10 Houseplants You Can’t Kill

Stock your home with these agreeable, hearty specimens and all your friends will be jealous of your green thumb.

House plants, green succulents, old wooden box and blue vintage glass bottles on a wooden board, home gardening and decorating rustic style.; Shutterstock ID 205454467; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

House plants, green succulents, old wooden box and blue vintage glass bottles on a wooden board, home gardening and decorating rustic style.; Shutterstock ID 205454467; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Aspidistra
It withstood Victorian England’s coal soot, cold drafts and depressing lack of light, so surely “cast iron plant” can survive in your home.

Bromeliads
It’s cold-tolerant enough to grow in the Lower South, handles the deepest shade of your home — well, almost —  and survives for long periods without water. It has strappy leaves of glossy deep green, but if that sounds boring, keep an eye out for unusual variegated varieties.

If you never know when to water your houseplants, bromeliads are for you. Their tightly overlapping leaves form a cup, and all you have to do is keep it filled with water. Just let a little dribble over the sides of the plant to wet the potting mix.

Unlike many of the bloomless houseplants on this list, bromeliads have enough different flower types and colors to make your head spin. The leathery leaves themselves are often just as interesting, with all sorts of colors and patterns. Most do best in bright, indirect light.

Fiddle leaf fig
Rubber ficus is way overused, and weeping ficus (also overused) sheds leaves at the drop of a hat.

Fiddle leaf fig, on the other hand, is just as tough as the rest, but has large, friendly bright green leaves in the shape of a guitar or fiddle.

They can grow quite tall, but respond well to pruning. I often go over a month without watering mine because it takes that long to start looking thirsty.

Haworthia

Succulents are notoriously needy when it comes to sunlight, but this is not the case with Haworthia. These South-African succulents are a collector’s dream, with multitudes of species and unusual forms, ranging from rosettes of narrow leaves with black-and-white zebra stripes to clear and fleshy leaves that look like something between translucent gems and bubbles.

Haworthia is a great option for gardeners who like lots of variety in one plant.

Parlor palm
If it’s a tropical look you’re after, you could do no better than the parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and its glossy, feathery fronds. The ones you’ll find for sale are almost always seedlings, but given enough time and some bright, indirect light, they’ll form narrow green trunks, insignificant flowers and bright red berries.

Although parlor palm is quite resilient, water deeply since they’re sensitive to hard water buildup.

Pothos
You could call it a classic, or you could call it washed up. You could call their distinctive patterning of gold, green and cream something fancy like “marbling,” or you could call it radioactive throw-up. Both descriptions apply.

Killing golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) takes a considerable amount of overwatering or neglect. Trim it when it gets too lanky, and place the stems in a vase. When roots form, plant them in fresh potting mix for brand new houseplants.

Rhipsalis
Picture a cactus: Prickly, lives in a desert — pretty predictable. But when you see a mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis species), with its deep green and spineless stems hanging like angel’s hair from the pot, you’d never ever think it was a cactus.

Not only does it look decidedly un-cactus-like, Rhipsalis grows on tree limbs in the rainforest. They can take more shade and survive on neglect, but still look a lot better with a little TLC.

Snake plant and ZZ plant coexist happily in a cheerful container.

 

Snake plant
Some are short and squat, and would be at home in the smallest of cubicles. Others are tall and pointy. All are very tolerant of drought and low light.Plain ol’ variegated snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) has been a staple of doctors’ offices since the middle of the last century, but now there are all sorts of variegated forms and interesting shapes to complement any modern decor.

Yucca
Most yuccas are too spiky to be grown safely in close quarters with people, but soft-leaved Yucca (Yucca elephantipes) only looks spiky. It is, however, tough as nails. It’s so hardcore that it survived the ownership of my sister, who watered it maybe once or twice over the course of a year. Yucca is a desert plant and prefers direct to bright indirect sunlight, though it can survive in less.

ZZ Plant
With a name like “ZZ Plant,” you know it just has to be cool. Like a cross between a succulent, a fern and a philodendron, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas) sports fleshy, shiny green fronds that like something out of the Cretaceous period.

Though a newcomer to the houseplant scene, it will last a very long time in the hands of a black-thumbed indoor gardener. I should know, since I keep forgetting I even have it.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

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Secrets to a Thriving Indoor Herb Garden

Liven up your summer meals with fresh herbs from your own indoor garden.

Rosemary and Thyme

Rosemary and Thyme

Published by Steve Asbell on Zillow Blog.

Why spend money every week on fresh herbs from the grocery store when you can buy herb plants and grow your own? Not only are living plants more affordable right off the bat, but they continue to provide fresh flavor throughout the year, and can be grown right in your kitchen.

While it is easier to grow herbs outdoors in the garden or in containers, where they receive more sunlight and are less likely to be bothered by pests, you can’t beat the convenience of an indoor herb garden. And what dinner guest wouldn’t be impressed by a kitchen stocked with fresh herbs?

Selecting herbs

Mediterranean herbs like thyme, basil, rosemary and oregano are the ones most commonly used in the kitchen, but they’re a little trickier to grow indoors since they need lots of sunlight, and suffer if the soil is too moist. If you’re growing these herbs, either provide supplemental light with a grow light, or grow extra specimens of each plant outdoors and rotate them out every month or so.

The easiest herbs for an indoor garden are mint, chives and Vietnamese cilantro/coriander, since they don’t require as much sun as other herbs. Mint is a good one to start with, since it’s too invasive to grow outdoors in the ground.

Exotic tropical herbs like turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, arrowroot and kafir lime are also worth trying indoors if you enjoy cooking Thai and other South Asian cuisines.

Light and placement

The kitchen is the ideal place to grow herbs, since they’ll be readily available for a quick snip. Place them in a sunny windowsill that gets at least four hours of sun a day, and avoid places that get hot, such as near a stove or above where a steamer is used.

Positioned near a window, herbs soak up the sun.

Positioned near a window, herbs soak up the sun.

If you don’t have a window or enough room to set aside, don’t worry. Use full spectrum grow lights set on a timer to help your herbs thrive in an otherwise dark location.

Artificial lighting also makes it possible to grow herbs vertically in areas that sunlight wouldn’t otherwise reach, such as a dim corner or a room with a north-facing window. Grow herbs in hanging baskets, in wall-mounted vertical gardening pouches or with a variety of kits that have recently become available thanks to vertical gardening’s recent popularity. With the right setup, you can enjoy a wall of herbs at your fingertips.

Planting

You only need four things to grow herbs indoors: A healthy plant, a container with a drainage hole, fresh potting mix and a sunny location.

The plant itself should be healthy and without diseases or pests of any kind. When purchasing a plant from the garden center, knock the plant out of its pot to ensure the roots are firm and white.

A healthy rosemary plant will thrive given the correct conditions in your home.

A healthy rosemary plant will thrive given the correct conditions in your home.

You can use many types of containers, from repurposed colanders to tried-and-true terra cotta pots. All that matters is that they have a drainage hole so water can drain out without rotting the roots. If your pot doesn’t already have a drainage hole, consider drilling one, or just using it as an attractive ‘cache pot’ to hide a draining one inside.

A basic potting mix will work for most herbs, though you can boost drainage by adding perlite or cactus mix for Mediterranean plants like thyme and rosemary.

Water

If you’re gardening in the kitchen, water plants in the sink with the faucet running at a trickle so that the potting mix won’t wash away. Otherwise, just use a watering can.

Be sure to give plants adequate drainage.

Be sure to give plants adequate drainage.

Since the main cause of killing herb plants (or any houseplant, for that matter) is overwatering, keep the potting mix just barely moist, and make sure that the pots have drainage holes so the water won’t sit and rot the roots.

Pests

Fungus gnats are the most visible pest, but since they feed on dead and rotting roots, they’re mostly just a symptom of a plant’s decline. Either cut back on watering, or bring the plant outdoors for a while to bring it back to health.

Maintenance

If you’re clipping and using herbs on a regular basis, then there’s no need to worry about trimming lanky stems. However, if you’ve been relying on takeout instead of cooking lately, cut back overgrown herbs and put the stems in a small vase.

Any stems that root can be transplanted to a pot of fresh soil and grown into a new plant to replace struggling ones or give to friends. If your herbs seem less vigorous after a while, add a slow-release fertilizer to the potting mix.

Air Plants and Succulents: A Perfect Pair

Nothing livens up a home like houseplants, and these two hearty, low-maintenance options offer plenty of variety.

From left: Pachypodium, Lithops, Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’

If you’re “bad with plants” but still wish you could beautify your home or garden, succulents and air plants are a great choice. They are hard to kill and versatile enough for use in a wide range of creative projects.

You can use them to create living wreaths, roofs and tapestries, vertical gardens, fairy homes, terrariums and anything else where bulletproof beauty is required. Here’s an introduction to these very special plants, as well as some instructions to help you get started.

Introducing succulents

Succulents are an incredibly diverse group of plants with only one thing in common: they store water in their stems and leaves, making them a perfect fit for neglectful gardeners. Some can go many months without water.

Available in any color of the rainbow, and in just about any form you can dream up, there is a succulent for everyone. Their leaves can look like pink jelly beans (Sedum rubrotinctum) or rocks (Lithops species), transparent pods (Haworthia cooperi), or mind-boggling fractal patterns like Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’ and Agave victoriae-reginae. Some you might grow for novelty alone, such as carrion flowers (Stapelia species), which have psychedelically patterned star-shaped blooms that attract flies with their scent of rotting meat.

Caring for succulents

Grow succulents indoors or out, in containers or in the ground. Most succulents are easily damaged by frosts or freezes, but can easily be grown indoors as houseplants or brought inside for winter. If you live in a colder climate, some of the most cold-hardy succulents belong in the genera Sedum and Sempervivum.

The easiest way to kill a succulent is by overwatering, so improve your odds by growing them where water won’t collect and rot the roots. Provide container-grown succulents with a free-draining potting mix and a pot that has a drainage hole; and if growing outdoors, plant them in soil with excellent drainage.

Since each plant is different, it pays to look them up online to learn about their specific needs, or to see if they’re more trouble than they’re worth. For example, living stones (Lithops) are not tolerant of humidity, should be kept completely dry for much of the year, and only receive water during certain months.

Most succulents require full sun, but others — such as Haworthia, Gasteria, Sansevieria and some Aloe species — need a bit of shade in the afternoon or else their leaves get sunburned.

Get to know air plants

While succulents are low-maintenance because they don’t need a lot of water, wispy and delicate “air plants” (Tillandsia) are unique because they don’t even need soil at all. They will thrive on nothing more than a branch of driftwood, or even on refrigerator magnets, as those who lived in the ’70s will recall.

Tillandsia Wreath

Related to pineapples and the bromeliads you might grow as houseplants, these are true epiphytes that naturally grow on the branches of trees in warm-temperate and tropical regions of the Americas. One of the most familiar is the so-called “Spanish moss” that drapes luxuriantly from the limbs of live oak trees in the Deep South, but there are many more species from the tropics, both beautiful and bizarre.

Tillandsia bulbosa, with its bulb-like base and twisted narrow leaves, looks more like a sea creature than a plant. Tillandsia tectorum is so fuzzy and fluffy you’d almost expect it to float away on a breeze or dissipate into fairy dust upon watering.

Display air plants however you like: hanging from the ceiling like a living mobile, on driftwood, on the branches of large houseplants, on the walls as art, like a bow tie on wrapped presents — you name it. The biggest consideration in choosing a home for your air plant is how much sunlight it will receive, though you should also make sure that you’ll be able to water it easily.

Air plant maintenance

Air plants generally need nothing more than sunlight, occasional watering and average humidity, with a few exceptions. Species with smooth, green leaves generally need more moisture and humidity than the fuzzy and silvery xeric species, which are excellent candidates for growing indoors or in drier climates such as California.

If you’re growing Tillandsia in the home or in dry climates, water them once a week by either misting them with a spray bottle or by briefly dunking them in a bucket of water. Air plants are usually not tolerant of frost or temperatures below freezing, with the exception of species from the Southeastern United States. Luckily, they’re very easy to bring indoors when the weather gets cold.

Published by Steve Asbell on Zillow Blog.