I need the hookup on some green
August 2, 2006 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Recommend some houseplants to me.

I want to spice up my apartment with some foliage, but I have a tendency to often forget my poor plants, or on the flipside, sometimes I pay too much attention (flood, anyone?).

So I'm going to buy some new plants, but am utterly ignorant.

Recommend some nice, low-maintenance houseplants for me. I have a large row of windows facing south and also a skylight, so the place gets plenty of indirect sunlight.
posted by dead_ to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
How about the good old Philodendron? I've found these almost impossible to kill unless you totally utterly forget about them forever. I've also had lots of luck with aloe plants, and they come in handy in a scrape. (pun intended) I burned myself with hot tea once and it was really nice to have some on hand.
posted by theantikitty at 11:49 AM on August 2, 2006

I've always had good luck with peace lilies. They droop when they are getting dry, but perk right back up. I even get them to bloom a few times a year. They are poisonous to some pets.

On preview, I second the recommendation for aloe.
posted by annaramma at 11:51 AM on August 2, 2006

Pothos will survive a nuclear war. I'm also a fan of the Wandering Jew, the hardy and adventurous Spider Plant and the aforementioned Philodendron. And Jade.

Also, pretty much any potted houseplant (not seasonal flowering plants) you get at Home Despot will be indestructible, provided you water it once a week.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:07 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by splitpeasoup at 12:10 PM on August 2, 2006

Add another recommendation for aloe and other succulents. I had an aloe for 10 years without killing it. It and a few other succulents taught me that even I could keep plants alive. I also have one of these that I manage to forget to water constantly and yet it survives and thrives.
posted by idigress at 12:12 PM on August 2, 2006

I'll second the recommendation for Spathiphyllum / Peace Lilies. Nice looking plant, does a great job telling you when it needs water, and we've nearly killed it half a dozen times and it sprang right back after a week or two.
posted by malphigian at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2006

Elger Grass (Calathea Rufibarba) is the only plant that has survived my plant-murdering ways - it's very pretty, with leaves that are dark green on top, and reddish-purple underneath.

I've been meaning to ask this question myself - I keep killing plants because the care labels they come with are so bloody ridiculous ('water regularly' - what does that mean?! Every 5 minutes, twice a week, once a year...?).
posted by jack_mo at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2006

Oh, and herbs seem to be fairly hardy - even I can't kill Basil.
posted by jack_mo at 12:28 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm a big fan of Golden Pothos, also known as Devil's Ivy. It is a fast-growing vine with large variegated heart-shaped leaves. It is nearly impossible to kill. If it is getting too much light, it turns yellow. If it isn't getting enough light, it turns green. If you're watering it too much, the leaves will "weep" small drops of water from the tips. If you aren't watering it enough, it will droop visibly long before it is doomed. They also start very easily from cuttings.
Also, I understand cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) and mother-in-law's tongue are nearly invincible.
Wandering Jew is a cute little purple plant that is very tolerant of low light conditions. Rubber trees make a pretty nice larger indoor plant.
For something a little more dramatic, you might consider an indoor bamboo.
On preview, what MC Low-carb said.
posted by leapfrog at 12:30 PM on August 2, 2006

I'll third M.C. Lo-Carb. I got some Wandering Jew, spiderplant and jade cuttings about 8 years ago, and, not only have I failed to kill them, they're thriving in the back yard. They even survived the heatwave here in CA without any water!
posted by lekvar at 1:20 PM on August 2, 2006

Almost any dracena will work. I like the D. massangeana, with wide longitudinally striped leaves (though the stripes fade without sunlight). It's called the "corn plant," because it looks like a stalk of corn. It gets big. If you want a smaller version, get D. marginata, which has narrow leaves with red edges.

Chinese evergreen is almost impossible to kill. No matter how much you neglect it, it will bounce back as soon as you give it some water, and even the live ends of dead stems are easy to root in a glass of water.

Spider plants are also good, with fast-growing vine-l;ike stems that cascade down. They drop leaves if you let them get dry. Each leaf has a little root attached, so it's the easiest of anything to start over with if it gets too leggy.
posted by KRS at 2:02 PM on August 2, 2006

Before you buy a bunch of plants, if you have pets/small children, please research any you plan to get. Some are poisonous when ingested, including philodendrons.
posted by internet!Hannah at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2006

Snake plant.
posted by evil holiday magic at 2:47 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm favoriting this thread. I also want to put a few plants around my house, but suffer from a black thumb.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:52 PM on August 2, 2006

Ponytail palms are incredibly easy - mine can easily go a month without water with no ill effect. In fact, you mainly want to be careful to not over-water.

Sanseverias - snake plants - are another that can thrive in adverse conditions. The most common one commercially sold is the varigated flat leafed we've all seen, but there are more unusual ones available.

With the southern exposure you have, you may have great success with any number of cacti and succulents - there's a whole world of them, too many to list.
posted by vers at 3:11 PM on August 2, 2006

Another one that we have been enjoying is the split leaf rhododendron - the wife and I have a couple living on the tops of bookshelves, far away from any light, watered once a week, and they're about to take over the house. They're very unique plants with massive leaves, some of which get large holes in them. Makes a cool conversation piece.

And yes, the nebulous "water regularly" directions suck.

What I've learned is that there's sort of a learning curve that begins once you start watering every single houseplant once a week. You'll find certain ones will start to droop if you don't put them near a window. Others, such as Aloe, will start to sag or change color if watered too much or too little. But once a week pretty much works for most, and you'll start to get a feel for the exceptions the more you do it. I water all the plants ritualistically on Friday evenings upon returning home from work, and it's become a rather pleasant way to mark the beginning of the weekend after a stressful week.

Just three years or so ago, we used to joke that we could kill a plastic plant, and now we have so many plants we have to give them away.

The Onion last year had a very appropriate riff on this subject, you can find it by scrolling down on this page.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:11 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

All great suggestions. Wandering Jew is a particularly good one to start from a cutting, I've found. It grows really fast, then you can keep cutting it back and rooting it back in the soil until you have a whole hanging pot full of it.

For something a little different, I got a ZZ plant for my cubicle at work. It looks exactly like it did when I bought it a year ago...great for low light conditions, and also for people who forget to water things.
posted by cabingirl at 8:18 PM on August 2, 2006

When I was in college, I had a Spathiphyllum (peace lily) on the sill of my dorm room window. I would neglect it until it was so wilted I was sure it was dead. Then, in a panic, I would pour the Diet Coke I had been drinking at lunch (with ice) into the pot, and it would miraculously revive, perkier than ever.

Diet Coke can't be good for plants.

It's hard to kill a peace lily.

My rubber plant (Ficus elastica) does better for me with a little occasional fertilizer (once every year, a bit of fish-based organic fertilizer). Mother-in-law's tongue (a.k.a snake plant) is supposed to be hard to kill, but I don't think they're attractive. I second pothos and philodendron, both of which I've kept alive with minimum hassle.
posted by bisesi at 10:56 PM on August 2, 2006

What I've learned is that there's sort of a learning curve that begins once you start watering every single houseplant once a week.

That explains everything - I plumped for every day or so as a definition of 'regularly', so no learning curve as I just kill things inside a month. Poor drowned plants.
posted by jack_mo at 3:34 AM on August 3, 2006

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