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Top 10 Hard-to-Kill Houseplants

Pothos is a hard-to-kill houseplant, pictured here hanging down from the top of the photo, in front of a whitewashed brick wall. The photo is bright.

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 which 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):

1. Snake Plants (Sansevieria)

Snake plants (Sansevieria) are abundant in my dark apartment. They thrive with 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 when their soil dries out completely between waterings. While they do well in low-light conditions, they do adapt to bright sunny conditions very well. I remember taking a family trip to Florida and being shocked at all of the snake plants growing in direct sun conditions outside of people’s houses. They truly are very adaptable, hard-to-kill houseplants.

Personally, I love snake plants regardless of their low maintenance nature. There are so many varieties of sansevieria to choose from, each of which look stunning in minimalistic or modern-type home decor (don’t quote me on that – I’m not an interior designer). Overall, they are at the top of my list for low-maintenance houseplants that are hard-to-kill.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, sunny. Adapts well to low-light conditions.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Let soil dry thoroughly between waterings.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining.

2. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) are the perfect plant for beginner houseplant owners. Also known as Devil’s Ivy, these hard-to-kill houseplants are attractive plants that are perfect for hanging planters. They do well in low-light, and they are also drought-tolerant. Plus, there are several varieties of pothos – so you can find a pothos plant to suit your individual aesthetic.

Ideally, pothos likes bright, indirect light, but adapts to low-light conditions if necessary. Pothos can get leggy easily if they are exposed to prolonged periods of light deprivation, so if you are keeping your pothos in a low-light area, you may want to rotate it into a brighter location every couple of months to prevent overly leggy growth.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, filtered light.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Let soil dry between waterings.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining potting soil.

3. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

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.

Now, ideally you take a bit better care of your lucky bamboo than I have. They can be grown in water, or planted in soil or a sand/rock combination. If grown in water, they appreciate if the water is refreshed frequently (but clearly can survive without this). If grown in soil, they should be watered somewhat frequently – wait until the soil has partially dried out before waterings.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Does well in bright light, but tolerates low light conditions very well.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Grows best in water. If grown in soil, water once the soil has partially dried out, but do not allow the soil to dry completely. If grown in water, refresh the water daily, ensuring water levels stay just above the roots.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

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

Aloe vera are slow-growing, low-maintenance succulent plants in the genus Aloe. They do well in bright, filtered 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. However, aloe limbs that have been cut do not grow back so keep that in mind when you are trimming your aloe for use. Aim to trim off older leaves or leaves that are already falling off to help maintain its aesthetic appeal. 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.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, filtered light. Will burn and dry out in direct sun conditions.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Water once the soil has dried out fully.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining soil is best but aloes are not picky. Succulent and cacti soil mixes are great, but aloes can adapt to being planted in regular potting soil as well. Keep in mind how different soil textures may affect drainage around the roots and adjust your watering accordingly.

5. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

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 got its name from.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, filtered light.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Keep soil consistently moist (but not waterlogged).

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining soil.

6. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

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. These rhizomes are used to store water for the plant, allowing ZZ plants to survive for long periods without water. This also makes them susceptible to over-watering, so anyone who has a tendency to kill their plants with too much TLC should avoid ZZ plants. Neglect is best for this low-maintenance, hard-to-kill houseplant.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Medium to bright indirect light. Adapts to low light well.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Let soil dry thoroughly between waterings. Be cautious of overwatering.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

ZZ plants are not picky when it comes to their soil. They can be planted in an all-purpose soil mix and do very well.

7. Cacti (Cactaceae)

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 a drought-tolerant plant. 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. However, there are some cacti species that can adapt to partially shady conditions more readily than others. Nonetheless, I have found that most cacti species either require full sun or grow best in full sun – but can survive in part sun conditions.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Most species of cacti require direct sun, but some species can do well in part sun or shady conditions. Do a little research for your individual cacti species to determine its light preferences.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Cacti are extremely drought tolerant and can easily suffer from overwatering, especially in the winter when they are usually dormant. As a general rule of thumb, the soil should dry out thoroughly between waterings. The intensity of the light and heat conditions that the cacti is in will influence how much water it needs – so monitor accordingly.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Cacti generally prefer sandy, well-draining soils. Pre-mixed cacti soils can be purchased from most nurseries and garden centers, or made at home.

8. Jade Plants (Crassula ovata)

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 slightly 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.

I move my jade plants outside every summer so that they can receive as much sun as possible and the change in growth from when they are inside (with a pane of glass protecting them from the sunlight) versus outside where they are directly exposed, is quite staggering. Keep this in mind when deciding if a jade plant is right for you. If you live somewhere that doesn’t receive much natural light indoors, a jade plant is likely not for you.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Full sun. Can adapt to part sun conditions but grows more slowly.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Allow soil to dry thoroughly between waterings.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining soil. Cactus or succulent soil is sufficient.

9. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

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 – score! 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 frequency of watering can be increased during the active growing period (spring and summer months).

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.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, indirect light. Adapts well to low-light conditions.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Let soil dry out between watering.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining.

10. Philodendron

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

Philodendron appreciate bright, indirect light, and can be allowed to dry out thoroughly between waterings. While Philodendron 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 Philodendron for best results.There are also several different species of Philodendron to choose from.

โ˜€๏ธ Light Requirements

Bright, indirect light. Adapts somewhat well to low-light conditions.

๐Ÿ’ง Water Requirements

Let soil dry thoroughly between waterings.

๐ŸŒฑ Soil Requirements

Well-draining soil.

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