Gardening Houseplants

Houseplants for Negligent Gardeners

Ill.: & dmstudio, depositphotos, montage:

By Larry Hodgson

Question: My 82-year-old mother forgets to take care of her houseplants. Yet she still adores them. Could you suggest to her some varieties of plants that she could keep despite the lack of care?

Carole Cloutier

Answer: Sure! There are many houseplants that can tolerate unequal care. In fact, many almost thrive on neglect … as long as at least some watering occurs. (Watering is the one thing indoors plants can’t take care of on their own.)

The following plants are easy to grow, require no fussy care and are very drought tolerant, but can also get along under less than perfect light conditions (really good light is sooo rare in homes). 

Aspidistra in a living room
The aspidistra (Aspidistra elatior) is often called cast iron plant because it tolerates neglect so well. Photo:
  • Aspidistra or cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
  • African milk tree (Euphorbia trigona)
  • Clivia (Clivia miniata)
  • Crassula or jade plant (Crassula argentea)
  • Elephant’s foot or ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
  • Heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum oxycardium)
  • Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
  • Medicinal aloe (Aloe vera)
Mistletoe cactus in a white hanging basket
Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis spp.). Photo: jobrestful, depositphotos
  • Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis spp.)
  • Ox tongue (Gasteria spp.)
  • Sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Spineless Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)
  • Wax plant (Hoya carnosa)
Zebra haworthia with white banding on leaves.
Zebra haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata). Low care and long-lived! Photo: Renata.Ka, depositphotos
  • Zebra haworthia (Haworthia attenuata, now Haworthiopsis attenuata)
  • ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Obviously, when you are at your mother’s place, you could always discreetly water a few plants if you feel the negligence seems to be going a bit too far … or suggest that you and your mother water the plants together.

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.

3 comments on “Houseplants for Negligent Gardeners

  1. Donna Bright

    Yesterday my son-in-law gave me two plants that can be relatively neglected, including a Sansevieria . Unfortunately I was particularly negligent as I placed the box with the plants in it down in my driveway. I forgot about the box and ran over it with my car! Luckily only the pots were damaged. I don’t think you can give advice about that level of negligence!

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