Low maintenance plants for indoor gardening exist. And you – yes you – can look after them without worrying about killing them!
'Low maintenance plants are popular with plant parents who want to enjoy the greenery that requires less time and attention to keep them alive,' says Paris Lalicata, plant expert at The Sill. 'Generally, what makes a plant low maintenance is how versatile it can be with varying light levels. Most low-maintenance plants can tolerate lower light conditions but will thrive well in bright light. Another reason that can make plants low maintenance is their watering frequency and their ability to be drought tolerant.'
Because the idea of keeping anything alive can be overwhelming, we've asked our experts to select 10 low-effort container gardening plants for you.
1. Sansevieria (snake plant)
The snake plant, also known as Mother-in-Law's Tongue, is a popular choice for its hardiness and unique, sword-like leaves.
'Sansevieria requires very infrequent watering, especially in the winter, because they are native to the arid deserts of West Africa,' says Lindsay Pangborn plant expert at Bloomscape. 'This drought tolerance makes them perfect for the forgetful plant keeper. When it comes to snake plant care, overwatering can cause it to rot. Another tip is to keep the leaves dry when watering and direct the water around the edge of the pot avoiding the center of the leaves.'
'Snake plants are known for their air-purifying qualities, making them a beneficial addition to any space,' says Nick Sandford, founder of Leaf & Clay. 'This succulent-like plant is notorious for 'thriving off neglect',' says Paris Lalicata at The Sill. 'You can place Snake plants virtually anywhere and forget to water them and they will survive.'
2. Rubber plant
Sometimes referred to as a baby rubber plant, Peperomia Obtusifolia is an easy-going houseplant characterized by its thick, succulent-like green leaves. There are numerous types of Peperomia too; some with mottled or striped fleshy leaves with tinges of grey, yellow, or pink amongst the green. Originally a forest floor dweller, most varieties of Peperomia can cope without huge amounts of natural light or watering.
'Peperomia doesn’t need much to thrive,' says Paris. 'It's one of our favorite low-maintenance plants because it's versatile, can tolerate low light, and doesn't need to be watered frequently.' When it comes to how often you should water houseplants this is a dream. 'Plants like this usually require watering only every 7-10 days depending on their environmental conditions, and some can even go longer without water depending on your schedule,' says Paris.
3. Pothos (Devil's ivy)
If you're wondering which indoor plants last the longest, the Pothos, also known as Devil's Ivy, is a big contender. The plant with attractive, heart-shaped leaves that trail (or climb) gracefully from its pot is virtually impossible to kill. 'Pothos can adapt to different lighting conditions and is drought-tolerant, making it an excellent choice for busy individuals or beginners,' says Nick. 'Another appealing aspect of Pothos is its ability to purify the air.
'These plants require minimal care and can thrive in less-than-ideal conditions,' says Nick. 'To maintain a Pothos plant, water it when the top inch of soil feels dry, and place it in an area with low to bright indirect light. By providing simple care like occasional watering and situating them in areas with varying light conditions, these plants will reward you with their beauty and resilience.'
If you're new to indoor gardening, succulents are a great place to start. 'The most important factor when it comes to how to care for succulents is temperature,' says Matt from Lively Root. 'They need full sun and very little water and will thrive at room temperature. Make sure to wait for the soil to dry out almost completely in between waterings. Placing succulents near south-facing windows can maximize the full sun they receive.'
'Succulents require a little more pruning than cacti,' says Matt. 'When growing succulents in containers, it can be fun to experiment with succulent varieties with different growth habits. For example, one of my favorites is Burro's Tail (Sedum morganianum), which has a trailing growth habit. This means that it will hang down from the edges of the pot and create a beautiful display of color around the pot. Another one of my favorites is Sticks on Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli), which has an upright growth habit.'
A list of low-maintenance plants would not be complete without Cacti. These desert dwellers require very little water, and you could even consider a cactus garden if you like the plant.
'Cacti require full sun, very little watering, and a steady temperature that never gets too cold,' says Matt. 'Place your cacti near a south-facing window to receive the most sunlight they can get. Make sure to allow the soil to almost dry out completely between waterings. If in doubt, wait even longer before watering.'
'Some of my favorite cacti are the Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys) and Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus spp.),' says Matt. 'When it comes to styling cacti, the possibilities are endless. There are so many different shapes and textures you can find. I like having one large centerpiece that grows vertically and a bunch of smaller profile ones surrounding it.'
6. Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)
Popular in the 70s, the Swiss cheese plant has seen a return to favor in many stylish homes. With its distinctive perforated leaves, they require minimal attention. Monstera plant care is easy. 'Monsteras tend to thrive in most indoor environments, especially with the support of a moss pole to direct its growth upwards,' says Lindsay Pangborn, plant expert at Bloomscape. 'The Monstera will grow faster and become more dramatic in a bright spot, but will grow in just about any indoor environment.'
'To care for this plant, regular leaf dusting allows the leaves to absorb as much light as possible,' says Linday. 'Water your Monstera when the soil volume is almost dry and make sure to allow excess water to drain out through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot.'
7. Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)
The Dracaena Marginata or Dragon tree is loved for its elegant cascading foliage and versatility. With the right conditions and monthly watering, it can fill your home with lush greenery, being one of the easiest and best trees to grow in pots.
'The Dragon tree is a fantastic house plant due to its eye-catching, exotic look while still being tolerant of a wide range of conditions,' says Matt. 'They thrive best in bright indirect light. Rooms with natural light and east-facing windows are best. They will self-shed their leaves to keep their branches clean, so you don't have to do much other than collect the fallen leaves.'
'When styling the home of a plant novice, it helps to choose plants that are on the low-maintenance side,' says Hilton Carter, plant expert and author of Living Wild. 'In one of my projects, I went with a 9-ft tall Dracaena marginata, because I wanted it to fill the space around and above some chairs. What I love most about this plant is the way its growth resembles fireworks.'
8. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
The Peace Lily, with its shiny green leaves and delicate white flowers, is one of the easiest plants to care for. It's one of the best plants that will clean the air and it will let you know if you forget to water it, as its leaves will droop and dull. 'The Peace Lily is one of the most popular indoor houseplants, as it's so easy to care for and thrives in typical household environments,' says Matt. 'This dramatic plant will droop if neglected for a bit, but once you water it again, it will perk right back up as if nothing happened.'
'A good rule of thumb is when the top inch of soil dries out, it’s time for another watering,' says Matt. 'The Peace Lily likes medium to bright indirect light while indoors. Try to keep them away from direct sunlight, as they’re shade-loving plants in the wild. Trim off any flowers that are past their prime, this will promote new flower growth and keep the leaves healthy and happy.'
9. ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
The ZZ Plant is another excellent plant for time-pressed people. With its glossy, dark green leaves and ability to tolerate various conditions, it's almost indestructible. 'One of the main reasons the ZZ plant is low-maintenance is its resilience to irregular watering and low light,' says Nick. 'In fact, ZZ Plants can survive with fluorescent lighting alone, making them perfect as best desk plants.'
'This plant is characterized by its waxy green leaves above the surface of its potting mix and its large potato-like rhizomes underneath,' says Paris. 'These rhizomes store water, making the ZZ a drought-tolerant plant that can go weeks without water which is why we love it so much.'
'The ZZ plant often goes dormant (while staying green) over the winter and should only be watered once every 4-6 weeks or once the soil is fully dry,' says Lindsay. 'This is the perfect option for the busy or forgetful plant owner because it is essentially hands-off.'
10. Philodendron heartleaf
The Philodendron Heartleaf is a fast-growing, low-maintenance, vining plant and a good bedroom plant idea. Named for its glossy, heart-shaped leaves, this plant is super easy to care for and very forgiving. 'The Philodendron Heartleaf will tolerate all kinds of neglect including low light, poor soil, and inconsistent watering,' says Lindsay. 'This is a great plant for a desk, a shelf, or in a plant hanger where its vines can ‘spill’ out. If you notice that the leaves are curling, it probably is a sign of dry soil. But only water your plant when around 75% of the soil volume is dry.'
'If you accidentally let your Philodendron’s soil dry out completely, you may see leaves go limp, droop, and possibly start to brown and curl,' says Lindsay. 'If the soil is extremely dry through the pot, a thorough soak is in order.'
What plants can be indoors without sunlight?
Not only do these plants require less sunlight, but they are also ideal for dark corners, to add a refreshing touch. Amongst these hardy plants is the snake plant. It thrives between the temperature range of 70-90˚F (21-32˚C) and needs watering once every two weeks. Another great plant is Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia). This can live within temperatures of 62-80˚F (16-27˚C) and can tolerate low light situations. It needs regular watering but in very slight quantity.
Dragon Tree can be placed anywhere in the house because it’s tolerant of low-light conditions, and can thrive in 70-80˚F (21-27˚C). It is fond of humidity so just needs misting every few days.
What is the hardiest indoor plant?
When it comes to long-lasting plants that aren't easy to kill, peace lily, golden pothos, spider plant, aloe, and Echeverias rank high. These do not have too many needs in terms of watering and sunlight, and can survive neglect or someone with a black thumb!
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Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites
A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.
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