Seeking a plant with few needs
April 25, 2010 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for an indoor plant? Preferably a plant that can withstand temperatures between 5-15C, requires almost no care except for watering and the occasional fertilizer, and can be picked up at the nearest M&S or John Lewis (or any other major UK departmental store).
posted by moiraine to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are some very durable ferns out there. Orchids are also very popular, but you might find yourself pitching it after the blooms are gone. There's also a plant that we call Mother in Law's Tongue, where I am from, that takes a lot of abuse and keeps on growing, and which actually prefers to be in pot that would be too small for other plants of the same size.
posted by pickypicky at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2010

Philodendrons or Pothos are pretty much indestructible and don't require much care beyond watering.
posted by electroboy at 12:13 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mother in Law's Tongue is also known as a Snake Plant, or Sansevieria, and it is pretty hardy.

In the US the ZZ plant is becoming easier to find. It needs nothing but an occasional watering.
posted by cabingirl at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2010

Do you guys have peace lilies over there? They need to be watered frequently but are pretty low maintenance otherwise (orchids not so much, just so you know.)

Chinese Evergreen is also a pretty tough plant.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:25 PM on April 25, 2010

Try a Crassula ovata, better known as a jade plant or money plant. Very common and as succulents, you can forget to water them for ages. Also look quite cool in an old school way.
posted by rhymer at 12:35 PM on April 25, 2010

Seconding a Pothos, even I can't kill one, and I have no direct light in my kitchen. I even killed a mother-in-law's tongue, though I don't know how. Pothos will stop growing when it gets too cold, at about 12c, according to the first site I found that mentioned it, but will come back and spread all over the room the next summer.
posted by Some1 at 12:39 PM on April 25, 2010

Aspidistra. Cast Iron plant. A relative had one in the same pot for 33 years.It was still perfectly healthy. You can get them off ebay pretty cheaply, and there are several variegated options.
posted by Solomon at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2010

Not sure if these are common in the UK, but how about Tillandsia aka "air plants"? They require no soil, and you can arrange them all kinds of ways (stick 'em in a shell, arrange them in glass containers, etc.) and just dunk them in water or mist a couple times a week. If you display them in the bathroom, the humidity from showers will keep them happy, too.
posted by illenion at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2010

Spider plants are extremely easy to grow and stand up to a lot of abuse.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:02 PM on April 25, 2010

my mother who managed to kill a cactus by not watering it enough was able to keep a pothos alive. i was given her brown thumb, and for a year i've kept our pothos alive. i'm even growing some leaves in some water so i can have more pothos plants.
posted by nadawi at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2010

How much light is it going to get?
posted by box at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2010

Response by poster: box: No direct sunlight, but next to the window
posted by moiraine at 2:02 PM on April 25, 2010

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

The Aspidistra is a hardy, long-living plant that is used as a house plant in England. It was especially popular in the Victorian era, but had fallen out of favour by the 20th century, and had become a music hall joke[7] appearing in songs such as "Biggest Aspidistra in the World", of which Gracie Fields made a recording.

Aspidistra has the reputation of being one of the very few houseplants which could survive exposure to the extremely high levels of carbon monoxide which were characteristic of the gas supplied to homes in the Victorian era (neither link mentions this).
posted by jamjam at 2:05 PM on April 25, 2010

As long as it gets a reasonable amount of light, I'd give orchids a go. My wife, who used to be able to kill anything, now has a conservatory and kitchen full of them, and the phalaenopsis (which seems to be the commonest in the UK--you can even get them in Telco) flower like mad. She over-waters them, but water and a bit of orchid food (in little plastic tubes) seems to do them just fine.
posted by Logophiliac at 2:24 PM on April 25, 2010

Philodendrons: from experience I know they thrive in dimly lit cold offices. Put the plant a "self watering" pot with some good soil and it will out live you. I have one in my dimly lit cold office; it is 20-years old and supremely lovely and healthy.
posted by fifilaru at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2010

Not sure if these are common in the UK, but how about Tillandsia

Kind of a pain to get in the UK. Many places have a few, but I recently bought some and the only place that sells a large range is here. They're very helpful.
posted by rhymer at 4:00 PM on April 25, 2010

I have a cane begonia I inherited from my mother 16 years ago that is The Plant That Will Not Die. Too much water, not enough water, too much light, not enough light... it just keeps going. Plus it's quite attractive, with striking leaves and pretty multi-stage pink flowers.

I give people cuttings from it at the slightest excuse — I'm trying to help it take over the world. If you & I were physically nearer, I'd offer you one...
posted by Lexica at 5:44 PM on April 25, 2010

Pothos aren't super great at colder temperatures (5-15 C = 40-60 F for us Amurricans). I've had one for about 15 years, and when it's had to live in cooler spots in the house, its leaves yellow a bit, almost as if they've been scorched. It's definitely a tropical plant.

Peace Lilies/Spathyphillium are great, possibly more cold tolerant, but do note they're quite poisonous to cats and dogs. I had a cat who ate one, and that's when I learned there's a separate animal poison control line. I'm still grateful to the 911 operator who transferred me!

(FYI the solution was to pour a couple tablespoons of milk down his throat. I guess the calcium neutralizes the oxalic acid crystals or some such.)
posted by ErikaB at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2010

Oh my goodness, yes, Snake Plants are nearly impossible to kill! They don't need a ton of sun and actually thrive with infrequent watering. Plus, they look all pretty and tropical with their stripes and deep greens. Mine also spread like crazy, so you can split them and give your plant's "babies" to your friends. Which is awesome!
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:09 PM on April 25, 2010

I'm renowned for murdering plants so be sure that the following recommendations are preeeetty hardy.

Have you tried Ikea?

I've got a ZZ plant (suspect I got it from Ikea but I can't quite remember) and while it's held up well to a) being moved around A LOT (through several rooms, and then to a completely different house) and b) being neglected AND overwatered (I would usually forget to water it at all and my housemates all seemed to water it daily) BUT it does have some looming brown patches on the stem so I'm not convinced it's not undergoing some dreadful slow death.

I do however have a lovely tree-like plant from Ikea (looks a bit like this but mine has a bifurcated trunk). I'm not sure if this is too tree-y for your requirements. It is literally, spectacularly indestructible though. For years it didn't get any light at all; my cat dug up its roots; I forgot to water it; or I watered it almost daily; I strung lights around the base to prevent the cat getting involved with it any further; it's moved house THREE times and it is still as cheerful and steadfast as it ever was. I actually love this plant.

It doesn't flower but it's nicely imposing. I'll look up exactly what it is when I get home but yeah, everyone should get a plant like this.
posted by citands at 4:57 AM on April 26, 2010

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