Gardening

7 Indoor Plants That Are Near-Impossible to Kill

You've got this.

Photo by Rocky Luten

With all the gorgeous, plant-filled interior spaces I’ve seen lately, it seems like any room could benefit from a little greenery. Even science says so: NASA's famous Clean Air study shows that certain indoor plants can provide a natural way of removing toxins like formaldehyde and ammonia from the air. Other research shows that just having plants around improves focus, lowers anxiety, and increases productivity. Yet another study concluded that people experience an unconscious calming reaction simply by touching a plant.

But if the idea of keeping a plant alive gives you the cold sweats, don’t despair: You can still embrace the lush life by selecting ones that fit your space and lifestyle. Read on for experts’ top picks for beginners who want to fill their home with plants—no green thumb required!


1. Sansevieria (aka Snake Plant and Mother In Law's Tongue)

“If you're looking for a plant that can endure a lot of neglect—not that I advocate such treatment—this is the one for you,” says Danae Horst, owner of Folia Collective in Eagle Rock, CA. “Sansevierias can tolerate very low light, as long as there's some natural light in the room, and have leaves that store water so they can go for longer stretches between watering.”

With over 60 different species of sansevieria, shapes can range from the classic “snake plant” look, to more interesting options like starfish (S. cylindrica “boncel”), or whale fins (S. masoniana)—perfect picks for statement-making decor.


2. Hoya (aka Wax Plant)

Do you have a spot that allows for hanging or trailing plants? Then perhaps a hoya fits the bill.

These waxy-leaved plants need lots of bright, filtered light (which means no direct sun). Horst recommends allowing the soil to dry out almost completely between waterings for the best result. If they have a trellis or stake, these vines will climb, or you can let them trail over the sides of its pot. “Over time they put out the most amazing looking little flowers!” says Horst.


3. Ficus elastica (aka Rubber Plant)

“If you’re looking for a large plant to fill a not-so-bright corner, ficus elastica would be the one,” says Deanna Florendo, San Francisco-based plant stylist and curator of Habitpattern.

It will thrive in lower-light conditions and is very forgiving when it comes to a missed watering. Its large, glossy leaves might need an occasional wipe-down to get rid of dust and water spots, but generally, you don’t need to do much. Florendo suggests repotting your ficus elastica once every couple of years.


4. Dracaena marginata

Another of Florendo’s favorites is known as the dracaena marginata, sometimes called the dragon tree.

“It’s an attractive, drought-tolerant plant that is great for beginners,” she says. “It prefers medium light, but will also do well in low light to partial shade.” She also notes that this plant can grow fairly tall, often over six feet even indoors, which can be a stunning addition for spaces with high ceilings.


5. Monstera Deliciosa (aka Swiss Cheese Plant)

View this post on Instagram

#monsteramonday

A post shared by habitpattern.sf (@habitpattern.sf) on

The ubiquitous monstera deliciosa has gained favor with plant lovers because of the distinctive splits and cutouts on its dark, glossy leaves. It requires bright to medium indirect light and medium water, but can tolerate a little drought.

“If you forget to water your Monstera, it won’t hold a grudge,” says Rhiannon Cramm of Mickey Hargitay Plants. A happy Monstera can result in a voluminous plant that might require pruning, but this plant is also easy to propagate from cuttings—meaning you may find yourself with monstera babies to give away.


6. Zamioculcas zamiifolia (aka ZZ Plant)

All of the experts I spoke with agreed that the ZZ plant is an excellent pick for forgetful caregivers, withstanding periods of drought and lower light conditions. Horst describes this plant as a sculptural beauty, and notes, “Over time the leaves can arch in a graceful fashion, and, if kept in good light and cared for well, the plant can grow to be quite large.”


7. Pothos and Philodendrons

Our last pick was a tie between pothos, picked by Cramm and Florendo, and philodendron, picked by Horst. These similar-looking plants are often confused for one another, thanks to the fact that they're both vines that can be trellised or left to trail. Both do best with bright, filtered light, and watering about once a week, and both offer a variety of leaf shapes and patterns that can add style to any space.


What's your favorite indoor plant? Let us know in the comments!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Noreen Fish
    Noreen Fish
  • Apenny4luck
    Apenny4luck
  • tia
    tia
  • Smaug
    Smaug
Comment
Lover of concept stores, croissant connoisseur.

7 Comments

Noreen F. June 12, 2019
The only plant I've kept alive for more than a year is a peace lily. I just let it dry out between waterings, and it's happy. It nearly died in the beginning, because it was in the very back of the van on a trip from Kentucky to Wisconsin on a really cold February day.
Every leaf that touched the windows died, but it regenerated from the few that were left.

I've tried succulent gardens, but I never get the water level right.
 
Apenny4luck June 12, 2019
All great insta accounts if you love plants. Especially habitpattern.sf
 
tia June 11, 2019
I think it's worth pointing out that, depending on HOW you typically kill your plants some of these might be very killable indeed. Snake plant is pretty easy to rot out if you water too much, or if the soil doesn't drain well.

Pothos and philodendron would be my recommendations if that's the usual problem. I think calatheas or stromanthes would also do well if you're a chronic over-waterer. They don't like drought at all, but they can work with soggy soil (and they'll come back from a drought, though they'll be cranky about it). I have a calathea on my desk at work and it does fine with just the florescent lights, bright enough to cast a blurry shadow of my hand from about 10" above the desk for about 12 hours. The stromanthe 'triostar' I have is happy about a foot away from a north facing window at home.
 
Smaug June 11, 2019
I don't suppose most people who read this article will care about taxonomy, but some effort should be made to avoid confusing things further. The hoya shown is Hoya carnosa; it is the most common but there are a number of others- I particularly like Hoya miniate as a house plant. They are somewhat subject to mealy bugs, especially root mealies, and a peculiar strain of yellow aphids that I've only ever seen attack members of it's plant family (asclepiadaceae). The dracaena shown (D. marginata) is also sometimes classified as Cordylene marginata. The sobriquet "Dragon Tree" is usually used for another species, D. Draco. Monstera deliciosa, aka Philodendron pertusum, is widely known as Split Leaf Philodendron. The deliciosa is because they produce a tasty fruit, though very rarely when grown as a house plant. Not all philodendrons are good house plants- I have a P. Selloum that's 8" high and almost as wide, with leaves 3' across. The term "Swiss Cheese Plant is usually used for another species, M. friedrichsthalii.
 
Smaug June 11, 2019
Oops, that's Hoya miniata
 
tia June 11, 2019
Are you sure? I was thinking it was a Hoya Obovata (it looks just like the one I have). Big, palm-sized, round leaves, silver speckles.
 
Smaug June 11, 2019
You may well be right, the leaves of H. carnosa are more pointed, and plain unless it's the variegated variety- of course leaf shape and color can be atypical if grown in low light. I will rephrase- the Hoya generally known as "wax plant" and commonly sold as a house plant is Hoya carnosa.