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Top 10 Hard-to-Kill Houseplants

Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry, you can still grow happy, healthy plants indoors – I promise. The trick is finding plants that can withstand a little neglect (some plants actually prefer it!), and plants that can withstand your type of neglect. Are you a chronic over-waterer? Then maybe the prayer plant is best. Do you have a house with lots of big, sunny windows but you don’t have time to meticulously water plants? A cactus or jade plant might be best. Or do you have a dark apartment, and a tendency to *forget* about watering entirely? In that case a snake plant, pothos, or zz plant might be best. Out of these 10 hard-to-kill houseplants, you are sure to find a plant that will be perfect for you.

Based on my own experience, plus a little research, here are 10 hard-to-kill houseplants that anyone can keep alive (in no particular order).

RELATED: Top 5 Common Houseplant Pests

1. Snake Plants (Sansevieria)

A snake plant which is a hard-to-kill houseplant in a terracotta pot against a white wall.
Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Snake plants (Sansevieria) are abundant in my dark apartment. They thrive in low light conditions and are extremely drought-tolerant. For those who are not good at remembering to water their plants, snake plants are perfect as they prefer that their soil dries out completely between waterings. While they do well in low-light, snake plants thrive in bright, indirect light if possible.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Let soil dry between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil.

2. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

A green pothos plant in a gold container in front of a white wall.
Photo by Kelsey Brown on Unsplash

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is the perfect plant for beginners. Also known as Devil’s Ivy, this hard-to-kill houseplants is an attractive plant that is great for hanging planters. It does well in a range of lighting conditions, and it is also drought-tolerant. Plus, there are several varieties of pothos – so you can find a pothos plant to suit your individual aesthetic.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Let soil dry between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil.

3. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

The hardy lucky bamboo with several stalks in front of a white wall.
Photo by Severin Candrian on Unsplash

Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) tops the 10 hard-to-kill houseplants list without a doubt. My lucky bamboo was one of my earliest plant purchases. I bought two lucky bamboo stalks from IKEA, and planted them in a glass container filled with white decorative rocks and water. At least 4-5 years later – I have not transplanted it, it lives in near darkness and survives, you could probably count on two hands how many times I have refilled the water in the jar, and it is still alive. I don’t know how, but it is. To be fair, it hasn’t grown much, but it really doesn’t become leggy as most ‘low-light’ plants will which is an added bonus. In my opinion, lucky bamboo are nearly indestructable.

Lucky bamboo can be grown in water, or planted in soil or a sand/rock combination. If grown in water, it appreciates if the water is refreshed frequently (but clearly can survive without this). If grown in soil, it should be watered once the soil has partially dried out.

  • Light: Bright light to low light.
  • Water: Grows best in water.
  • Soil: Soil is not necessary for lucky bamboo, but if used, should be porous and well-draining. Sandy soils or rocky soils are ideal for lucky bamboo.

4. Aloe Vera

Close up shot of an aloe vera's succulent leaves.
Photo by pisauikan on Unsplash

Aloe vera are slow-growing, low-maintenance succulent plants in the genus Aloe. They do well in direct sun to bright, indirect light and only need to be watered once the soil has dried out thoroughly. An established aloe plant propagates readily every year by sending up new aloe shoots which can be separated and grown as independent plants.

Aloe is infamous for its therapeutic properties, and you can harvest aloe directly from your plant for medicinal or therapeutic uses. If you have pets, you should be aware that while aloe is therapeutic to humans, this hard-to-kill houseplant is toxic to both cats and dogs. It’s toxicity is listed as mild to moderate by the Pet Poison Helpline.

  • Light: Full sun to bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Allow soil to dry thoroughly between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil.

5. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

A prayer plant in a white pot being held up against a white wall. Prayer plants are hardy and hard-to-kill.
Photo by Severin Candrian on Unsplash

Attention chronic over-waterers: this one’s for you! Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) thrive with lots of moisture. Keep the soil consistently moist with regular waterings, and add extra humidity by placing the prayer plant pot on a pebble tray filled with water, or close to a humidifier. They do best in bright, filtered light. Direct sun should be avoided for prayer plants as it can quickly burn the leaves of the plant.

One of my favourite parts about prayer plants is their leaves – at night, the leaves of a prayer plant fold upwards and together, and during the day they open and fold downwards. This ‘prayer-like’ motions is where the plant gets its name.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Keep soil consistently moist.
  • Soil: Rich, well-draining soil.

6. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

A small ZZ plant in a planter on a desk next to a desktop computer.
Photo by Pino Nguyen on Unsplash

ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are infamous for being the plants that can “survive in the dark.” While they can’t technically survive in the complete darkness, they are very adaptable to low-light conditions and therefore are used frequently as low-light plants. If possible, ZZ plants actually grow best in medium to bright, indirect light. They are extremely drought-tolerant thanks to the large rhizomes growing beneath the soil. This also makes them susceptible to over-watering.

  • Light: Medium to bright indirect light. Adapts to low light well.
  • Water: Let soil dry thoroughly between waterings. Be cautious of overwatering.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil.

7. Cacti (Cactaceae)

An overhead shot of many small cacti in square pots.
Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Admittedly this is a broad classification, but if you have adequate light in your home cacti (Cactaceae) can be very low-maintenance, hard-to-kill houseplants. They are, after all, desert plants that are accustomed to extreme sun and heat conditions and are known for being drought-tolerant. Keep this in mind when assessing if cacti would thrive in your home – if you don’t have an area of your home that receives bright, direct sun for the majority of the day (again, picture a hot sunny desert), then cacti may not do well.

  • Light: Most species of cacti require direct sun, but some species can do well in part sun or shady conditions.
  • Water: Allow soil to dry thoroughly between waterings.
  • Soil: Sandy, well-draining soil.

8. Jade Plants (Crassula ovata)

A hardy jade plant sits on a bedside table next to white curtains and a white bed,
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are slow-growing succulents that do well in bright, sunny locations. Their care is similar to that of cacti, although they appreciate more frequent watering than cacti do. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, although frequency of waterings can be increased during the active growing season (spring and summer months). They can adapt to partial sun conditions, but grow much faster in direct sun conditions.

  • Light: Full sun. Can adapt to part sun conditions but grows more slowly.
  • Water: Allow soil to dry thoroughly between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil. Cactus or succulent soil is sufficient.

9. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Photo by @plantandgrow

Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia) are hard-to-kill houseplants that are perfect for adding a tropical feel to any space – plus they require less light and care than most tropical houseplants. Depending on the variety of dumb cane, they can have a fast to moderate growth rate. My dumb cane is a Dieffenbachia ‘Tropic Snow’ which is a particularly fast-growing, large dumb cane variety. It is currently about 6-7 feet tall, and still growing quickly. They thrive in bright, indirect light but adapt very well to low-light conditions. They are fairly drought-tolerant as well, only requiring watering once the soil has dried out fully.

The sap of this hard-to-kill houseplant is a mild irritant and considered toxic to humans and animals. It contains calcium oxalate crystals which cause a burning sensation on the affected areas. Be sure to wear protective gear (such as gardening gloves and a long sleeved shirt) when potting or repotting Dieffenbachia to protect yourself from the irritating sap.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light. Adapts well to low-light conditions.
  • Water: Let soil dry out between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining.

10. Heart-Leaf Philodendron

Close up shot of the heart-shaped leaves of the heartleaf philodendron.
Photo by Sarah Bronske on Unsplash

Often confused with pothos, the heartleaf philodendron is also hard-to-kill that is attractive and low-maintenace. In all fairness, to the untrained eye pothos and the heartleaf philodendron do look very similar, but heartleaf philodendron can be identified by its soft, heart-shaped leaves which contrast against the thick, waxy, spade-shaped leaves of a pothos plant.

The heartleaf philodendron appreciates bright, indirect light, and should dry slightly between waterings. While the heartleaf can adapt to low light, they do not adapt to low-light conditions as readily as pothos do. Where possible, provide a bright location for your this philodendron for best results.

  • Light: Bright, indirect light. Adapts somewhat well to low-light conditions.
  • Water: Let soil dry slightly between waterings.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil.

READ NEXT: How to Propagate Pothos Plants in 3 Easy Steps

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