Are you known as a houseplant killer? I know, you didn't kill them—they committed suicide. Not everybody has a green thumb, but just because you have a yellow or even a brown thumb doesn't mean you can't enjoy a house filled with plants. Some plants are definitely easier than others to care for and are more suitable for novice gardeners. All you need to do is select the right plants for your gardening ability—or lack thereof. Here are 18 houseplants that are as durable as they are beautiful.
Note: Many of these plants are toxic to animals, so for any pet owners looking to select house plants, make sure to pay attention to which are safe and which are not for your cats and dogs.
The aglaonema, or Chinese evergreen, has green leaves that can be variegated with silver, white, or yellow and will bear white flowers similar to a calla lily. The flowers are followed by green berries that turn red-orange. It is very disease-resistant and can survive in almost any light setting. The dark green varieties can grow in shade while the variegated ones require more light; however, do not expose them to direct sun. In fact, if it is placed under a ceiling floodlight that is on six to eight hours a day, it won't need any natural light at all.
Be sure to water it about every three days, and it likes warm and humid conditions. The soil should be kept between wet and evenly moist, but occasional dryness won't harm it. Also, mist your aglaonemas to increase humidity. It should also be kept away from drafts, too. If the leaves start to yellow, try moving your plant to a new location because it was probably on the receiving end of a nasty draft.
It should be noted that the Chinese evergreen is toxic to pets, so it is best kept out of their reach or in households without pets.
2. Asparagus Setaceus
The asparagus setaceus, or asparagus fern, has delicate, needle-like leaves that are usually bright or yellowish green. It is not really a fern but a relative of the lily, and as such, is toxic to both cats and dogs. It will also produce small, white flowers, although blooming is sporadic. It prefers to be kept in brighter areas, but still out of direct sun. It should be watered about once every week to two weeks. Water enough to keep the potting moist but no more, and do not let the soil dry out completely.
3. Aspidistra Elatior
The aspidistra elatior was given the name "cast iron," because it is capable of surviving in poor conditions. It has shiny, dark green leaves that grow to 24 inches long and will occasionally produce brownish-purple flowers near its base. This plant will tolerate any condition: dust, heat, cold, overwatering, underwatering, and low light. It is also highly resistant to pests. It likes cool filtered sun and its soil should be kept evenly moist, though not constantly wet. Water it thoroughly every time it dries out. There are over 93 reported species of this plant, and it is non-toxic to house pets.
Tip: The aspidistra elatior is very easy to propagate. Cut out part of the plant that has both leaves and root and put it in high-quality potting mix. Water and it will thrive.
Bromeliads come in over 2,000 varieties. The most popular Bromeliad is the pineapple. They have thick, fleshy leaves that usually tightly overlap to form tubular vases. In the home, plant diseases are rarely a problem for this plant and their leaves are too tough to be bothered by insects. Its foliage will be more vibrant in brighter lights, but they can survive without any direct light and even in artificial light. Keep the center of the plant filled with water and the potting mix just barely moist. Water whenever the potting mixture looks dry by pouring the water into the center "cup" of the plant. The plant should be kept drier in the winter, and has been known to survive for weeks without water. This plant is not poisonous to pets.
The chlorophytum, or spider plant, typically has grassy green leaves, although some varieties have leaves striped with white or yellow. They get their name from the runners that are formed from shoots that hang down the side of the pot.
It is very adaptable and can tolerate all forms of neglect. Chlorophytum grows best in brighter light but will tolerate lower light levels. It performs best at temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees, and while it prefers moisture, it will survive if you let its soil dry out between waterings. Brown leaves can be caused by high concentrations of chlorine or fluoride in tap water and by under-fertilizing. Remove the brown tips by trimming them with a scissors and try watering the plant with rain or distilled water. This plant is also not toxic to household animals.
The cissus, also known as the grape ivy or kangaroo vine, is a vigorous climber and another plant safe for households with pets. It has green leaves, and some varieties produce small flowers. It is one of the few plants that will tolerate lower temperatures and drafts. The cissus needs indirect sunlight and should not be placed in direct sunlight. It should be watered whenever it becomes almost dry and then watered so that water drains out of the bottom of the pot; however, it should not be kept continuously wet.
7. Coleus Blumei
The coleus, or painted nettle, has colorful, velvety foliage in shades of red, pink, green, and yellow, but if placed outdoors in the summer, it has been known to get blue flowers. This plant needs bright light and its soil should be kept continuously moist. You should also keep peat moss in the pot for the health of this plant. The painted nettle is not harmful to humans if accidentally ingested, but pet owners must be wary of keeping this one as well.
8. Crassula Arborescens
The crassula arborescens, or jade plant, has smooth, fleshy leaves that vary in size and it produces tiny, white flowers in the winter. They are fast growers and very easy to keep. They prefer bright light or full sun, but plants that are kept under low light produce elongated stems. They prefer moderate temperatures (between 50 to 70 degrees F), but will withstand a wide range of temperatures. They like to be on the dry side. It's best to water and let the plant dry out completely before watering again. Frequent re-potting of jade plants helps them stay healthy.
The jade plant is another houseplant pet owners should avoid for toxicity to their cats and dogs.
This tall, durable plant has long, leathery, spear-like leaves that point downwards. Foliage comes in a variety of colors such as spotted with yellow or cream, striped white, edged with burgundy, and plain green. It can easily survive indoors even when the conditions are far from ideal.
Dracaenas need plenty of light, filtered through a curtain if indoors. However, some varieties will do well in fluorescent light while others prefer a sunny window. Be sure to read the label so that you know which variety you have and what type of light it will do best in.
Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. If the soil is allowed to get severely dry, the leaves will yellow or turn brown and die. These plants also prefer humid conditions, so you might consider placing the planter on a tray of pebbles that you keep moist to increase the humidity around the plant. They are also resistant to most diseases but are poisonous to pets.
The dieffenbachia is probably better known as the dumb cane. The foliage is mostly green with white spots, or pale chartreuse with dark green edges and veins, and it produces a lily-like flower. Because the wide leaves of the dieffenbachia tend to collect dust, you will need to clean the leaves occasionally with a damp sponge.
Dieffenbachias need plenty of indirect light. Any abrupt temperature fluctuations will cause the color of its leaves to fade, so it's best not to place this plant near doors, radiators, and appliances. Water thoroughly whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. If it is allowed to dry out too much, the leaves will start to yellow and die. This plant is extremely poisonous to both children and pets, so take this into consideration when making your choices for plants to keep.
11. Epipremnum Aureum
The epipremum aureum is also known as the pothos or devil's ivy. It has heart-shaped, waxy leaves that are either white and green or yellow and green. It is very tolerant to many adverse conditions.
The pothos prefers well-lit areas but not direct sunlight. If the variegation in its leaves begin to fade, it's not receiving enough light. It enjoys warmer conditions and will not tolerate colder conditions. It should be watered one to two times a week, when the top inch of the soil feels dry, and misted regularly. If it begins to turn yellow, it is not receiving enough water. This plant is also poisonous to pets.
12. Ficus Elastica
The ficus elastica, or rubber plant, has large, dark green, oval leaves that have a thin copper-colored edging. They will tolerate either sun or shade. It should be watered when it is not quite dry; keep the soil moderately moist at all times, but not saturated. Over-watering will cause the leaves to turn yellow. The best way to water is to set it in a bucket and let it soak up as much water as it needs.
Ficus can sometimes get sooty mold on the leaves. Wipe this off with a soapy rag and repeat if necessary. Leaves should be dusted regularly with a damp cloth to remove dust.
This specific type of rubber plant is toxic to both cats and dogs.
13. Hedera Helix
The hedera helix is better known as the English ivy. It is available in a variety of leaf shapes, colors, variegation, and sizes. They are easy to grow and will tolerate many conditions.
They prefer bright, indirect sunlight but will tolerate other light levels—including full sun or shade. Plants with variegated leaves will need more light than those with solid green leaves. The soil should be kept barely moist, but not soaking.
Red spider mites can be a common problem for plants that are kept in hot, dry conditions. The best defense against them is to keep the plant misted. The English ivy is poisonous to pets.
Tip: They do not like full sun but do need bright light. Put ivy outside in the summer in a shaded location.
14. Howea Belmoreana
The howea belmoreana, or kentia palm, produces long, finger-like fronds that give the plant an elegant, airy look. It needs to be kept in areas with warm, filtered sun. If the upper leaves begin spotting, the plant is getting too much light and should be moved. Although they are durable, they cannot tolerate severe dryness or constant over-watering, so watch your plant carefully for signs of these conditions. If the tips begin to yellow, it is receiving too much water. However, if the fronds droop and the tips brown, the plant is not receiving enough water.
This plant is perfect for pet owners to consider since it is safe to keep around animals.
Commonly known as snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue, this is one of the hardiest houseplants around. The sansevieria has long, spiky, variegated foliage. Mature plants produce sprays of fragrant pink-white or yellowish flowers, but the flowering is erratic and unpredictable. Although the sansevieria prefers bright sunlight, it will tolerate a wide range of light levels including darker areas. During the spring, summer, and fall, you should only water this plant once every 10 days. In the winter, you should only water it once every 1 to 2 months. It does not like to sit in water, and over-watering is virtually the only way this plant can be killed. Keep this plant away from both pets and children, as it is poisonous.
The saintpaulina, or African violet, is one of the few plants that will flower several times a year, even under low or fluorescent light. In fact, too much light will cause leaves to pale or turn yellowish green. They come in many flower colors and are even available in dwarf varieties.
African violets should be watered when the surface soil feels dry to the touch. The best way to water them is to place the pot in a bowl of shallow water because any water on the leaves will turn them brown. They prefer cooler temperatures (around 60 to 70 degrees F) and must be protected from drafts. This plant is another great option for people with pets to consider as well.
The tradescantia is known under several different names, including wandering Jew, wandering creeper, inch plant, Tahitian bridal veil, and Purple Heart. It has bright green, oval shaped leaves, but also comes in green and purple, purple and silver, pinkish-cream and red, or red with silver stripes. The leaves are an inch long and spaced about an inch apart on a spindly stems. It also produces small flowers with three petals.
The tradescantia is so easy to grow that it is classified as a weed in many areas. This plant will tolerate poor light if it is grown in a rich soil. However, its colors are more intense if it receives more sunshine. Its soil should be kept moist.
Most varieties of this plant are safe for pets, but it should be noted that the wandering Jew in specific has been known to cause allergic skin reactions on dogs.
18. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia
The zamioculcas zamiifolia is also known as the aroid palm or the ZZ plant. It has thick, fleshy, glossy leaves, and is very tough under indoor conditions and handles neglect well. It is also very resistant to disease and insects.
The plant does well in lower light levels, but prefers brighter light as long as it is kept out of direct, afternoon sun. Zamioculcas zamiifolia should remain on the dry side and its soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. If its leaves begin to yellow, it is probably being watered too much.
All parts of this plant are considered harmful to children, cats, and dogs if ingested.
Information on plant toxicity to pets was given by the ASPCA.