Inside Out Blog

21 Jan

Top Ten Hard to Kill Houseplants

Yep. Another list of houseplants for newbie gardeners with black thumbs. What’s different about this one? For starters, it’s got the expertise of an interiorscaping technician behind it. Additionally, these plants made the list due to their ability to tolerate low light, low humidity, and cooler indoor temperatures for easy indoor care. That means that any of these plants would make good choices for winter purchase. A tropical houseplant can cheer up a dim corner, kickstart a new hobby or make a great Valentine’s Day gift.

The main problem with lists like this is often plants within the same plant genus (plant category) have very different care requirements. This means you often have to dig a bit deeper and figure out more of the plant’s name to know exactly how to care for it.

This can be hard in a big box store, where pots tags usually only list a general name, if any at all. Tracking down these die-hard specimens may be easier at independent garden centers where staff tend to be dedicated plant geeks.

Houseplant coloration suffers in low light

One thing to keep in mind when shopping for tough houseplants is that you can’t have everything. It’s usually the solid green variety that tolerates low light, not the sexy variegated type. The coloration of bright tri-color or burgundy plants tends to suffer in lower light conditions.  If they are on this list, they won’t die, they just won’t look as good without brighter light. Consider adding some supplemental lighting, especially in the winter. Even a fluorescent desk lamp will do.

The top plants on this list were also chosen for cold tolerance. Just don’t relegate your plants to a space where the temperature drops below 40 degrees F. Signs of cold damage include dropped leaves, mottled or curled leaves and wilting.

Without further ado, in ascending order, are the top-10 hard-to-kill houseplants of all time:

10. Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)

This plant is appreciated for its cool variegated patterns. Dieffenbachia will tolerate dry air, but is somewhat sensitive to cold.  Water when the soil surface feels dry. Avoid contact with the sap. Temperature: 65-80 degrees F.

9. Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)

This plant appears on many low light, easy-care houseplant lists, but except for the solid green variety, it really prefers medium-bright light levels. Be careful of direct sunlight, which will scorch it. It likes to stay moist except in the winter. ‘Silver Bay’ is a plantscaping favorite. Temperature: 60-70 degrees F. or higher.

8. Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig Compacta’ (Dwarf Janet Craig Dracaena)

Dwarf Janet Craig Dracaena

This is another plantscaping favorite that likes to be fairly dry in the winter. Be careful of salt buildup in the soil and drafts. Temperature: 60-70 degrees F.

7. Hedera helix (English Ivy)

English ivy

This familiar trailing specimen can be used as a filler with other more upright plants. It needs a bit more than low light in winter. Higher humidity will prevent spider mites.

6. Pellaea rotundifolia (Button Fern)

This delicate plant is a dependable choice but didn’t place higher on the list because it likes humidity. It hates to be soggy though, so don’t mist it. Water it from the bottom. Temperature: 55-65 degrees F.

5. Epipremnum aureum ‘Jade’ (Jade Pothos)

Jade pothos tolerates low light and low humidity. However, it prefers moist soil and warmer room temperatures. Its handsome heart-shaped green leaves are lightly variegated with creamy yellow. Pothos will easily cling and climb, which makes it great for hanging baskets or totems. Temperature: 70-80 degrees F.

4. Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant)

Rubber plant

You may have seen this one at grandma’s house, probably because it’s a very adaptable houseplant. It tolerates low light but will be happier with at least a few hours of filtered sunlight a day. Never overwater it or it will droop. Temperature: 50-60 degrees F.

3. Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ Plant)

ZZ plant

This curious looking, slow-growing plant is more familiar to the plantscaping trade, where its tolerance of low light and humidity makes it very popular. Keep its glossy leaves dusted and let it dry out between waterings. Beware of the milky sap and odd silhouettes if you trim off yellow leaves. Temperature: 60-80 degrees F.

2. Sanseveria trifasciata (Snake Plant)

Snake plant

This old-time favorite is making a comeback because it tolerates an amazing range of light conditions, including a practically dark room. Snake plants are very disease resistant. Be careful not to overwater it or it can turn to mush. Temperatures: 60-80 degrees F.

1. Aspidistia (Cast Iron Plant)

While this plant lacks some of the pizazz of others on the list, it truly is cast iron. It will gladly grow in very little light. Let the top 2/3 of the soil dry out between waterings. And if it gets crowded, split off some new plants in the spring.

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