It's Not Me, It's You: The 10 Toughest Houseplants to Keep Alive

Are you a serial houseplant killer? If you've earned a reputation as a brown thumb, it might be your choice of houseplant that's to blame. While some plants are easy to maintain (think: pothos, snake plant, and peace lily), others require extensive and specific care that leave you at your greenery's beck and call. For a vibrant indoor garden, stop bringing these plants into your home, and choose something a little easier to maintain.


Indoor Azalea

Planted outdoors, azalea explodes with vibrantly colorful blooms in a spring spectacle that makes the shrub a forever favorite. So it's only natural that shoppers feel tempted by the indoor, florist’s azalea for sale at local stores. However, the fine print is that, unless you take special care, the party isn't going to last long. First, indoor azalea likes it cool and humid, a combination it can be tricky to create artificially. Also, indoor azalea needs slightly acidic soil, meaning that unless you repot it, vinegar must be added to all the water you give the plant. Note that indoors, azalea insists on damp (not soggy) soil at all times. Do all of the above, and you can keep azalea going strong indoors. But getting it to bloom again next year? That's a whole other story....

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Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew Houseplant

A vining growth habit—that’s a gift and a curse for the inchplant, better known as the wandering jew. In a hanging basket, the distinctive, purple-and-silver-striped leaves gently cascade down, glistening in the light and looking beautiful. But over time, as the tendrils get longer and the leaves get fewer and farther in between, wandering jew begins to look sickly, even if it's thriving. There's only one way to keep the plant looking its best: You need to pinch back the growing tips, and you need to do that over and over to keep pace with a plant whose growth speed often makes it an invasive species outdoors. The good news? Beyond its unusually demanding grooming requirements, wandering jew doesn't need any other extra, abnormal care. Phew!

Boston Fern

Boston Fern Houseplant

This lush, leafy plant can give your home serious jungle vibes—as long as you can successfully mimic the growing conditions of its first home, the tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. Without warmer temperatures, high humidity, and lots of filtered light, a sad fern will shed its leaves. Fortunately, if you're up to the challenge, there are ways to satisfy the plant's needs without sacrificing your home's comfort. First, set your fern by an east or west-facing window that receives plenty of indirect sunlight. If possible, choose a location near a heat vent that can be closed and opened as needed: While the plant grows in a moderate 65 to 75 degrees during the day, a 10-degree dip in the evening prevents fungus growth. Finally, run a humidifier nearby to keep the air around the fern from drying out (especially in winter).

Related: 8 Plants Never to Grow Indoors

Miniature Roses

Miniature Roses

If these precious blooms won't seem to last more than a week indoors, that's actually because they aren't meant to do so. Even if it comes home in a pot, it typically needs to be moved outdoors within two weeks in order to thrive. Otherwise, to mimic outdoor growing conditions for this high-maintenance "houseplant" would actually require a small army of appliances: a grow light to provide 5+ hours of direct light each day, a humidifier to keep the air moist while the roots remain dry enough to ward off rot, and a miniature fan to create adequate air circulation. Should you see success with the setup, add some slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer during the spring and summer growing season. Eventually, when you're ready to acclimate it to the outdoors, leave the pot outside for a week so it can get used to its new environmental conditions before transplant—then watch it take root and grow quickly to full size.


Orchid Houseplant

Characterized by their colorful blooms and slender stems, orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow. After all, the tropical plants have very specific needs—namely, bright indirect sunlight and a sparse watering schedule. Position orchids in a window that faces north or east, since west- and south-facing windows become too hot and bright during the afternoon. You can gauge the effect of light on the orchid by looking at its leaves; red-blushed leaves mean too much sun, dark green leaves mean too little sun, and light green leaves indicate a healthy plant. Water orchids about once a week, and remove standing water from the drip tray to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.

Related: 14 of the Best Plants for Your Drought-Tolerant Garden

Zebra Plant

Zebra Plant

Many homeowners admire zebra plants for their glossy white-veined leaves, golden flower bracts, and yellow blooms—but the showy houseplants require tediously specific growing conditions. Those caring for a zebra plant should keep their house around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round, and position the plant near a brightly-lit window that receives no direct sunlight. Zebra plants thrive in 60% - 70% humidity—meaning you’ll likely need to acquire a humidity tray. Additionally, since zebra plants demand consistently moist soil, the plant should be watered whenever the soil begins to dry.

Banana Plant

Banana Plant Houseplant

The large leaves of a banana plant make it an attractive choice for decor, but it's a fussy green to maintain. The perennial houseplant—often mistakenly referred to as a tree—requires tropical conditions to survive. For a happy banana plant, place it in a window that receives 12 hours of direct light daily, and keep the room at an even and warm temperature, but not too hot or else the leaves will scorch. This rainforest plant also needs a lot of water: a generous portion once a week to every two days. A few inches of mulch layered on top of the soil will help lock in moisture and keep the plant hydrated. The banana plant has a more extensive root system than some houseplants, so it does best in a deep plant pot. Just be prepared to repot it when it becomes pot-bound, but don’t upgrade to a larger pot too quickly because the plant performs best when its roots are slightly tight in the pot. Lastly, don’t expect your banana plant to bear fruit—that requires 10 to 15 months of uninterrupted growth to flower, and another four to eight for fruit to mature. 

Related: 20 Plants That Survive With or Without You


Gardenia Houseplant

The delicate and fragrant gardenia is a beautiful plant, but it requires close attention if you want to keep it happy indoors. Before you even bring a gardenia into your house, have a clear idea of where you want to place it because it does not respond well to being moved around. Your chosen location should receive plenty of sunlight and far from a heating vent that would expose the plant to drafts of hot air, which can kill a gardenia. These plants are are prone to pest infestation, so watch out for aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, root nematodes, scale bugs, and spider mites. If you see signs of pests, act quickly to get rid of them.

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree

All the rage in design circles for the past few years, the fiddle-leaf fig, which is actually a ficus, is beloved for its unusual silhouette. Despite its meteoric rise in popularity, the plant is surprisingly finicky and difficult to keep alive. Too much sun, and the leafs will brown and wither. Too little sun, and the plant will fail to thrive. And if you ever want to move it to the other side of the room? Think again: The fiddle-leaf fig adapts poorly to changes in its environment.

Related: 15 Plants Never to Grow in Your Yard via emilysnuffer

Cheese Plant

Cheese Plant

Monstera deliciosa, colloquially known as the cheese plant, is a popular plant for the adventurous indoor gardener. Although some sources claim this tropical plant is easy to grow, the truth is that one must do quite a lot to keep it lush and flourishing. The iconic holes in this plant's leaves will not form on new leaves if the plant receives too much sun. The savvy gardener must experiment to find the perfect spot in the house to grow this temperamental plant. Here's another weird one: Experts recommend you wash the leaves of your cheese plant every week or two, but because the leaves can cause irritation to skin, you may want to wear gloves while doing the job.

Buy a Better Green Thumb

Buy a Better Green Thumb

While it might be a relief that it isn’t your fault that your houseplants keep dying, it doesn’t hurt to have some good gardening gadgets on hand for extra assistance. The right tools can really help your plants flourish.

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