Indestructible Houseplants

When it’s cold outside, many people shift their gardening aspirations from beautiful backyards to maintaining lovely houseplants. But if you aren’t gifted with a green thumb, you may find houseplants more frustrating than fulfilling.

Don’t worry! The Kemper Center for Home Gardening has you covered. Below are the staff’s top recommendations for indestructible houseplants, sure to withstand the skills—or lack thereof—of any home gardener.

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

This slow-growing plant is tolerant of shady conditions, and can thrive in low-light conditions and isn’t susceptible to many pests. This is not a common houseplant, so if you can find one, grab it while you can!

Potential problems: The ZZ plant can be overwatered, so well-drained potting mix is required.

Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)

Another slow-growing, shade tolerant houseplant that lives up to its name. This plant is tough! Unlike other tropical houseplants, the cast-iron plant is tolerant of low humidity and irregular watering. It isn’t prone to serious pest issues, although it can attract scale and spider mites.

Potential Problems: Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves, so be careful where you place it. It can also be difficult to find in nurseries.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

If you’d like something to place on a window sill, try this carefree houseplant perfect for a bright window with minimal direct sun. All this plant needs is evenly moist soil and it will send out flowering shoots with small, white blooms and plantlets on the ends.  Once they form roots, the plantlets can be removed and potted up on their own.

Potential problems: Spider plants are susceptible to several common pests, including spider mites, scale, whiteflies, and aphids. The tips of the leaves often turn brown. This cosmetic damage is hard to avoid, and can only be prevented by providing ideal growing conditions. But you can always ignore the brown leaf tips and enjoy the plant for its arching foliage and beautiful, cascading form.

Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also called devil’s ivy, golden pothos is one of the easiest vining houseplants to grow. It grows the best and shows more yellow color in bright, indirect light. It is also tolerant of shady conditions and artificial light. These plants are easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Just cut a piece of the stem off, place it in water, and wait for roots to grow. Golden pothos looks great on the top of a bookshelf or other elevated location where the trailing stems can cascade freely.

Potential problems: Root rot can occur in poorly drained soils. Watch for scale insects and their tell-tale, shiny honeydew stains.

English ivy (Hedera helix)

This is another easy to grow vining plant for indoors. Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season, and reduce watering slightly during the winter. Bright, filtered light is best for this plant. Pruning the longer stems will encourage bushier growth.

Cacti (many species)

If you are the kind of person who prefers plants that don’t need weekly attention, cacti may be the houseplants for you. Cacti are a large group of succulent, drought-tolerant plants. Most species are very easy to care for. All you need is a sunny, south-facing window. They have low water requirements and only need diluted fertilizer during the growing season. Some easy to care for species include jade plant (Crassula ovata) and a species of prickly pear commonly called bunny ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys).

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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