The Perfect House Plants for Neglectful or Forgetful Gardeners

The Perfect House Plants for Neglectful or Forgetful Gardeners

Not having a green thumb doesn't mean you have to give up on having plants. It simply means you have to find the right plants. Some plants are capable of surviving the worst of conditions--including those created by forgetful gardeners.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein cautions you, "Some hardy houseplants, including the Dracaena, Sanseviera, and the Zamioculas Zamiifolia, are poisonous when ingested. For safety's sake, wear gloves when pruning or watering, or wash your hands thoroughly afterwards."


The aspidistra is also known as the "cast iron" plant because of its ability to survive in less than ideal conditions. It has shiny, dark green leaves that grow to 24 inches long and will occasionally produces brownish-purple flowers near its base.

This plant will tolerate pretty much any condition from dust, heat, cold, under-watering and lack of light. Aspidistra is highly resistant to pests. Its soil should be kept evenly moist, but not constantly wet. Make sure to fertilize it every couple of months with a balanced fertilizer, reduced by half, if it is kept in dimly lit areas.

TIP: Rachel adds, "In fact, Aspidistra thrives on neglect. It does not like soggy soil, so be sure not to over-water. Yellow leaves are often the first sign of over-watering. Also, it does not like to be disturbed, so do not repot often."


Bromeliads are also known as air plants or air pines and come in over 2,000 varieties. The pineapple is one example of a bromeliad. Bromeliads have thick, fleshy leaves that usually tightly-overlap to form tubular vases.

TIP: Rachel suggests, "Each variety has slightly different care instructions, so be sure to do some light research on your particular type."

In the home, plant diseases are rarely a problem for this plant and their leaves are too tough to be bothered by insects. Its foliage will be more vibrant in brighter lights, but they can survive without any direct light and even in artificial light. Because of their diminutive root systems, large bromeliads can be grown in only 5 inch pots. Keep the center of the plant filled with water and the potting mix just barely moist. They should be kept dryer in the winter, and have been known to survive for weeks without water.


The chlorophytum, or spider plant, typically has grassy green leaves, although some varieties have leaves striped with white or yellow. This plant is very adaptable and can tolerate all forms of neglect. They get their name from the runners formed from shoots that hang down the side of the pot.

Chlorophytum grow best in bright light, but will tolerate lower light. While it prefers moisture, it will survive if you let its soil dry out between waterings. You need only water your Chlorophytum around twice a month. Brown leaves can be caused by high concentrations of chlorine or fluoride in tap water and by under fertilizing. Remove the brown tips by trimming them with a scissors and try watering with rain or distilled water.

TIP: Rachel advises, "Be careful to keep your spider plant out of direct light. If the plant is within 5 to 8 feet of a window, it will grow just fine. The plant's runners produce little baby spider plants which can be clipped off the main Chlorophytum and repotted for an abundance of new plants."


This is a tall, durable plant with long, leathery, spear-like leaves that point downwards. Also called the "Madagascar Dragon Tree," foliage comes in a variety of colors such as spotted with yellow or cream, striped white, edged with burgundy, and plain green. It can easily survive indoors, even when the conditions are far from ideal. The Draceana is also known to remove several potentially harmful pollutants from the air.

Dracaenas need plenty of filtered sunlight. An ideal place is an east window covered by a transparent curtain. Filtered south or west windows will also work. Draceanas are very drought-tolerant, though they do welcome a weekly watering. If soil is allowed to get severely dry, the leaves will yellow or turn brown and die. These plants also prefer humid conditions. You might consider placing the planter on a tray of pebbles that you keep moist to increase the humidity around the plant.

TIP: Rachel adds, "Pruning is rarely necessary, but if you cut one stem, two new will grow from the severed stump. This property can be used to increase the fullness of the plant. New growth will emerge several weeks after pruning."

They are resistant to most diseases but are poisonous to pets.


Commonly known as Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law's Tongue, this is one of the hardiest houseplants around. The sansevieria has long, spiky, variegated foliage. Mature plants produce sprays of fragrant pink-white or yellowish flowers, but the flowering is erratic and unpredictable.

Although the sansevieria prefers bright, indirect sunlight, it will tolerate a wide range of light levels including darker areas. It cannot, however, tolerate cold weather and should be kept far from drafty windows or doors. During the spring, summer and fall, you should only water this plant once every 10 days. Allow it to dry out completely between waterings. In the winter, you should only water it once every 1 to 2 months. Over-watering is virtually the only way this plant can be killed.

TIP: Rachel says, "Your sanseviera will wrinkle or droop when the plant is lacking adequate water, and will appear soft and slimy if watering is too frequent. Prune off leaves that fall over. Move your savseviera up to the next size of clay pot annually."

This plant is poisonous to pets and children.

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

The zamioculcas zamiifolia is also known as the Aroid Palm or the ZZ Plant. It has thick, fleshy, glossy leaves. It is very tough under indoor conditions and will handle neglect well. It is also very resistant to disease and insects.

The plant does well in lower light levels, but prefers brighter light as long as it is kept out of direct, afternoon sun. Zamioculcas zamiifolia should remain on the dry side, and its soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. If its leaves begin to yellow, it is probably being watered too much.

TIP: Rachel recommends, "To prevent soggy soil, use a fast draining potting mix and a pot with adequate drainage holes. A slow-grower, this houseplant rarely needs to be repotted."

All parts of this plant are poisonous to pets and children.

TIP: Rachel concludes, "If any of your houseplant's foliage turns brown, simply cut it off at the stem. If you do not want to cut off the entire leaf, trim off the brown part with sharp scissors. Houseplants may gather dust. While they won't mind, you might. Gently wipe their leaves down with a wet paper towel or sponge whenever needed."

photo (c) Thaumaturegist 2003

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