6 Low-Maintenance Houseplants Even Beginners Can Keep Alive
These easy-to-care-for houseplants allow those with limited space and sunlight, or even a lack of previous gardening experience, to still benefit from houseplants.
Plant parents can experience extreme highs and lows, just as with caring for a human being. If you’ve destroyed your houseplants time and time again, you might feel like you need a Ph.D. in rocket science in order to be a successful plant parent. Understanding the environmental conditions affecting you and the degree to which those conditions can be controlled, actively involving yourself in care, and letting nature take its course.
First, make sure your home and climate are conducive to growing plants. Are temperatures relatively stable? If temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, move your plants to another window if you prefer to keep the one they usually sit next to open over the winter. Is the air humid or dry? In a climate that gets much drier than that, you might prefer desert plants, like cacti and succulents, or invest in a humidifier if you live in a home with houseplants that can tolerate a humidity range of forty to seventy percent.
In reality, sun exposure is the most important factor. Many people say overwatering is the number one killer, when in fact, the number one killer is not having your plants in front of a window. Even though some plants on this list will survive in low light, if they don’t get any exposure to the sun, they’ll eventually die. Carefully engaging with your plant does not require ordering tools or obsessively fretting over how many times to water; it simply requires that you acknowledge its needs, which often include fertilization, repotting, and, of course, regular watering.
Because every household is unique, and every plant has different needs, maintaining a regular watering schedule is not a good approach. Thirstier plants, like herbs and ferns, need constant hydration, so soil should be damp to the touch at all times. The roots of desert plants like aloe and cacti have evolved to withstand dry spells, so too much water can actually damage them. Many experts recommend waiting until the soil becomes so dry that it tastes almost crusty before watering it. The majority of other house plants prefer somewhat damp or partially dry soil, so they should be watered when the soil is lighter in color, yet soft to the touch.
One last rule is to accept that you cannot control the fate of your houseplants and not to blame yourself when your plants die or don’t appear as good as they did when you brought them home. In other words, you should be okay with them getting raggedy and even anticipate it. While it might seem as if you’re taking great care of your plants, they’re ultimately living in containers far from their natural habitats. And even when they’re in their natural habitats, they turn brown or drop their leaves.
The best thing you can do for new plant care beginners is to choose a plant that won’t fall apart when you make a mistake. Here are six forgiving, resilient options they highly recommend not just for beginners but for anyone who wants to raise a thriving plant family in their home. The mini care guides also include a few variations that are effective under similar conditions.
Why we like it? This leafy plant looks great hanging from a window or spilling off of a shelf. They can survive if you don’t water them every so often and won’t suffer much if they’re not in the sunniest position in the house. Direct sunlight can actually cause leaf burn, so you may want to place them in a sunny window that doesn’t bake in the afternoon. As the Philodendron Brazil is toxic if consumed, it’s not a good choice if you have curious pets or young children.
When to water it? It is best to water when the soil is partially dry. If you aren’t sure, try the cake-test trick. Insert a chopstick into the soil. In fact, a well-watered garden has a good soil that is easy to push into the soil, as long as it is not soggy. The soil if it is wet leaves dark streaks, while dry soil leaves little or no residue on the chopstick.
Where it grows best? The philodendron prefers a window that receives no more than three hours of light per day. If your window gets a lot of light, you can hang a sheer curtain to minimize glare.
How to keep it healthy? The plant climbs up trees in its natural habitat, so you can put a plant stick in the soil to wrap the philodendron around it if you want it to grow taller rather than sprawling over the ground. Since this plant grows quite quickly, especially if it is well taken care of, it may need to be re-potted every year or when its roots start to poke through the drain holes.
If it is too wide, the roots will not reach all of the soil, causing bacterial or fungal outbreaks. Plastic nursery pots are lightweight and have good drainage, which is why it is best to nest them in larger decorative pots until it is time to transplant.
Honorable mentions: If you can’t find a Philodendron Brasil or don’t like its streaky appearance, the Philodendron heartleaf Philodendron Lemon-Lime are similarly forgiving.
Money Tree Pachira Aquatica
Why we like it? In spite of its unique shape, Mini Money Trees are quite common and easy to find. They are also affordable, pet-friendly, and sturdy.
When to water it? You should water the Mini Money Tree when the soil is soft but not damp. The soil will survive a dry spell, but you may experience uneven saturation. To avoid that, poke a few holes in the surface of the soil and water until you see water draining out of the drain port.
Where it grows best? Ideally, this plant should be placed in a bright spot, but it won’t mind not being placed in the brightest window in the house.
How to keep it healthy? Once the trunk becomes overgrown, prune it off at the top. Under the new section of leaves, the lower leaves will turn yellow regardless of how often you water it. If you do not like this look, simply trim them off with a pair of sanitized scissors.
The Umbrella Tree (Schefflera Arboricola) isn’t in the same genus as the Mini Money Tree, but it is similarly low-key and whimsical-looking.
Why we like it? It might look like a showy plant, but the Monstera Deliciosa is actually pretty easy to maintain. It won’t drop its leaves if you miss a few waterings, and it doesn’t mind if you can’t stick it right in the window.
When to water it? Even if your Monstera Deliciosa doesn’t receive a lot of light, it doesn’t need much water, so make sure the soil is soft to the touch every week.
Where it grows best? Swiss cheese plants live in forests where they seek out the right lighting for growth. For this reason, they can grow wherever sunlight is available. Unlike other rainforest plants, they do not require quite as much humidity, but you can mist the leaves with water if your home is rather dry.
How to keep it looking its best? Monsteras are known to climb trees, so if you stake it with something you can lean against, it will probably grow larger leaves. They also produce aerial roots, which you can clip if you dislike the look.
Honorable mentions: Because the Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma looks and behaves so much like the Monstera Deliciosa, it is often referred to as a Mini Monstera. The Monstera Siltepecana is just as easy-going as the Deliciosa, but it is much smaller, which makes it great for tighter spaces.
Hedgehog Aloe Humulis
Why we like it? In a nutrient-poor environment, hedgehog aloe plants do well to absorb and hold onto their nutrients. However, it is more prone to infection if it doesn’t get enough light. They are less likely to need fertilizer than, for instance, tropical plants with softer leaves. Plus, this spiky plant can quite actually produce flowers. Despite the plant’s ability to survive neglect, you’ll probably lose it pretty quickly if you don’t put it in a bright window.
When to water it? When the soil of your hedgehog aloe is completely dry and hard to the touch, you should water it with a gritty soil mixture. Using a fine soil will prevent uneven saturation and drainage.
Where it grows best? Whenever possible, place the aloe leaf near windows that face the sunset. (In the northern hemisphere that means facing west or south.) It’ll grow better in a dry home than in one with a humidifier running all the time.
How to keep it looking its best? Having brown leaves is totally normal for an aloe plant; so don’t be concerned about them. However, look out for any leaves with brown spots or any other type of damage, and cut them off at the root. It’s possible that whatever is damaging the leaves might spread to the others if you don’t do anything.
Aloe Vera needs similar care but has a much more dramatic silhouette than the Hedgehog. Lace Aloe (Aristaloe aristata) is even more resilient than Hedgehog Aloe, but it kind of looks like a spiky, multilayered flower.
Why we like it? For a look more like a greenhouse without the pitfalls of caring for so many plants, Dracaena Warneckii is the perfect choice. It looks more majestic than having just a few cacti on your windowsill, and its care is relatively easy. The water from your tap may turn brown tips if it is hard, in which case dracaenas may not be the ideal choice.
In the event that you have fallen deeply in love with this plant, you can find workarounds, such as knowing exactly when to water and what kind of water to use (more on that below). However, it may prove to be more effort than the plant is worth.
When to water it? You should wait to water Dracaena Warneckii until the topsoil is nearly dry to water it. It doesn’t tolerate drought as well as some of the others on this list.
Where it grows best? In the afternoon, some plants will thrive in the scorching heat of the southern window, but others such as the Dracaena Warneckii will suffer if exposed to too much sun. The leaves of a Dracaena are also at risk of damage from heaters and drafts in the winter, so choose a spot in your home that will protect it from those elements. Due to its size, it won’t be moved much.
How to keep it looking its best? Tap water that is too hard should be filtered or drank from rainwater.
Honorable mentions: The Dracaena Dorado (Dracaena Deremensis) looks and behaves like a Dracaena Warneckii. The Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata) is a much smaller version but requires similar care.
Why we like it? The plant’s Missoni-like pattern is tall, dark, and handsome. In addition to being extremely hardy and resilient to a lot of living conditions, snake plants can also get rid of a lot of odors.
When to water it? Snake plants have a high drought tolerance, so you should only water when the soil is totally dry. One way to tell when the soil is wet: pick up the pot and you’ll notice it’s heavier than when it’s dry.
Where it grows best? Typically found in West African deserts, these plants thrive in bright, hot, and dry conditions. However, they can handle any conditions, so they’ll thrive in slightly darker or more humid conditions.
How to keep it looking its best? Make sure the soil that you use for your plants is sandy (like one for cacti or succulents) because uneven watering can cause root rot.
Honorable mentions: The Sansevieria Moonshine (Sansevieria Robusta) looks like an inverted snake plant with slightly broader leaves, but it will benefit from the same care. The Silver Sansevieria (Sansevieria Sayuri) is also very easy-going but has a softer, brushstroke-like pattern.