Gardening: Five Houseplants You Just Can’t Kill

Gardening: Five Houseplants You Just Can’t Kill

mag_dec2016_coverThis column first appeared in the December 2016 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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Five Houseplants You Just Can’t Kill

By Larry Hodgson

I know, not everybody has a green thumb. But just about anybody can at least keep a houseplant not only alive, but thriving. It really depends more than anything else on choosing the right plant. Yes, many plants sold as houseplants – gardenia, azalea, hibiscus and so on – really should never be sold to beginning gardeners; they’re just too hard to grow. But there are a few plants that are so easy, I’d be surprised if you managed to kill one.

Here are five houseplants that are pretty much unkillable: try them and see!

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)
It grows in the deepest, darkest jungles of South America in the wild and will take just about anything you can throw at it indoors. Full sun to deep shade, humid to dry air, frequent fertilizing or none at all. It can be used in hanging baskets or trained to grow up an indoor trellis. Its dark green, heart-shaped leaves are its claim to fame. Just water it once in a while and it will thrive!

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
This succulent with clusters of tall, thick pointed leaves that give it its name is famous for its ability to tolerate neglect. When I was a boy, one of these grew in the far corner of my neighbourhood barber shop. Its pot was used as an ashtray… and it seemed fine with that. Although it will tolerate just about any conditions, including dark corners and months of drought, if you give it good light and water it regularly, it may surprise you by flowering one day, with spikes of greenish-yellow, night-scented blooms.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
It’s a relative newcomer to the houseplant world, but its thick, trunkless stem, its palmlike appearance and its bright, shiny dark green leaves are quickly making it popular. So is the fact that it can tolerate total neglect. Just give it moderate light and a splash of water every now and then and it will be happy.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
This one does like a bit of direct sun, the more the better in fact, but is otherwise one tough cookie. It has a thick, succulent stem that takes on a woody appearance over time, plus plump, spoon-shaped leaves. Well grown, it almost begins to look like a bonsai! An occasional watering is about all it needs.

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
With its woody trunk ending in a fleshy swollen base, like an elephant’s foot, and its thick mop of long, thin, straplike leaves with a bit of a curl to them, this is a highly attractive although very slow-growing plant. It will put up with almost all indoor conditions as long as you water it occasionally.
There you go: five houseplants you simply can’t kill. Start with these to hone your growing skills, and pretty soon you will be able to grow the more persnickety flowering plants that always seem so desirable.

For more information on houseplants, consult my book, Houseplants for Dummies (Wiley, 1998).


About Author

Larry Hodgson

Larry Hodgson is a free-lancer garden writer living in Quebec City. He is a regular contributor to garden magazines, speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout North America and is a regular garden commentator on television and radio. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as over 45 other titles in English and French. He regularly leads garden tours to various countries around the world.

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