What do I mean when I say "Low Maintenance Houseplants?"
Hi friends! Let me clarify my meaning a bit. Houseplants are living things, so no plant is indestructible. Pinterest boards and online articles about easy houseplants sometimes skirt that fact. However, there are plants that prove easier to care for because they require less light and less frequent watering than others. This list will be great for first time plant parents, because our customers tend to have success with these varieties. Of course, I hope that even old pros find something useful here too. So, let's sally forth.
Sansevieria, AKA Snake Plants, Mother-In-Law's Tongue:
The plants that you see in the upper right corner of this post are snake plants. By the way, you can click on any of the words highlighted in green to order these plants online. Snake plants come in a wide variety of shapes from more snake-like, round plants to the more flat fronds that you see in the picture. Some even grow as a large single frond, and those look like shark fins floating above the soil. They can tolerate low light, but would gladly accept bright, indirect light as well. They also like their soil to dry completely between waterings. I should mention as well that they're available in sizes from little four inch pots to fourteen and sixteen inch pots, which work as floor plants in the house. These plants tend to be slower growing than most, which gives them wonderful longevity. But how quickly any plant grows will depend on its environment. I keep mine in a greenhouse, and its new fronds have been growing very quickly.
The Dracena pictured to the left is called Dracena Lind Bouquet, and it's actually several stalks of dracena grown closely together. This particular variety has been cultivated and trained to create a bushy look all the way up its stalks. Some Dracena, like the Elegance Cane Janet Craig variety, grow in a more sparse manner, with visible crowns of leaves atop each stalk. Like the snake plants, they tolerate a wide array of light levels from low to bright, indirect light. They require water slightly more often than snake plants, when the soil is approaching dryness. They also come in a wide range of sizes from little tabletop plants to tall floor plants. The height of taller cane Dracena makes them excellent for use as living decor. They can occupy a lonely corner of the house, or flank either side of a tall fixture. Their semi-glossy emerald leaves give these plants a modern look, especially when paired with a sleek pot. You can see a wider array of Dracena options on our website in the Green Home Collection.
Aglaonema, AKA Chinese Evergreen:
Chinese evergreen are bushy houseplants whose leaves have wonderful variegation. The variety that you can see to the right is called Deborah (also my mother's name, coincidentally). Her leaves have beautiful silvery tones down their center with rich green on either side. These, like their friends in this post, can take low to bright, indirect light. By way of water, they actually become unhappy if their soil is kept consistently moist. Really, they much prefer that their soil be allowed to reach near dryness between waterings. Now, with these plants, I do need to advise caution. Chinese Evergreen, like Pothos, Philodendron, Dieffenbachia, and Schefflera are poisonous if ingested. Their leaves and stems have insoluble calcium-oxalate crystals within. When bitten or chewed, these crystals irritate the upper digestive tract. This irritation can cause vomiting and swelling of the lips and throat, which make it difficult to breathe. They are perfectly safe to handle, just not to ingest. In short, if you've got little kids or pets who might be tempted to nibble, avoid Aglaonema.
Spathiphyllum, AKA Spath, Peace Lily, Peace Plant:
Traditionally, Spathiphyllum have been very popular as sympathy gifts.There also used to be curious trend of suspending these plants in the tops of vases with their roots submerged and a living betta fish beneath. However, now they're popular as houseplants for their ability to survive in low light, and their modest need for water. Like the Dracena, these girls need water when the soil is approaching dryness. However, unlike any of the other plants on this list, Spath have a significant bloom. Dracena sometimes produce very small white flowers on stalks, and aglaonema occasionally send up a single hooded spadix (something like a stamen). Spath, conversely, have white blooms on spadix, which wear a spathe (modified bract or leaf) behind. The whole effect is like a little figure with a very dramatic collar or hood. Unfortunately, these plants are poisonous in the same way as Chinese Evergreen, so do be careful with kids and pets around these plants.
Aspidistra, AKA Cast Iron Plant:
Cast Iron Plants have long green leaves whose color is incredibly rich. I'm sure you're weary of my saying this by now, but these plants can tolerate low light conditions, and they require water when their soil is approaching dryness. You may have guessed, but this plant derives its name, Cast Iron, from it ability to tolerate neglect. Fun fact: These have also been called bar room plants for their ability to survive in dimly lit bars. The long and short of it is that these plants are a great, hardy option for new plant owners. Of all the houseplants we have discussed, these plants have a growth pattern most like Snake Plants. They produce individual leaves from their base rather than growing leaves on a stem.
Additional care tips for keeping houseplants:
You may be wondering what I mean when I say "low light." Low light is best defined as the amount of natural light you would need to read a book without any electronic help. To have the best success with these plants, you'll want to give them some time in the sun. Some of these kids, like the snake and cast iron plants, can tolerate only artificial light for some time, but it's not an ideal situation. If you needed a plant for a spot with no natural light, you would want to rotate it with others so that it got some time by a window. Low light spaces tend to occur in rooms facing North or East, or in a corner far from a window. Also, all of these plants can live, even thrive, in brighter light, but their tolerance of low light gives them greater versatility.
You might also want to ask what "approaching dryness" or "completely dry" mean. When testing for water, always use your finger. Water meters, in my experience, do not provide accurate readings. So, stick your finger about two or three inches into the soil to really feel what's happening beneath the surface. If you're feeling moisture, the plant is probably fine. If you feel a very slight amount of moisture several inches down, it's approaching dryness. If you feel no moisture, the soil is completely dry. However, we advise that you check for moisture every day, because you never want soil to become so dry that it's crumbling and dusty. When watering, be sure to soak the soil well. Houseplants prefer more water less frequently to smaller amounts of water more often. Think of it like food. Would you prefer to eat a single banana every 2 hours, or sit down and have a full meal?
On the subject of food, feeding or fertilizing your houseplants will help them too. In a pot, plants have limited access to nutrition, so it's up to us as plant parents to intervene. Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb about feeding. Instead, it's best to consult with our team of experts about each plant's needs.
So there you have it, a list of low-maintenance houseplants to bring life and beauty even into dim spots. Even if you're new to the plant world, we can recommend plants and techniques to help you along the way. Give us a call, or stop into the store. We'd love to bring some new green life into your home.
Justin Lievano works in the flower shop at McArdle's, and he risks losing his every paycheck by adopting new plants.