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5 Hard-to-Kill Houseplants

updated May 8, 2019
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We’ve said it here before: plants bring life to all living spaces. If you’re concerned about killing plants, we’ve consulted with a plant expert, Debra Prinzing, to bring you the hardiest ones.

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1. Dracaena marginata (also known as Dragon Plant)
“It’s pretty sculptural,” Debra says. “Good for the young and modern.” She recommends getting two and putting them on your fireplace mantel or on your entry table. “It you had matching pots they would look really cool,” she adds. These plants need to consistently have water in the pots, but you can taper back in the winter as long as they don’t dry out. Ideally, they would be close to an east window for indirect light, and so they won’t won’t bake in the sun. If you’re sick of green houseplants, these come in all kinds of different shades: variegated, burgandy, copper, etc.
Note: Toxic to cats, dogs and horses, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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2. Sansevieria (also known as Mother-in-Law’s tongue or Snake Plant)
“That is the all-time indestructible houseplant. It is gorgeous. It’s very modern,” Debra Prinzing says. It’s a great plant for someone who wants something contemporary, geometric and sculptural and it looks great in a pot. It likes bright light, but Debra has seen it survive in a shadowy spot in her home. Note: Toxic to cats, dogs and horses, says the ASPCA.

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3. Ficus
“This is a 1970s college dorm plant that is having a revival,” Debra says. There’s the tree type, known as rubber plants, and also the trailing ficus, which is called a Creeping Fig. These plants like humidity and bright light. If they look a little stressed, Debra recommends dragging them into the bathroom for a week to soak in shower humidity.
Note: Toxic to cats, dogs and horses, says the ASPCA.

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4. Philodendron
This plant was also popular in the seventies. Debra calls it “the retro plant.” It can live a long time and move from apartment to apartment with people,” she says. It can climb up over your window, or over a railing on a loft. Debra warns that you need to prevent this plant from becoming root-bound by transplanting it to a larger pot every couple of years. You can cut back on this plant’s watering in the winter, but if it starts to get dry, Debra suggests putting the pot on a tray with gravel, and to continue to put water in gravel &mdash it will create a mini-humid environment.
Note: Toxic to cats and dogs, says the ASPCA.

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5. Bromeliad
This is a flowering pineapple, but Debra says that if you buy it in a flowering state, be prepared that it may not flower for you again. They only flower in perfect above-seventy-degree conditions. However, these are still beautiful with their silver-gray foliage. They need to sit in a bright spot away from direct sunlight, hopefully an east- or north-facing light. Debra often sees them in Trader Joe’s, IKEA or Target.

• Bringing In Green: 10 Best Plants for Apartments
• Sansevieria: A Favorite Houseplant for Low Light
• Great Indoor Plant: Begonias
Good questions: Low Light Plants?
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Re-edited from a post originally published 8.28.09 – AB