not enough. Well, give me a call when you figure it out.
Tara H. March 18, 2015
If the yellow leaves have some brown spots in the middle, than it is most likely over watering. If the leaves are becoming caving in on themselves then under watering might be your issue. Hope this helps!
Nancy M. March 18, 2015
Well, thank you!
Mic March 20, 2015
I'm lethal with plants!
Calli March 16, 2015
Spider ferns! Only plant I can't kill. It actually likes drying out between waterings.
Tara H. March 18, 2015
Hi Calli,
Spider plants are great! We love them, too.
Joan K. March 16, 2015
The philodendron photo is not of Monstera deliciosa. An accurate photo of Monstera deliciosa is at
Hayden N. March 17, 2015
I just logged in to say the same thing. That's a philodendron, not a monstera. IMO, philodendrons are easier to care for than monsteras. Just keep them watered, and they will grow, even in really dark spaces.
Tara H. March 18, 2015
Sorry for the photo mix-up! The photo that was posted was a Philodendron selloum not a Monstera deliciosa as it should have been.
Mic March 20, 2015
I have actually kept a philodendron alive for over 25 years!
jean S. April 20, 2015