Gardening Houseplants

Five Houseplants You Just Can’t Kill

Photo:,,,, &, montage:

I know, not everybody has a green thumb. But just about anybody can at least keep a houseplant not only alive, but thriving. It really depends more than anything else on choosing the right plant. Yes, many plants sold as houseplants – gardenias, azaleas, hibiscus, poinsettias, etc. – really should never be sold to beginning gardeners: they’re just too hard to grow. But there are a few plants that are so easy, I’d be surprised if you managed to kill one. 

Here are five houseplants that are pretty much unkillable: try them and see!

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

Heartleaf Philodendron in white pot

It grows in the deepest, darkest jungles in the wild and will take just about anything you can throw at it indoors. Full sun to deep shade, humid to dry air, frequent fertilizing or none at all. It can be used in hanging baskets or trained to grow up an indoor trellis. It’s claim to fame are its dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Just water it once in a while and it will thrive!

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue with marbled leaves

This succulent with clusters thick, tall, pointed leaves that give it its name is famous for its ability to tolerate neglect. As a boy, I can recall one in the far corner of the local strip mall barber shop whose pot was used as an ashtray… and it seemed fine with that. Although it will tolerate just about any conditions, including dark corners and months of drought, if you give it good light and water regularly, it may surprise you by flowering one day, with spikes of greenish-yellow night-scented blooms. 

Zizi Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Zizi plant with shiny leaves

It’s a relative newcomer to the houseplant world, but its thick-stemmed fronds and bright shiny dark green leaflets are making it popular fast. So is the fact that it can tolerate total neglect. Just give it moderate light and a splash of water every now and then and it will be happy.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Jade plant against brick wall

This one does like a bit of direct sun, and in fact, the more the better, but is otherwise one tough cookie. It has a thick, succulent stem that takes on a woody appearance over time, plus plump, spoon-shaped leaves. Well-grown, it almost begins to look like a bonsai! An occasional watering is about all it needs.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider plant on windowsill, a few babies

The thin, arching grassy leaves and long, trailing stolons of baby plants have none of the sturdy appearance of the other plants here, but under the soil are big, thick, white roots that hold a lot of moisture and help keep it alive through almost anything. It will tolerate shade, but produces many more babies in bright light. Just water it when the soil is dry to the touch… and maybe share a few of the babies with friends!


There you go: 5 houseplants you simply can’t kill. Start with these to hone your growing skills and pretty soon you will be able to grow the more persnickety flowering plants that always seem so desirable.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

7 comments on “Five Houseplants You Just Can’t Kill

  1. Great post, but people should be aware that, other than spider plants, these are all toxic to pets.

    • Thank you for the warning. For further reading, here is a list of houseplants toxic to plants: 200 Poisonous Houseplants

      • Thanks for the link! I’ve accidentally bought a few toxic plants over the years, so now I make a point of checking, but I think a lot of people don’t realize how many plants aren’t pet safe.

      • Oddly enough, of all the pets I’ve had over the years (cats, dogs, iguanas, the list goes on and on, including probably at least 40 kittens!), in a house crowded with literally hundreds of plants, many of them poisonous, and lots of plants shredded to near death, I’ve never had a single poisoning. One kitten died mysteriously outdoors, though, with grass in her mouth, and we always thought she might have been poisoned by a plant in the garden (plenty of poisonous plants there), either that or some pesticide used by a neighbour big on that sort of thing.

      • That’s horrible about your kitten 🙁 I have cats and one likes to chew crunchy leaves. He got sick once (not seriously, thankfully) and will go after anything within reach, unfortunately (which means any leaves that fall to the floor before I notice them). You never know when a pet will do something unexpected, though.

      • True. Most of my cat problems have been from them taking over my plant spaces and pushing my plants to the floor.

  2. I actually witnessed the death of ZZ (or zizi) plant! Some of the so-called ‘gardeners’ I worked for years ago watered it to death! It was horrid. Well, I am none to keen on that one anyway.
    Spider plants has potential to become an invasive weed in riparian situations here. I sill like it though, even more than ZZ plant.

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