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12 Low-Maintenance Houseplants Even Beginners Can Keep Alive

If you have a limited amount of space and sunlight — and even more limited experience — you can still reap the benefits of houseplants.


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The highs and lows of caring for houseplants can sometimes seem as fulfilling (or as stressful!) as caring for a human being. If you've killed your houseplants time and time again, you may feel like you need a Ph.D. in rocket science to be a successful plant parent. But Darryl Cheng, a plant enthusiast who uses his degrees in human biology and industrial engineering to take a scientific approach when taking care of his plants, says you don't. "I summarize my approach to plant care in three points," the author of The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family, explains to Allure. "Understand your environmental conditions and the degree to which you can control those things, try your best to actively engage in care, and let nature take its course."

When choosing to bring plants into your home, it's important to understand that they might not always look picture-perfect. Sometimes they might even die, no matter how much attention you give it. Environmental scientist and sustainability strategist Summer Rayne Oakes, who wrote How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart and runs the Plant One On Me YouTube channel, tells Allure that you should not only be okay with plants getting a little raggedy, but you should anticipate it. No matter how hard you work to take care of your plants, they're ultimately living in containers far away from their natural habitat. And even when plants are in their natural habitat, they still turn brown or drop their leaves.

With that being said, there are some ways to set yourself up for success. The best thing you can do when you're new to plant care is to choose a plant that is sturdy and won't fall apart the second you make a mistake. That's why we asked experts to help us put together a list of six forgiving, adaptable, low-maintenance plants that they recommend not only for beginners, but anyone who dreams of raising a thriving plant family in their home. But before you start shopping, there's a few things you need to know about easy house plants.

Meet the experts

What indoor environments are best for house plants?

There are a few important elements to be aware of before bringing a plant into your home. So before you do, spend some time thinking about your space to determine its temperature and sunlight exposure.

Is the temperature relatively stable? Most plants will suffer if it drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so move them to a different window if you like to keep the one they usually sit next to open during winter nights. Is the air humid or dry? Most house plants are fine in a 40 to 70 percent range of humidity, so you might want to stick to desert plants, like cacti and succulents, or invest in a humidifier if you live in a climate that gets much drier than that.

The most important factor, however, is sun exposure. "People talk about overwatering as the number one killer, but actually, I think the number one killer is that your plants aren't in front of the window," Cheng says. Although some of the plants on this list will survive in lower light, they will die eventually if they don't get any access to the sun.

Also of note: actively engaging in plant care doesn't mean you have to order a bunch of tools or obsessively fret over how many times a week to water your plant. It just means doing your best to interpret your plant's needs, which likely include fertilizing, repotting, and, of course, watering.

How often do you have to water indoor plants?

Because each home is different and each plant (even within the same species) has different needs, Cheng doesn't believe following a regimented schedule is the best way to water a plant. Instead, he determines when to water plants based on how hydrated the soil is.

Thirstier plants, such as herbs and ferns, need to be hydrated consistently, so the dirt needs to be damp to the touch at all times. Desert plants, like aloe and cacti, evolved to withstand dry spells, so too much water can actually damage them. You can and should wait for the soil to get so dry that it's almost crusty by the time you water it.

Most other house plants prefer to stay in partially dry or slightly damp soil, which means that they should be watered when the topsoil is lighter in color, but still soft and easy to dig into. If you’re feeling unsure, air on the side of caution and water less versus more.

If you're still feeling unsure, there are great digital resources like Planta to keep your rituals on track. The app that can help you determine what your plants needs through tools like a light meter, personalized reminders and help identifying issues and solutions for different types of indoor plants.

Now that you have a bit more background, keep scrolling to check out the best house plants for beginners. We’ve also included a helpful mini guide on how to care for each one, from watering preferences to lighting conditions.

Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Why we like it: Named the prayer plant because its leaves stand upright at night and fall during the day, this playful plant is as lively as it is beautiful. The tricolored leaves feature stunning deep greens, lovely yellow spots, and slick red lines.

When to water it: Hancock notes that this plant doesn't like to get too dry, so it's important to water it as soon as the top layer becomes dry. If left unwatered for too long, it might not survive. However, make sure the pot has proper drainage so that water doesn't build up at the bottom and cause root rot. Root rot typically occurs when a plant is overwatered or sitting in water for too long, causing leaves to turn yellow.

Where it grows best: You'll want to avoid direct sunlight, which will completely burn the plant's leaves, but hang it in a window with indirect light and you'll see it thrive. "Because it's a trailing plant, it’s great for hanging baskets," Hancock points out.

How to keep it looking its best: As a tropical plant, the prayer plant does enjoy a bit of humidity. "While it appreciates average to above-average relative humidity levels," Hancock says. "Misting your prayer plant doesn't make an appreciable difference." You can also place a humidifier by the plant to give it the humidity boost.

Honorable mentions: If you're looking for something with a bit more color, the triostar stromanthe (Stromanthe sanguinea) features shades of red on the leaves. It needs the same type of care as a prayer plant, with moist soil and indirect light.

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)

Why we like it: Grand with its large tropical leaves, the fiddle leaf fig is a classic indoor plant beloved by many. A favorite among large indoor potted plants, its large, glossy, vibrant leaves instantly become the focal point of any room.

When to water it: "It's better for the plant's overall health to keep it too dry over time than too wet," Hancock tells us. "Overwatered plants typically experience root death, which results in foliage with unsightly spots and patches, followed by fallen leaves." So from spring through fall, you’ll want to water it as soon as the top inch of soil starts to feel dry. But during the winter months, you can water it slightly less depending on how the leaves are looking.

Where it grows best: Bright light is key when for fiddle leaf figs. However, direct sunlight can burn the leaves, especially if it’s directly exposed to the hot afternoon sun.

How to keep it looking its best: If you're shopping for a fiddle leaf fig in a colder climate, Hancock notes that you'll want to keep it protected with a bag or paper before moving it from the store to your home. "Even a few minutes of freezing temperatures can cause damage to this tropical tree." If you want to avoid this completely, you might want to wait until the warmer months to pick one up.

Honorable mentions: Due to its demand for bright, indirect light, this favorite might not be for everyone. Instead, Hancock recommends a Monstera deliciosa in its place. "It offers similarly big, bold foliage, and you can grow it upright for a vertical statement piece in your home."

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Why we like it: Wild and whimsical-looking, the long skinny leaves of a spider plant are the perfect addition to any shelf or window. One of the most popular easy-care houseplants, the spider plant can survive all kinds of different conditions once it gets acclimated. And it grows pretty fast, which could give you the ego boost you need if you’re having a hard time growing indoor house plants.

When to water it: Keep the soil moist but not damp, and be careful not to overwater and cause root rot. So if you want to play it safe, it's best to underwater this one.

Where it grows best: As previously mentioned, this plant can survive in many different light conditions. If you really want to watch it flourish, keep it near a bright window or in indirect sunlight.

How to keep it looking its best: "Spider plants are fairly quick growers, particularly in bright [locations]," Hancock explains. "While they tolerate being root-bound, they grow best if repotted every year or two as the roots start to completely fill the pot." A plant becomes root-bound when it is kept in a smaller pot as it continues to develop and grow, so the roots start to circle around the bottom instead of healthily growing downward.

If your spider plant becomes root-bound, you can move it to a bigger pot. If you don't want it to get much bigger, you can also divide the plant into a couple of smaller sections for lots of smaller spider plants.

Honorable mentions: A dragon tree has similar long, thin leaves but with a trunk for added height. It's a slow grower, but over time in bright light, this can be a great option for people who are looking for tall house plants.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Why we like it: Succulents are always an indoor houseplant go-to thanks to their sturdiness and ability to survive with little to no water. This one has a defined look with plush oval leaves and a substantial height In fact, a jade plant can grow to be 3-6 feet tall. It's a slow grower, though, so this won't happen overnight. And you’ll share a long relationship with yours if you take care of it: "Fun fact: A happy, well-grown jade plant can live for decades!" Hancock tells us.

When to water it: You'll want to keep the soil moist with good drainage at the bottom of the pot. If water starts to pool at the bottom, dump it out. You don't want to let your jade plant sit in water for too long.

Where it grows best: Like many succulents, jade plants need a lot of bright, indirect sunlight. "A spot where they cast a strong shadow for at least three or four hours of the day is best," Hancock explains.

How to keep it looking its best: Hancock notes that jade plants may look study, but the leaves are relatively brittle. "It's best to keep them out of the way of kids and pets," he says. "As well as well away from the main areas of traffic in your home to prevent leaves or stems from accidentally being broken off."

Honorable mentions: If you're looking to stick in the succulent family, the Burro's tail or donkey's tail (Sedum morganianum) has similar bubbled leaves. Instead of growing upward, though, the donkey's tail grows out and down, making it a great hanging option.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra relation)


Why we like it: Its name comes from its ability to survive nearly anything, making it a no-brainer for beginners. Its look may seem pretty basic and simple, with just glossy green lance-shaped leaves, but it’s a great plant to fill in empty spots in your home with more robust greenery. Even better, it can survive almost anywhere in the house.

When to water it: You'll want to water these plants regularly, but do not let the soil get too damp. It does have some drought tolerance if the soil happens to dry out, but if the entire pot even a few inches deep feels dry, give it some water.

Where it grows best: Shady spots with indirect sunlight are best for a cast iron plant, so you may find yourself placing them underneath other plants and things. Avoid direct sunlight to keep the leaves from bleaching and burning.

How to keep it looking its best: Drainage is key when it comes to a cast iron plant. Since it does better in soil that is too dry instead of too wet, you never want to leave it sitting in water.

Honorable mentions: There are different varieties of the cast iron plant, including the Variegata which has white stripes on its green leaves, and Hoshi-zora which has yellow and white dots on the leaves.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

peace lily.jpg

Why we like it: Sometimes it's nice to break up all the beautiful leaves and vines with some flowering blooms. The peace lily is perfect for this, combining the leafiness of other house plants with some lovely blooms in between.

When to water it: The peace lily would rather be underwatered than overwatered, so if the top inch isn't dry, don't water it. Once it starts feeling dry below that top inch, you can drench it in water.

Where it grows best: “If you want to enjoy lots of flowers, be sure to give your peace lily lots of bright light,” Hancock says. “It’s a champ at tolerating low-light situations, but may not bloom much, if at all.” If you’re lucky, you can get two different blooms within a year!

How to keep it looking its best: Since a peace lily naturally grows in higher humidity climates, during the summer months you may want to mist the leaves often. This will help them maintain their glossy goodness.

Honorable mentions: If you are looking for something that blooms, there's also the Anthurium. This one features flowers in a similar shape, only their hue is a bright, beautiful red.

Philodendron Brasil (Philodendron hederaceum)

Why we like it: With streaky, heart-shaped leaves that grow from elegant vines, the Philodendron Brasil looks beautiful hanging in a window or spilling off a floating shelf. They survive if you forget to water them every so often and won't wilt, even if they don't have the best sunny seat in the house. In fact, they are prone to leaf burn from direct sunlight, so you may want to stick them in a window that doesn't bake in the afternoon.

Who should avoid it: The Philodendron Brasil is toxic if consumed, so it's not a great choice for people with young children or curious pets.

When to water it: Water when the soil is partially dry. If you're not sure how to gauge that, use the cake-test trick. Insert a chopstick into the soil. If it goes in easily and only has a few crumbs on it when you pull it out, it's ready for more water. Saturated soil will leave dark streaks on the chopstick, and really dry soil will have little to no residue.

Where it grows best: This philodendron grows best in windows that get only three to four hours of light. If it's a particularly bright window, you can hang a sheer curtain to reduce the glare.

How to keep it healthy: In its natural habitat, this plant climbs up trees, so you can put a plant stick in the soil to wrap the philodendron around it if you want it to grow tall rather than sprawling all over the floor. This plant tends to grow quite quickly, especially if it's well taken care of, so you’ll probably have to re-pot it every year or when its roots start poking out of the drain holes. Its new home shouldn't be any more than a few inches wider and deeper because if the roots can't reach all the soil, some of it will stay wet, causing bacterial or fungal outbreaks. Plastic nursery pots are lightweight and offer good drainage, so Cheng likes nesting them inside slightly larger decorative pots until it's time to transplant.

Honorable mentions: If you can't find a Philodendron Brasil or don't like its streaky appearance, the Philodendron heartleaf and the Philodendron Lemon-Lime are similarly forgiving. 

Mini Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

Why we like it: Despite its unique shape, the Mini Money Tree is actually quite commonplace and easy to find. They're also affordable, pet-friendly, and sturdy. "That's a really great, long-term plant," Cheng tells Allure. "I've had mine for almost seven years."

Who should avoid it: Money trees are tropical plants and thrive in humid environments and probably won't fare well in overly dry homes. 

When to water it: It's best to water the Mini Money Tree when the soil is soft but not noticeably damp. It'll survive a dry spell, but the soil may get a bit rocky, resulting in uneven saturation. To avoid that, poke a few holes in the topsoil with a chopstick and water slowly until you see water seep out of the drain hole.

Where it grows best: This plant is happiest in a bright spot but won't throw too much of a fit if it isn't in the brightest window of the house.

How to keep it healthy: When the trunk gets a little too lanky, Cheng cuts off the top. The lower leaves will turn yellow once new ones grow out of the top no matter how frequently you water them — it's totally natural. If you don't like the look, just trim them off with a pair of sanitized scissors.

Honorable mention: The Umbrella Tree (Schefflera Arboricola) isn't in the same genus as the Mini Money Tree, but it is similarly low-key and whimsical-looking.

Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)

Why we like it: The Monstera Deliciosa might look like a diva, but it is actually pretty low-maintenance. It won't drop its leaves if you miss a few waterings, and it'll be okay if you can't stick it right in the window.

Who should avoid it: Oakes compared the Swiss Cheese Plant to St. Bernard puppies — you shouldn't get either if you don't have lots of room for them to grow. (By the way, puppies and Monsteras are not compatible as the leaves are toxic if eaten.)

When to water it: Especially if it doesn't get a ton of light, your Monstera Deliciosa won't be very thirsty. Water it every week or so to keep the soil soft to the touch.

Where it grows best: In nature, swiss cheese plants are forest dwellers that hunt for the best lighting themselves. For that reason, they can grow just about anywhere as long as they have access to sunlight. They don't need quite as much humidity as other rainforest plants, but you can mist the leaves with water if the air in your home is a bit dry.

How to keep it looking its best: Because Monsteras tend to climb up trees, yours might be happier if you stick a trellis into its soil. "It wants to grow up, so if you could trellis it or give it something to lean up against, you're probably going to get bigger and healthier leaves," Oakes says. They also grow aerial roots, which you can clip if you don't like the look.

Honorable mentions: Because the Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma looks and behaves so much like the Monstera Deliciosa, it is often referred to as a Mini Monstera. The Monstera Siltepecana is just as easy-going as the Deliciosa, but it is much smaller, which makes it great for tighter spaces.

Hedgehog Aloe (Aloe humulis)

Why we like it: As long as it gets a lot of really bright light, the Hedgehog Aloe is pretty resilient. "Aloe plants grow in nutrient-poor conditions, so they're very good at assimilating and holding onto their nutrients," Oakes says. "They don't need to be fertilized as much as, for instance, a tropical plant with thinner leaves." Plus, this spiky plant has a pretty silhouette and can actually produce flowers.

Who should avoid it: While this plant can survive a lot of neglect, it'll probably die pretty quickly if you put it anywhere other than a bright window.

When to water it: Water your Hedgehog Aloe when its soil is totally dry and hard to the touch. Use a gritty soil mixture to prevent uneven saturation and drainage.

Where it grows best: Aloe is happiest in the brightest windows, so stick it in a space that faces the sunset. (That'll be windows facing west or south if you live in the northern hemisphere.) It'll fare much better in drier homes than those where the humidifier is running all the time.

How to keep it looking its best: According to Oakes, it's totally natural for aloe to grow a brown skirt, so don't be alarmed if the bottom leaves start looking that way. However, if you see one leaf developing brown spots or any other kind of damage, cut it off at the root with a sanitized paring knife. Whatever is causing the damage could spread to the other leaves if you don't.

Honorable mentions: Aloe Vera needs similar care but has a much more dramatic silhouette than the Hedgehog. Lace Aloe (Aristaloe aristata) is even more resilient than Hedgehog Aloe, but it kind of looks like a spiky, multilayered flower.

Dracaena Warneckii (Dracaena deremensis)

Dracaena Warneckii.jpg

Why we like it: If you love homes that look like greenhouses but get anxious about the idea of caring for so many plants, look no further than the Dracaena Warneckii. Its tall, reedy shape looks so much more bountiful than having a couple of tiny cacti on the windowsill. Plus, it is surprisingly easy to care for.

Who should avoid it: If hard water comes out of your tap, a dracaena might not be the best choice because the water will turn the tips brown. If you have fallen madly in love with this plant, there are workarounds to this issue, like knowing exactly when to water and what type of water to use (more on that below). But you'll have to decide if it's going to be more trouble than it's worth, though.

When to water it: The Dracaena Warneckii isn't quite as drought-tolerant as some of the others on this list, but you should wait until the topsoil is almost dry to water it.

Where it grows best: While some plants may bask in the scorching heat of a southern window in the afternoon, others — like the Dracaena Warneckii — will burn if they get too much exposure. Heaters and cold winter drafts might also damage a Dracaena's leaves, so keep that in mind when you're picking a spot for your plant. Because it's so big, you probably won't want to move it much.

How to keep it looking its best: Use either filtered water or rainwater, if the tap water is too hard.

Honorable mentions: The Dracaena Dorado (Dracaena Deremensis) looks and behaves like a Dracaena Warneckii. The Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata) is a much smaller version but requires similar care.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Why we like it: With their Missoni-like pattern, snake plants are tall, dark, and handsome. In addition to being able to withstand pretty much any living conditions, snake plants are also really powerful air purifiers.

When to water it: Snake plants are very drought-tolerant and you should only water when they are totally dry. One way to determine that: If you pick up the pot, you'll notice wet soil is way heavier than when it has dried out.

Where it grows best: Typically found in West African deserts, these plants are happiest in hot, bright, and dry areas. But they can pretty much take whatever you throw at them, so they'll be fine in slightly darker and more humid rooms.

How to keep it looking its best: Use sandy potting soil (like one for cacti or succulents) in order to prevent uneven watering, which can cause root rot.

Honorable mentions: The Sansevieria Moonshine (Sansevieria Robusta) looks like an inverted snake plant with slightly broader leaves, but it will benefit from the same care. The Silver Sansevieria (Sansevieria Sayuri) is also very easy-going but has a softer, brushstroke-like pattern.

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This post originally appeared on Allure and was published March 15, 2022. This article is republished here with permission.

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