Low Maintenance Plants

Guide to growing your indoor garden

Many of us would like to have indoor plants, but lack the appropriately colored thumb to do so without the plant keeling over the first time we touch it. Fortunately, there are a number of plants that can survive even under the care of the blackest thumb. If you stick with hardy, low-maintenance plants, chances are you’ll be able to get away with accidentally over watering, under watering, or ignoring them for awhile

The plants listed below each have something to offer the neglectful plant owner, and are attractive and fertile to boot. Most don’t have very specific light and watering requirements, so you can put them nearly anyplace in the house and they will do well.


Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

This plant—called the “spider plant” because of its tendency to form runners (baby plantlets) that hang down the side of the pot—is one of the easiest and most attractive indoor houseplants you can grow. Its leaves are long and have interchanging vertical stripes of light green and dark green. These make wonderful hanging plants, and you can also clip off the runners when they start to form roots and plant then in their own pots.

Care - Water once every couple of days; mist in the summer to keep humidity levels high. The biggest problem with these plants is the leaves turning brown. This is usually caused by watering with unfiltered water that contains high amounts of chlorine. You can solve this by leaving water out overnight to breathe and dissipate the chlorine levels, or by using rain or distilled water.

Warning - Cats, for some reason, really like to eat this type of plant. If you have a cat, try to either hang these from the ceiling, or place in an area your cat can’t get to.


Mother-in-law’s Tongue/Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Like the spider plant, mother-in-law’s tongue is one of the absolute easiest indoor plants to grow, though the two don’t look a lot alike. Sansevieria has spiky leaves that grow upward instead of out and are variegated in color.

Care - Though they prefer bright sunlight, these plants can withstand living in low light and do not require much water at all. In fact, in the winter, most will only want 1-2 waterings—they have a tendency to rot if you give them more. It’s also a slow-grower, so it doesn’t require repotting very frequently.


Philodendron

Hardy and fast-growing, philodendrons are characterized by their heart-shaped leaves and—like the spider plant and the snake plant—variegated white and green or yellow and green coloring. They are almost impossible to kill. These plants are very attractive and will continuously yield new plantlings from cuttings that you can root in either water or dirt. They’re fast growers, but don’t need to be repotted unless the roots are struggling to get through the bottom of the pot. Check every summer to see if it needs repotting.

Care - Philodendron will do best in tropical temperatures, but they can survive perfectly fine in temperatures above about 50 degrees F, which is why they make a great indoor plant. Water plants 1-2 times per week and mist leaves regularly for optimum growth. Although it does not do its best in direct light, a philodendron likes living in well-lit rooms.


African Violet (Saintpaulia)

African Violets are a good choice for an easy indoor plant because they can produce flowers several times a year regardless of the seasonal changes, and they can survive well under both artificial lights and low light. Like the above mentioned Devil’s Ivy, African Violets like sunlight, but not direct sunlight because it has a tendency to burn their leaves. They come in many colors (the most popular being purple) and flourish in warm climates.

Care - Keep soil moist, but make sure the surface soil has dried out before watering. African Violets can be particularly prone to spider mites, so the best way to water them is to not touch their leaves with the watering can, if you can help it. (Watering cans can transmit mites if you touch the spout to an infected plant). Another reason not to let the water or watering can touch the leaves is because water will turn the leaves brown. One way you can make sure you don’t get this problem is to put the pot in a bowl of shallow water for a little bit instead of watering the top of the plant.


Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata)

These plants have a long lifespan and grow amazingly well in the warm, dry conditions of a normal household. They can be as small as an African violet or as large as a five-foot tree. Native to South Africa, jade plants do best in warm, dry conditions with very little water. The plant can also produce small white or pink star-shaped flowers, depending on the conditions they’re raised in. They have thick branches and round, fleshy leaves that have a jade color to them.

Care - Jade plants do best in bright light or full sun. If the sunlight is too bright or hot for it, the plant will let you know by the leaves turning brownish. Jade plants don’t need much in the way of watering – let the soil dry out before you water it. They are also very slow-growers, so you don’t need to repot them frequently.

Rubber Tree (Hevea Brasiliensis)

If you want a somewhat larger houseplant, the rubber tree is a great one to have, and very simple to take care of. Like Jade plants, they’re slow growers. Their leaves are large, dark green in color, and shaped like ovals. These trees can grow to be gigantic in the outdoors, but in pots they should be pretty well stunted. Being a native of the Amazon Rain Forest, rubber trees love a warm, humid climate (temperatures should be around sixty degrees Fahrenheit or they’ll stop growing) and moist soil.

Care - Rubber trees will do well in sun or shade, as long as you keep the temperature warm. Keep the soil barely moist – you can tell if you over water because the leaves will turn yellow and fall off. You don’t have to repot this one often, but it’s large leaves tend to get a little dusty at times, so giving it a squirt with water every once in awhile isn’t a bad idea.


Button Fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)

Originally from New Zealand, Button Ferns have been long cultivated as indoor plants because of their attractive trailing fronds. The fronds are composed of dark green button-like leaflets.

Care - These ferns grow best in indirect, bright light. They don’t require as much humidity as other types of ferns, so it’s a good candidate for growing indoors. Let the soil dry out partially in between waterings. Better to under water than over water these, as they can withstand brief periods of drought better than an overdose of water.


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