In recent years, gardeners have discovered sedges as a tough, evergreen perennial option for many…
It’s a sad thing for those who work in nurseries and garden centers when we hear a customer say “I don’t dare try to grow houseplants…I just look at them and they die.” Oh, no! That wanna-be plant lover just hasn’t met the right plant yet. There are many houseplants that survive and even thrive in the face of low light conditions, sporadic watering, and absent-minded neglect. Let’s look at five hard-to-kill plants that offer a variety of looks, colors, textures, sizes, and growth habits.
Sansevierias (Sansevieria species).
The (in)famous “mother-in-law’s tongue” is easily recognized by its long, flat, sword-like leaves. This type of Sansevieria offers a bold, upright accent and is available in a variety of leaf colors and patterns. But Sansevieria is much more than just mother-in-law’s tongue. There is a wide range of plants in this group with many different leaf shapes, sizes and colors, and all tolerate low light and flourish with a bare minimum of watering.
Cactus (many species in the Cactaceae family).
In terms of easy care, a cactus is a no-brainer, and there are enough shapes, sizes, and colors to appeal to everyone. We associate cactii with the bright, hot desert, but they do well in low-light conditions; those that are in a windowsill or sunnier location may reward you with stunning blooms from time to time. Cactii are slow growers that only require very light, well-draining soil (a bag of cactus and succulent soil is a good investment), very little fertilization, and almost no watering.
ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia).
The aptly-named ZZ plant has a unique and striking growth habit with leaves that zig-zag left and right up multiple long, arching stems. The foliage is a rich emerald green and naturally glossy; combined with the elegant, upright shape of the plant, ZZ’s are a lovely accent in even the gloomiest corners. They tolerate dry conditions, and the leaves will maintain their shine with just an occasional swipe of a damp cloth.
Pothos ivies (Epipremnum species).
Of all the versatile, easy-to-grow houseplants – and there are lots of them – the pothos ivies top the list. Though not a true ivy, pothos has that same long, trailing growth habit and makes a lovely hanging basket. It can also be trained up to grow on a totem as an upright accent, and if you keep pothos trimmed back, it makes a dense, mounding tabletop ornament. Best of all, when you trim pothos, just pop the cuttings in water and they’ll spout roots and grow in water alone for many years. Cuttings from pothos ivies are an economical way to grow your houseplant collection, and they make great gifts, too. Pothos comes in a variety of leaf colors and variegations, from the bright lime green of ‘Neon’ to the rich true green of ‘Green Jade’ to the elegant silvery variegations of ‘Silver Satin’. They tolerate low-light conditions, and though they do best with consistent moisture, pothos wilts as it dries out as a reminder that it’s time to water.
Bromeliads (many species in the Bromeliaceae family).
The unique, tubular shape and bold patterning of the foliage and the exotic, colorful spears of long-lasting flowers make this tropical look right at home next to other, harder to grow tropicals. Many features of bromeliads make them ideal for the novice houseplant enthusiast. The curved leaves form siphons – just fill them with water once a week and that’s it. Bromeliads are slow growers, and both the leaves and flowers are very long-lasting and thus require very little grooming. Bromeliads maintain the striking colors and patterns of the foliage in low-light conditions, and in bright, indirect light, they may reward their owners with a stunning bloom spike.
A few basic strategies will set any houseplant grower up for success. First, always use a pot with a drainage hole. Red terracotta pots are a great choice; they’re inexpensive, come in many shapes and sizes, and because they’re porous, they absorb extra water and can help prevent overwatering. For a more decorative look, just set the terracotta pot in a larger ornamental pot and take it out when it’s time to water. Use a quality potting soil that’s light and well-draining, and invest in the right soil for plants with special soil requirements. Water correctly: as a general rule of thumb, set the pot in a saucer and water it until water comes out the bottom. Let the plant soak for 5 minutes then pour off any excess water. Though it’s not essential, a quarterly fertilization with a mild, organic liquid fertilizer such as Hasta-Gro will help maintain the vivid coloration of the foliage. Finally, although all of these plant can tolerate lower light conditions, most houseplants really thrive in bright, indirect light. If you do have plants in a dark corner, bring them out occasionally – even onto a covered patio once temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or warmer.
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Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from the happiness that surrounding yourself with green, growing things in your home can bring. At North Haven Gardens, we’re here to help. Our tropical greenhouse has the perfect plant for you and knowledgeable staff ready to start you on the road to success with your own collection of houseplants.