7 Easier Under-the-Radar Alternatives to the Most Popular Yet Finicky Houseplants

updated Feb 27, 2020
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If you’re having trouble keeping your houseplants happy, it might not totally be your fault! Some trendy houseplants are notoriously finicky. There’s nothing you can do to make a fiddle leaf fig easier to care for, or to keep alocasia leaves from crisping on you. Instead of putting yourself through the wringer, make life easier with an equally beautiful, yet less challenging alternative to the most popular and demanding plants. Don’t give up! There’s a plant out there for everyone. Here, seven of our favorite trendy plants and their much easier going—but equally beautiful—substitutes.

Credit: Terrain

If you like fiddle leaf fig

… try the easier Ficus Audrey (Ficus benghalensis)

It’s easy to recommend a parlor palm or a dracaena in place of a fiddle leaf fig, since both are tall with showy leaves. But those options are too tropical to be a true replacement for the fiddle leaf fig. Instead, try a Ficus benghalensis, also called Ficus “Audrey.” The plant is a close cousin of the Ficus lyrata. It’s also a real stunner with soft, velvety and elegant leaves that are a bit rounder and smaller than the fiddle leaf fig’s. But the real reason we’re recommended it: The Ficus Audrey bounces back from looking crummy faster than the fiddle leaf fig, making it a much more forgiving plant companion.

Buy: Ficus Audrey, $280 at Terrain

Credit: Plantshed

If you like maidenhair fern

… try the easier Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia)

Lemon button ferns look delicate, but are much more hardy than the maidenhair fern—a plant we’ve called a “finicky plant diva.” Lemon button ferns can tolerate a less stable environment and watering schedule than maidenhair ferns. Like maidenhair ferns, however, they also look stellar on a fireplace mantle, or tucked onto a bookcase. Lemon button ferns also have the benefit of being safe for cats.

If you like green velvet alocasia

… try the easier Swiss Cheese Vine (Monstera adansonii)

A cousin of Monstera Deliciosa, the swiss cheese vine looks both structural and dramatic, with lacy perforated leaves that make a large statement. It’s just as gorgeous as an alocasia plant, but much easier to manage. Swiss cheese vines look best in a hanging basket or in a pot on a high shelf near bright, indirect light—it’s the best way to show off their trailing vines.

Buy: Monstera Adansonii, $42 at Pistils Nursery

If you like string of pearls

… try the easier donkey or burrow’s tail (Sedum morganianum)

Burrow’s tail is a very hardy type of sedum that has a similar drape as the string of pearls. Give it bright light and water every seven days or so and you’ll have a happy plant. It’s okay if you knock a few of the little leaves off—they’ll grow back! Since this is a heavier plant, make sure you plant it in a sturdy pot.

If you like gardenia

… try the easier Meyer Lemon

A lot of nurseries and plant shops sell a gardenia cultivar bred for being a houseplant—but that doesn’t mean that it’s user friendly. In fact, these plants are notoriously finicky. If you want a houseplant that produces an amazing smell without the fuss, get a Meyer Lemon instead. Stick it in a spot with bright light, water it when the soil gets dry, and let it do its thing. The blooms smell delicious and you’ll have lemons before you know it.

Credit: The Sill

If you like English Ivy

… try the easier Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

A lot of people find English ivy to be easy to grow, but if you don’t have bright light then it’s a very difficult plant to have indoors. If you’ve had problems with these cascading plants, try a hardy pothos instead. They come in many different varieties, colors, and textures and are also very forgiving of low-light conditions as well as infrequent watering. If you neglect it for awhile, just give it a solid dose of water and it will perk right back up.

Buy: Marble Queen Pothos, $37 at The Sill

Credit: Home Depot

If you like basil

… try the easier mint

It’s always wonderful to cook with herbs that you’ve grown in your own house. While basil is difficult to keep alive indoors, thanks to its need for full sun, you’ll find that mint is much easier to please and keep alive. Give it some bright light and water it every once in a while and watch it thrive.

Buy: Sweet Mint (Pack of 2), $7.87 at Home Depot