Sarah Marcheschi is a Master Gardener and contributing writer for multiple newspapers and magazines. She cooks, writes, and tends to her veggie patch at a little cottage outside the city.

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The Fabulous Four
by Sarah Marcheschi    

For years, I flatly refused to grow houseplants. I really just don’t have the space, I would tell myself. There’s not nearly enough sunlight in here. And think of the time commitment!

The truth is, a couple of spectacular failures early on, (I’m looking at you, Venus flytrap), bruised my ego and diminished what enthusiasm I did have for bringing the garden indoors.

But of course, like many of us who while away the chillier months perusing glossy gardening magazines, I like a project. And eventually the lure of getting my hands in the dirt proved too strong. So after a bit of research and some trial and error, I’ve rounded up a few of the hardiest, least demanding houseplants out there. These guys are almost un-killable.

Epipremnum aureum

If you don’t have a wall of windows bathing your home in golden afternoon light, or even a sunny kitchen windowsill, then pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is for you. Considered by many to be the perfect starter houseplant for its low (almost no) maintenance tendencies, pothos is a leafy vine that does best in bright, indirect or even low light and tolerates infrequent watering. While the plant can reach lengths of 40 feet or more in tropical conditions, simple pruning will keep it to a size better suited to your living room. In addition to being easy-care, pothos also acts as an air purifier, removing pollutants such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene from indoor spaces. Flowering, while possible, is rare, but with a profusion of attractive, glossy, heart-shaped leaves in shades of green and creamy yellow cascading over the edges of your pot or hanging basket, you won’t mind a bit.


As you might expect of a plant native to the humid tropical forests of the Americas and West Indies, philodendrons (Philodendron) like bright, dappled light, warmth, and moisture to thrive. Typically climbers that scale trees in the jungle, (philodendron actually translates to “tree lover”), these houseplants are available in vining and non-vining varieties. If you choose to grow one of the vining varieties, such as the popular heartleaf philodendron, you can let it cascade over a bookshelf or help it climb on a stake or pole. Other varieties, such as the lacy tree philodendron, have a bushy, upright growth habit. While philodendrons will tolerate low light, they should be kept out of direct sun, as foliage is susceptible to burning. Make sure to keep soil evenly moist, but avoid overwatering by letting the top inch of soil dry out between drinks, especially in the winter when plant growth slows down. 

Sansevieria trifasciata

Are you just a tad absent-minded? Always forgetting your keys or whether the electric bill got paid? I have the plant for you. Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), so named due to the shape and sharpness of leaves, is popular indoors because of its striking appearance and easy care. With stiff spiked leaves that can stand 3 feet tall, mother-in-law’s tongue will tolerate low light, though it prefers a bright room and requires little in the way of pruning or repotting. Native to West Africa, where the dry season lasts for months, this plant likes dry soil; watering can be as infrequent as once a month or less in winter. Propagation is easy, either by division, or by removing and potting new spikes that shoot up through the soil. And contrary to what the common moniker implies, mother-in-law’s tongue actually makes the atmosphere around your house a little less toxic. These plants also filter out pollutants such as formaldehyde from the air.

Aspidistra eliator

I discovered cast iron plant (Aspidistra eliator) when it kept turning up as a bit of filler in arrangements from my local florist. I loved the contrast of the sleek, dark green leaves against more brightly colored rose and peony blooms and had to learn more about it. In addition to its popularity in the floral industry, aspidistra has been commonly grown as a houseplant for nearly 200 years, and with good reason. A favorite in dimly lit hallways and drawing rooms since its introduction to Victorian England, it earned the nickname cast iron plant because of how well it holds up in the face of adversity. In other words: this is a tough plant to kill. Aspidistra will tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations, low light, pollution, dust and erratic watering. It is relatively free of diseases and pests and, although slow growing, can live for decades, with tales of prized plants being handed down through generations. Choose a location for aspidistra where it will be out of direct sunlight, though bright indirect light is fine, and let soil dry out between watering for best results.

From purifying the air to enhancing interior design, houseplants undeniably make our living spaces better. And these are just a few of the easy-care varieties available to the indoor gardener, so there has never been a better time to abandon your excuses and apprehensions and grow something!


Posted: 10/15/15   RSS | Print


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