5 Hard-to-Kill House Plants

Updated August 19, 2016
jade plant
One more easy-to-care-for plant is the jade plant, which requires little watering and low light. It's fleshy green leaves will give a pop of color to any room. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Some of the easiest house plants to grow offer a beneficial bonus.

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We get it — not everyone is Martha Stewart when it comes to maintaining plant life. Especially when it concerns indoor house plants, where you might think only the greenest of thumbs experience success.  

The good news is, there are several house plants that can thrive in less-than-ideal environments. Plants that will grow in low, indirect light, such as sunlight filtered through a curtain or in a dull hallway with no direct light at all, and plants that require minimal watering and actually enjoy the occasional dry spell.

In addition, all of these easy house plants provide healthy benefits. So pull on some gardening gloves and dig into this list of practically indestructible house plants (green thumb not required).

1. Snake plant

snake plant
The snake plant is one of the most durable house plants available, and makes for a striking display. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

This succulent is the mother of all indestructible plants. Or rather, the mother-in-law, as the snake plant’s common nickname is “mother-in-law’s tongue” (interpret that as you will). This plant, with its dark-green upright leaves resembling a snake’s tongue, can live in low light, and only requires watering once every three weeks or so. In fact, it’s best to let the plant dry out some between waterings. The snake plant is architecturally striking, and doesn’t mind if you ignore it for weeks at a time. And if you’re worried about keeping plants alive while on vacation, it’s a great choice.

Bonus feature: According to a study by NASA, snake plant helps keep the air in your home purified, removing toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde.

2. Pothos plant

While beautiful, pothos and several other house plants can be poisonous to pets. Check with your vet before purchasing any plants. (Photo courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski)

An ideal plant for rookies, pothos can grow in a wide range of environments, including bathrooms, dorm rooms or an office cubicle. It’s not at all picky about the type of light it receives (low light or indirect) and flourishes in all soil types or even just a jar of water. You’ll want to water thoroughly, but then let the soil dry out before watering again. With its medium-to-dark green leaves that stretch out on a vine, pothos is a fresh addition to any room.

Bonus feature: Similarly to snake plant, pothos helps clean the air in your home by removing toxins.  

3. Areca palm

The "butterfly" or "bamboo" palm can get pricey for a taller version. Stick to medium or smaller sized versions for a more economical purchase. (Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr)

Also known as a “butterfly” or “bamboo” palm for its long feathery fronds, the areca palm is one of the most popular house plants. You’ll most likely start with a smaller (less than two feet tall) version because they’re less expensive, but this palm can grow indoors to a height of 7 feet.

The plant will do best in bright, indirect light, and be sure to keep the soil moist in the spring and summer while letting it dry out slightly during fall and winter. As it grows, you’ll need to repot the plant every two to three years.

Bonus feature: The Areca palm topped NASA’s study as the most efficient air-purifying plant, but it also acts as an excellent air humidifier.

4. Aloe

The gel of an aloe plant offers a number of medicinal benefits. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

This succulent (meaning, it stores water in its tissues) could be the most recognized house plant around, well-known and appreciated for its medicinal qualities. Tolerant of dry conditions and low light, aloe does best when you allow the soil to get parched in between waterings. Watch out for the little aloe “babies” that might sprout up, which you can remove and replant in a separate container.

Bonus feature: It’s in lotions, conditioners, sunscreens and juices — products everywhere tote the healthful attributes of aloe. Have a slight surface burn from cooking or a sunburn? Break off a bit of the aloe plant and rub the gel on the burn for instant relief. You can also add the aloe gel to coconut oil for a skin cream, or add it to a mixture of honey and sugar for a body scrub.  

5. Chinese evergreen

The Chinese evergreen plant removes toxins from the air, helping to purify it. (Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr)

These glossy green plants will thrive in low light, and do best in a room that’s on the warmer side. Water well, but then let the soil drain and dry slightly before watering again. In the spring or summer, an older plant may produce small blooms resembling a calla or peace lily.

Bonus feature: The Chinese evergreen is another rock star at removing impurities from the indoor air. You might especially consider adding one (or more!) of these air-purifying plants to your house if you’ve just completed a renovation, installed new flooring, or purchased new furniture as those materials tend to emit toxins into the air.

What is your favorite type of house plant? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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