Mother Earth Living

20 Plants Even You Can't Kill

Don't have a green thumb? Here are 20 plants just for you.
By Barbara Pleasant
November/December 2007
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Place decorative plants such as this orchid (Cymbidium Magic Mountain 'Valentine') in front of a mirror to enhance their gorgeous blooms.
Photo By Rosemary Kautzky


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Tree-Form Plants

1. Parlor palms (Chamae- dorea elegans) and kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) adapt well to moderate indoor light. Slender lady palms (Rhapis excelsa) fit easily in small spaces. Most prefer fairly dry conditions.

2. Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) always sheds some leaves in the fall, but plants will lose fewer leaves if they’re kept in one spot. Green-leafed varieties are more vigorous than those with variegated foliage. Prefers full sun but tolerates shade and regular watering.

3. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) can make a terrific formal floor plant when its leaves are kept clean. Many newer varieties have reddish leaves. Prefers partial shade and regular watering.

4. Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) fills a large space with its layered lateral branches. It’s a strong style-setter in a cool, well-lit room. Water regularly.

5. Red-leaf philodendron (Philodendron erubescens) can be trained to climb a post or board, eventually forming a 5-foot tower of glossy, tropical-looking foliage. Prefers light shade and regular watering.

Plants for Entryways

6. Sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata), is also known as snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue. Tall varieties grow to 2 feet, and there are dwarf varieties for small spaces. Prefers full sun and frequent watering.

7. Aspidistra (Aspidistra elatior) is called cast-iron plant because of its sturdy constitution. Most varieties are dark green, but some have creamy to white variegation. Prefers moderate to full shade and dry to moist, well-drained soil.

Full-Light Plants

8. Calamondin orange (Citrus madurensis) produces fragrant flowers and tart fruits. Providing winter quarters for a ‘Meyer’ lemon helps bring the sun indoors. Prefers moist but well-drained soil.

9. Angel-wing begonia (Begonia coccinea) has variegated leaves and loves to bloom, or you can grow nonblooming species with stained-glass leaves such as rex begonias (Begonia rex-cultorum). Water regularly.

10. Fancy-leafed zonal geraniums (Pelargonium xhortorum) have been enjoyed in windowsills for hundred of years, and varieties such as ‘Roger’s Delight’ (Pelargonium ‘Roger’s Delight’) produce lovely flowers and showy, scented leaves. Most geraniums prefer fairly dry soil.

11. Cacti and succulents excel in high light, though they benefit from a gradual period of adjustment. Showcase small cacti in a dish garden; combine succulents’ exotic colors and forms in larger containers. Most require little water.

Looking-Glass Plants

12. Orchids are no longer dismissed as hard to grow thanks to vigorous dancing ladies (Oncidium hybrids) and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids). Varieties’ growing requirements vary, but orchids generally prefer indirect light and regular watering in well-drained soil

13. Cyclamens (Cyclamen persicum hybrids) will bloom for months when kept watered and fed (use only organic, chemical-free soil enhancements). Discard elderly plants and try different colors from year to year. Cyclamens prefer full sun and lots of water.

14. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) features a handsome form coupled with excellent manners. Most varieties have leaves variegated with different shades of green. Prefers partial shade to partial sun and regular watering.

15. Rabbit’s-foot fern (Phlebodium aureum) fills the need for an easy, yet showy, bathroom plant. It thrives in high humidity and can be hung from the wall or ceiling to keep it out of the way. Furry “feet” that crawl out of the pot add to its appeal. Prefers partial shade and regular watering.

Cascading Plants

16. Heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) tumbles gracefully in low to moderate light. Variegated forms do best in cool conditions, green ones go anywhere and varieties blushed with red tolerate more warmth. All prefer low light.

17. Pothos (Epipremnum spp.) can quickly become a runaway, but it’s well-behaved when cut back twice a year. Remove yellow leaves as the plant sheds them. Prefers low light and dry conditions.

18. Cacti and succulents with flowing form include rattail cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis), string-of-beads (Senecio rowleyanus) and donkey tail (Sedum morganianum). All prefer high light and dry conditions.

Low-Light Plants

19. Emerald-ripple peperomia (Peperomia caperata) leaves overlap to form a symmetrical mound of heart-shaped, waffle-textured foliage. Water and feed often to help new leaves replace the older ones.

20. Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is among the most dramatic of indoor plants when grown well. Some selections have green leaf veins rather than red ones. Water regularly. 


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