The best indoor plants for people who kill plants

Plants that will survive your dark apartment and forgetful nature.
indoor plants
Jason Briscoe via Unsplash

Up until a month ago, I was quite certain that I wasn’t a “plant person.” There was one year when I tried tending to my portion of a community garden—and well, my efforts might as well have been the plague itself. But now?

I’m the proud parent of three houseplants with plans for more to come. You might even say that I’ve finally joined my millennial comrades in our faddish plant obsession. Though it’s not because I need an excuse to stay home or am using plants to fill the void in my heart. Having plants simply has a very calming effect, and they naturally brighten my living space, which is also my office.

So if you’re interested in getting plants but are wavering on your decision because you have a self-proclaimed rotten thumb, take heart: If I could do it, there’s definitely hope for you. Here are a few of my favorite plants that also happen to be me-proof: perfect for those of us who hesitate at adding ‘watering and caring for plants’ to our list of adult responsibilities.

Popular indoor plants that are hard to kill

ZZ plant in a Table

Call me biased, but a “ZZ plant” (the shorthand of its scientific name Zamioculcas zamiifolia) was the first plant I’d purchased because it was exactly what I needed: A “gateway” plant that had beautiful, waxy, dark green leaves that could withstand plenty of neglect. It’s a chill plant, being content in low-light conditions and with little watering. In fact, you could risk over-watering it.

All parts of the ZZ plant are poisonous if ingested and could cause skin irritation. On the bright side, NASA has proclaimed it to be a great air purifier. Overall, it’s very beginner-friendly, but don’t nosh on it and keep the plant out of reach from ever inquisitive pets or children that might try to nibble on it.

Quick care tips: The ZZ thrives best in low to bright indirect light, and water only when the dirt is fully dry. If your ZZ plant’s leaves start to yellow, it’s an indicator that you might actually be watering it too much. Once a week can be plenty, and in the winter months, even less frequently is ideal.

Snake plant in a room

You’ve probably seen the super popular snake plant on Instagram or at your local coffee shops and restaurants. Their vertical, spear-like leaves make them stand out in a sea of green. Not to be confused with the spider plant, snake plants can come in a number of varietals: tall or short, with different leaf and color patterns. This was the second plant I bought to sit on my floor, and boy, do I love the heck out of it. They add a very exciting, bold visual element to any living space—alone or among other plants.

Probably one of my favorite features is that they don’t attract many pests or at all, and according to NASA, they keep the air inside the home clean. But like the ZZ plant, don’t eat it.

Quick care tips: Other than exposing them to direct sunlight and frigid temperatures, snake plants are virtually indestructible (or so I’m told by the local nursery whence it came). They don’t need much water, especially during the winter; can survive low levels of light, although they thrive best in medium light (about 10 feet from a west or south window); and could even be in a bathroom, where humidity is higher.

Make sure it is thoroughly dry before you water it, which could be once every 7 to 14 days.

Rubber plant

If you want an indoor tree-like plant that grows tall and has large, deep green leaves, look no further than the rubber plant, which is a nice contender to the crazy-popular the fiddle leaf fig.

For us normally plant-averse folks, the rubber plant can be quite a commitment because it can grow fast and tall. Most experts, like the kind employee at the Los Angeles nursery I visited, would recommend that you start out with a smaller, younger rubber plant (perhaps three feet). With a little patience and just a bit more care, they can adapt better to indoor living than mature plants and signal to guests that “Wow, you’re a plant person who knows what they’re doing after all!”

Quick care tips: Unlike the other plants we’ve discussed so far, the rubber plant thrives best in medium to very brightly lit environments. It’s a no go in low-light conditions, and it certainly won’t be happy if put in direct sunlight.

During the summer or when the air is dry, use a mister or a damp cloth to keep the plant moist. In the winter months, you may only need to water it once or twice a month. Leaves that start to droop may mean that you are not watering it enough, whereas leaves that turn yellow or brown are screaming for you to stop watering them so darn much.

Asparagus fern hanging on a wall

Perhaps it’s clear by now that I’m a fan of the bolder leafy plants, but the fluffy asparagus fern and its kind have earned its place here. Its fuzzy, bright foliage adds diversity to what is hopefully a plethora of flourishing flora in your home. The asparagus fern makes for a great plant to hang in baskets and containers.

Quick care tips: These fellas are most happy in bright, indirect sunlight and prefer humidity, especially during the winter months when you might be running the heater. Overall it can tolerate a bit of abuse (like forgetting to water it—oops). Ideally, you should use a mister to keep the plant moist, preferably daily, and focus on the arching stems. If it starts to brown or droop, you might need to water it a bit more.

RELATED: These plants bring all the birds to your yard

Lucky bamboo in a table

OK, if there was one plant that is almost impossible to kill, the lucky bamboo (or dracaenas) is it. They’re easy as pie to take care of. There’s no soil required (at least until substantial roots have grown, then you would put it in soil), and it can tolerate low light. The stems can be “directed” to bend in cool shapes and arrangements, too.

Quick care tips: It grows best in bright light and with tap water that doesn’t contain many minerals. If you notice it’s developing brown tips, try switching to distilled water. You’ll need to change out the water every so often (about two months) so it’s not gross. Make sure the water completely covers the roots. As with the other plants on this list, avoid direct sunlight.

This is just a sampling of the myriad indoor plants you can cultivate and love. There’s not a thumb too black to start owning and caring for plants. I told myself that I couldn’t do it. But I committed and, hark, my plants are still alive.

This is just a sampling of the myriad indoor plants you can cultivate and love. There’s not a thumb too black to start owning and caring for plants. I told myself that I couldn’t do it. But I committed and, hark, my plants are still alive.