Kathryn Lee - 17 Feb, 2020

Forget the green thumb: 5 House plants that won’t die

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We’ve all been there, although some of us are worse than others. You buy a cute plant, pop it on your windowsill, only to have it die shortly afterwards – or enter that in-between stage where you can’t tell if it’s alive or dead, but it’s definitely a shell of its former glory.

Why you ask – Why does this happen to me? Besides the time you left it neglected for a month while you traipsed across Europe, or the time you caught your cat trying to make it her third dinner, by all accounts you’ve been the perfect plant parent.

I can remember having a cactus once – a small (spikey) one with a pretty red bulb-like flower in the middle. I’d bought it because I ‘knew’ it wouldn’t die, only to have it give up four-months later. I was baffled as to what I had done wrong.

To cut a long story short, it turns out cacti do need water – and sunlight!

Don’t despair if you don’t have the gift of a green thumb. Although it may seem your only option are those almost realistic plastic IKEA plants – or worse, the dodgy looking ones from your local dollar store – all is not lost.

Get updated on the 5-most hardy house plants for those of us void of the ‘green’ gene.

Disclaimer: Albeit resilient, these will require some care. If you are the kind of person who can’t keep yourself fed – let alone a plant – please see here.

Related: Make your home sustainable

1. Hen and Chicks (succulent)

A tough plant, in the wild ‘Hen and Chickens’ are often found growing in rock crevices. But in suburbia, a windowsill with access to 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight will do. Plant this succulent in free-draining soil and don’t water unless you notice the bottom soil is starting to dry out.

A pretty plant with an amazing bloom, these should do well in any container you choose, so experiment. Whether a thrifted bowl or an old teacup, ensure the base is shallow and drill a small hole for water drainage.

2. Anthurium

With blooms of red flowers, some may be surprised by this plant’s addition to the list. Although certainly not as low maintenance as a succulent, for all the beauty they exhibit these plants also require little work.

Anthuriums require soil with good drainage, but it does need to hold some water. Plant in a mix of half potting mix and half orchid soil. They do well in both low and indirect light, although for the best flowers they prefer indirect sunlight. Water once a week or whenever the soil seems dry to avoid over-watering.

Related: How to find your plant/life balance

3. Lucky Bamboo

An old classic, although unbeknownst to many, this famous ‘bamboo’ is not actually bamboo. It’s a Dracaena sanderiana: a species of flowering plant native to Central Africa.

In Chinese culture the varying arrangements of stalks have different meanings. Two stalks represent love, three happiness, luck and long life; and six good luck and wealth. Just avoid four because it’s meant to represent death!

Place in a spot with indirect sunlight and change the water every couple of months, ensuring it covers the roots, topping up where necessary.

4. Peace Lily

These babies couldn’t be any easier to maintain. Unlike many plants, which seem to go from thriving to dead overnight, these will let you know when they’re ‘thirsty’ by drooping their leaves (your signal to give them a watering).

Just one thing, if you’re a pet owner this is probably one to avoid. Containing calcium oxalate, they are toxic to both cats and dogs.

Optimally the peace lily prefers partial shade, although they have been known to tolerate fluorescent light. Some have even had success growing them in rooms with no windows at all!

Related: The ultimate guide to decluttering your home

5. Money tree

The money tree is a tough, easy-to-grow gem that is said to represent luck and wealth. As a bonus, it also acts as an air purifier.

Legends says that the braided trunk of the tree can ‘trap’ fortune within its folds, and that the five leaves typically found per stalk represent the five elements of balance: earth, water, wind, fire and metal. Besides this, the plant is also super aesthetically pleasing and completely safe for pets – although it can cause some digestive upset if consumed in large quantities.

The money tree is best positioned in medium to bright indirect light, although it can also adapt to fluorescents. Water infrequently until the water drains through the pot and then empty the water dish to avoid root rot, letting the topsoil dry out between visits. Turn slightly each time you water to ensure all leaves are exposed to sunlight.

Words by Kathryn Lee

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