Peace Lily: May 2020 Houseplant of the Month


The peace lily is a popular houseplant, one often recommended to beginners. It’s a dual-purpose plant, grown both for its attractive foliage and stunning flowers. And it is widely available: any shop selling houseplants will have it.

The peace lily’s official name, Spathiphyllum, is derived from the Greek words for spathe and leaf, referring to the leaflike white spathe that is part of the plant’s inflorescence. 

Origin of the Peace Lily

The peace lily originates from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. In the wild, it likes a warm, damp environment and often grows in deep shade, although it only blooms in forest openings. The plant was first introduced to Europe in 1870 and has enjoyed a rapid development since then. As recently as the 1980s, there were only a few varieties derived from Spathiphyllum wallisii on the market, but the genus has since undergone extensive selection and hybridization, so much so that today there are now over 50 cultivars among which to choose. 

What to Look for When Buying Peace Lilies

Look for a healthy plant with flowers and buds and plenty of green leaves.
  • Dimensions and appearance: When buying peace lilies, look particularly at the pot size, the diameter and density of the plant, the size of the spathe, the plant’s growth (compact or open) and the number of buds or flower stems. 
  • Health: It is also important that plants be healthy without pests or diseases.  
  • Damage: If the inflorescence or the foliage is damaged or flawed, often the result of shipping or storage, it’s best to pick another specimen. 
  • Foliage and flowers: Watch out for wilted flowers or plants showing yellow foliage, the latter a sign of past mistreatment. Spots on the leaves caused by cold damage or scorching by the sun are also possible.
  • Moisture: If the plant has wilted leaves, the potting soil is too dry. Never buy a wilted peace lily!


Peace lilies come in all different sizes.
Peace lilies come in all differentiations sizes.

With over 50 different peace lily cultivars, you might wonder what the differences are. 

First, they all have white flowers (some may be slightly greenish) and shiny green leaves*, so the difference lies mainly in the size of the plant, its leaves and its flowers. Older varieties tended to have only a fewer flowers, while recent cultivars have more or larger blooms. Peace lilies can range in size from no bigger than a coffee cup to almost 2 m (6 feet) in height, notably the giant cultivar ‘Sensation’.

*One variety, ‘Domino’, differs from the others because of its variegated leaves.

The number of flowers and size of the flower should be in proportion to the plant’s foliage. 

If ever you see peace lilies with blue, fluorescent orange or shell pink flowers, you’re being taken for a ride. They’ve been dyed to boost sales. When the plant blooms again, its flowers will be the traditional white. 

Care Tips

Good light, even moisture, normal indoor temperatures: they’re all you need to keep a peace lily happy!

The peace lily is quite easy to grow, as long as you keep it evenly moist. 

  • Peace lilies are often sold as “shade plants” and indeed, will grow reasonably with no direct sun at all. However, to bloom well, they require bright light, even very bright light, including a few hours of morning sun.
  • Indoors temperatures around 18–22 °C (65–72 °F) are fine. 
  • Water regularly with tepid water. If the leaves droop, the soil has dried out, so place the plant in a large bowl of warm water and let the root ball soak for an hour or so to help it rehydrate. Don’t allow this to happen often: each time you let the plant wilt, it will lose leaves and weaken.
  • Remove faded flowers.
  • The plant enjoys humid air, but avoid misting the leaves. That can result in stains and leaf diseases.
  • Fertilize regularly with a diluted all-purpose fertilizer from spring through fall.
  • If your plant becomes reluctant to bloom over time, give it a shock. In winter, place it in a brightly lit spot for 6 to 8 weeks at a temperature of only 15 °C (60 °F). This is a near-lethal temperature for this very tropical plant and the near-death experience can result in it flowering vigorously again once it is moved back into the warmth. 
  • Your plant can also be placed in the garden or on the patio in the summer, but avoid bright sunlight.

Clean Air Machine?

The air-purifying properties of the peace lily have made it very popular.

The NASA Clean Air Study of 1993 highly praised the peace lily for its above-average air purifying qualities and this resulted in a surge in popularity that has remained steady to this day. There is even some research suggesting it may help filter human diseases, like cold and flu viruses, from the air.

Display Tips

This easy-to-grow plant also has calming effects thanks to its simple flowing leaf shapes. Place it in a pot made of natural material, ceramic or (artificial) resin. The plant looks even more serene behind a matte or semi-transparent screen. 

Enjoy your peace lily!

For more information on the peace lily, read Making Peace with your Peace Lily.

Text and photos adapted from a press release by
Styling by Elize Eveleens, Klimprodukties

Pattern Plants as Indoor Decorations


Pattern plants (here, peace lilies) add a vibrant, earthy aspect to any home. Think too about choosing pots that suit the decor. Source:

A Guest Blog by Vicky Layton

Decorating your home is always an exciting opportunity for you to add your personal touch, particularly if you’ve just moved house and you’re starting with a blank canvas. Your home design should reflect your family daily life as well as being a comfortable and practical living space. Greenery can add a vibrant, earthy aspect to any home, as well as providing you with cleaner air due to its filtering properties.

Pattern plants, in particular, bring another dimension to your home as a stylish accessory. What is a pattern plant exactly? They’re essentially plants with an extra something special, whether that’s patterned leaves or unusual flowers; they look great around the home.

So, whether you’re decorating from scratch or rejuvenating a tired room in your home, here’s a guide to using pattern plants as indoor decorations:

In the Lounge or Conservatory

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Add greenery to a lounge for a finishing touch. Source: Shabd Simon-Alexander,

The lounge and conservatory are living spaces where all the family congregate at the end of a busy day. Conservatories are a relaxing area that your guests are likely to spend a lot of time in whenever they come over, especially in summer, so the interior design of the room is important. Complement your conservatory furniture with a dash of greenery. Greenery can add life and color to an otherwise minimal room. The best part of greenery in a lounge or conservatory is dotting them around to create a subtle yet beautiful overall aesthetic. Pattern plants that work well in a lounge or conservatory include: watermelon peperomia, zebra plant and peace lily.


Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia). Source:

  • Watermelon peperomias (Peperomia argyreia) have a gorgeous reddish tint on the stems and underside of the leaves, ideal if your lounge color palette includes warming colors.


    Zebra plant (Calathea zebrina). Source:

  • Zebra plants (Calathea zebrina) are aptly named because of the zebra pattern running down the leaves, a beautiful art deco style plant that looks wonderful in the living room.
  • Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) are dark green with white “flowers” (which is actually a white leaf that grows hooded over the real flowers). They look sensational against a bold wallpaper or places in the middle of a coffee table for a touch of sophistication.

Bedroom Decoration


Plants in the bedroom clean the air and give extra oxygen. Source:

Your bedroom decoration doesn’t need to please everyone’s tastes: it’s your own private retreat. When it comes to delicate pattern plants in your bedroom, the options are endless.


Satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus). Source:

Satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus) looks smart and polished. The leaves have a silvery pattern and a beautiful teardrop shape.


Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). Source:

Similarly, a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) has interestingly shaped leaves, as well as symmetrical dark green patterns running through them. Don’t forget that the pots the plants grow in can also be an opportunity to add color and style.

For the Bathroom

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Succulents won’t live forever in most bathrooms, too dark for their taste, but you can switch them with other plants regularly, moving them into bright sun. Source: Nooches, Hannah Jackson

Many people don’t consider a bathroom as a prime place to include greenery in the home, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to add come character and color to the space. Bathrooms are typically white, mostly due to the white fixtures, so the contrast of green colors works particularly well. Low-maintenance plants are ideal for the bathroom, as it’s likely you’ll want to focus most of your attention on the main rooms in the house. Succulents such as cacti are popular choices as bathroom plants, as they require very little upkeep but look quirky and interesting placed on a bathroom shelf.

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The snake plant (Sanseveria trifasciata) tolerates low light better than most other succulents and is an ideal choice for the windowless bathroom. Source: www.waitrosegarden.

Snake plants (Sanseveria trifasciata) also need little attention, but the shape of the leaves and striped patterns will give the bathroom a boost of color and style.

Pattern Plants Around the Home

The next time you’re taking on a design project in your home and you’re gathering together the ornaments and finishing touches for decoration; consider a pattern plant as an unusual alternative.

20181002I Vicky Layton.jpgVicky Layton

Hi! My name is Vicky, I’m an interior designer, running enthusiast and occasional model. Fashion and design are and will always be my passions and I also love sports. I am currently doing an internship but I would love to open my showroom soon!

Making Peace With Your Peace Lily



Peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.). Source:

The peace lily or spathiphylllum (Spathiphyllum spp.), also called spathe leaf or white sails, is one of the most popular houseplants and with good reason. Very few houseplants that bloom so beautifully are as easy to grow. And it’s not just a flowering plant. Thanks to its attractive leaves, it makes a stunning foliage plant as well. It is often offered too as an excellent plant for air purification, although that point is debatable. (Hint, pretty much any healthy plant will clean the air.)


A white sail-like spathe surrounds the columnar spadix bearing the true flowers. Source:

Its botanical name means “leaf spathe”, referring to the white leaflike bract (spathe) that protects the true flowers. The latter are found on a columnar white to yellow structure called a spadix in front of the spathe. They’re very tiny—just little white bumps on the spadix—and scarcely noticeable, although you’ll find them shedding a bit of white pollen occasionally. Often too the flower is faintly scented at night. The inflorescence can last for well over a month, slowly turning greenish. I’ve never seen one produce seeds in a home setting.

The plant forms a rosette of attractively veined, dark green pointed leaves arching outwards, usually quickly surrounded by offsets, and is stemless at first. However, over time, as new leaves appear from the top of the rosette and lower ones are removed, a short stem will appear.

A Bit of Background

The peace lily hails from Central and South America where it usually grows in tropical rainforests, although I’ve seen it positively thriving in full tropical sun in Costa Rica, albeit in very soggy soil. It’s an aroid, that is, a member of the Araceae or philodendron family, a group that includes other popular, low-light foliage plants like pothos, monsteras and syngoniums and also a few flowering plants, like anthuriums.


The peace lily got its common name from its resemblance to a calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) flower. Source:

The common name peace lily derives from the resemblance of the inflorescence to that of the calla lily (Zantedeschia spp.), another aroid. Neither resemble a true lily (Lilium) in any way. Where the name “peace” comes from, though, I have no idea.

There are about 40 species of spathiphyllum, a few possibly still grown as houseplants (S. wallisii, for example), but most spathiphyllums you’ll see today are hybrids. They can range in size from no bigger than a coffee cup to as tall as a human being (notably the giant cultivar ‘Sensation’). Some, ‘Domino’ for example, have variegated leaves.

Growing Spathiphyllums Well


A thoroughly wilted spathiphyllum someone forgot to water. Don’t do this too often or you’ll kill your plant! Source:

Although spathiphyllums are touted as easy-to-grow houseplants, they aren’t really the toughest plants around. They notably truly dislike drying out and will wilt like lettuce in the sun if you don’t water them regularly. Do that too often—or leave one without water for too long a time—and your plant will be toast! That’s why the main rule in spathiphyllum care is to remember to water them, always. As soon as the soil feels even slightly dry to the touch, pour on enough water to thoroughly moisten the root ball.

Some authorities recommend using the earliest signs of wilting to recognize when the plant needs watering. They’ve got it wrong! Wilting even slightly damages the plant, causing root damage and eventually leading to brown leaf tips. Here’s the real truth: moist soil = happy spathiphyllum. It’s that simple!

How often do you need to water them? That will depend on your growing conditions, the size of the pot and how full of offsets the pot is, but it can be more than once a week under some circumstances. Under low light, though, where the plants struggle a bit more to survive, you have to be careful to water more moderately and certainly not let the pots soak in water for long periods.


Spathiphyllums will survive in low light, but won’t bloom much. Source:

The main selling point for spathiphyllums is that they tolerate low light … and they do. But what the salesperson doesn’t tell you is that they won’t bloom in low light, not indoors at least. Maybe in some tropical forest, they would. If you want flowers, they’re going to need at least moderate light and—yes!—possibly some direct sun. Ideally, you’d set them in a well-lit room, but back from the window. They do very well in office settings where most of the light comes from overhead fluorescent lamps … but will bloom better if you set them on top of filing cabinets, nearer the source of light, then on the floor.

Spathiphyllums will let you know if they’re getting too much light (a surprisingly rare phenomenon), as the leaves will start to turn yellow and curl under. Full outdoor sun may even cause leaves to burn, leaving black necrotic marks, so if you put your spathiphyllums outdoors for the summer, keep them in at least moderate shade.

Spathiphyllums grown in bright light will flower abundantly, mostly heavily in the spring, but sporadically throughout summer and fall and sometimes even in winter. Those grown in low light will struggle to bloom at all.

All the rest is routine houseplant care. They like warm temperatures indoors, above 55˚ F (13˚ C) at all times (they’ll tolerate less down to 45˚ F/7˚ C, but why stress them?). They also like good atmospheric humidity, but will put up with dry air. Don’t spray the leaves in trying to remedy this: you can spread diseases (more about that below). Instead use a humidifier or a humidity tray to keep humidity up. They don’t require much fertilizer. I suggest using fertilizer as a reward, applying any all-purpose fertilizer at ¼ the recommended rate whenever they come into bloom.

Cut off or remove faded flowers and yellowing leaves as needed. Dead leaves often cling stubbornly to the stem, as they wrap right around it at the base. Read When Dead Leaves Just Won’t Let Go! to learn how to remove them more easily.



You’ll occasionally need to divide your spathiphyllum or at least repot it into a larger container. Source:

Most spathiphyllums produce offsets (baby plants) at their base and, indeed, the pot often fills with them, creating serious competition for resources, often to the point where the mother plant actually starts to shrink in size and bloom less. So you have to pot spathiphyllums into larger and larger pots over time … and eventually, divide them. When you split them up, I suggest starting off with just one to three plants per pot. You may find this results in dozens of babies to give away!

You can repot them at any time during the growing season, but it’s best not to repot in winter, when they’re a bit stressed out and will take longer to recuperate.

Repot into a container large enough to readily hold the root ball, using just about any potting soil. Set the plant lower in its pot than it was originally so that any bare stem—already covered in short, stubby adventitious roots—is covered. These roots will soon lengthen and come to strengthen the plant. Finish by watering well.

Pests and Diseases

Spathiphyllums aren’t particularly subject to pests, but mealybugs, scale insects and aphids will attack almost any plant, spathiphyllums included. Repeated treatments with insecticidal soap or neem may be needed to control them. The best way of avoiding such problems is to carefully inspect plants before you buy them and keep any houseplants that are so infested away from your spathiphyllums.

Root rot is possible, especially if you overwater a plant that previously had suffered root loss to underwatering. If your plant wilts even when you water well, and if the soil smells like a rotten potato, it probably has root rot. I’d suggest culling such a plant, tossing its soil, and thoroughly cleaning its pot before reusing it. You could, however, always try to save a healthy offset or two … if there are any!

Leaf spots, patches of yellow or dead tissue caused by fungus or bacteria, are possible and are best prevented by not buying infected plants. Since most spathiphyllums these days are grown from tissue culture, that is, in laboratories under sterile conditions, they’re usually disease-free when you get they get to the store. However, if your local supplier doesn’t keep fairly sterile conditions (yes, I do mean those big box stores whose plants always seem half dead!), they can pick them up there. Also, diseases can spread from your other houseplants, notably if you have the bad habit of regularly spraying your plants with water. I recommend only spraying spathiphyllum leaves when you’re cleaning them, something you only really need to do once a year at the most.


Brown leaf tips usually result from underwatering or a buildup of mineral salts in the soil.

Brown leaf tips or edges? This is usually caused by chronic underwatering. Water is simply not making its way all the way to the tip of the leaves. The other cause is soil contaminated with excess mineral salts. You can try leaching to remove some of the contaminants, but repotting into fresh soil is a much better way of solving the problem.



Spathiphyllum ‘Domino’ is one of the rare spathiphyllums that is easy to recognize without a label. Its variegated foliage gives it away. Source:

There are dozens of spathiphyllum cultivars — ‘Chopin’, ‘Clevelandii’, ‘Mauna Loa’, ‘Petite’, ‘Sensation’, ‘Sweet Pablo’, etc. —, but the plants you see in garden centers are usually sold without any label. (Typically, nursery owners believe home gardeners don’t care about such things. They’re wrong!) Given the impossibility of getting a correct identification, I suggest just buying a spathiphyllum whose size and appearance suits you. If you want to start collecting known varieties, you’ll be pretty much forced to contact specialized nurseries.


Yes, spathiphyllums are considered poisonous to both humans and pets. Like all aroids, they contain oxalic acid, which can cause a needlelike burning sensation in the mouth and even greater irritation if swallowed. In fact, though, just how toxic they are has never been studied and there appear to be no cases of serious poisoning on record. Simply biting into a leaf causes enough instant discomfort, without doing any serious harm, that the person or animal usually stops immediately.

Peace lilies: easy enough to grow, but if you want flowers, give them more light!20180325A

15 Not-So-Easy Houseplants


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This peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is suffering from chronic underwatering: a typical problem with this species. It’s not as easy to grow as many people claim. Source:

In preparing yesterday’s article, 15 Easy Houseplants for Beginners, I, of course, took a look at other websites to see what they suggested. (No, that’s not plagiarism: it’s called “research!”) But I must admit I was surprised by some of their suggestions, sometimes even horrified!

After all, the purpose of writing such a piece is to showcase indoor plants that are particularly easy to grow, ones that even the most fledgling gardener could grow without difficulty. But these other lists included plants that I would never have thought to include among easy-to-grow plants, plants whose flaws rather make them a challenge to keep alive unless special precautions are taken. In fact, plants I would normally warn people about.

Let’s take a look and see.

Why Do These Not-So-Easy Plants Fail?

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Good light is very rare in most homes, leading plants to suffer from etiolation, like this unfortunate Aloe vera. Source:

Sometimes the problem is simply that the plant needs really good light. I would never recommend such a plant as an easy-to-grow houseplant, not considering the horrible indoor lighting conditions most people have. Even fairly experienced indoors gardeners tend to overestimate the quality of light they have available to them. Imagine beginners!

The average dwelling is not a greenhouse, with light from above and on all sides. In most rooms, it only comes from one side, through a vertical window. And most readers of this blog live in temperate climates, where sun may be fairly abundant indoors in the summer, but miserably lacking in winter, what with short days and weeks of cloudy conditions. So even right in front of your largest window, there is often not enough light for many plants, especially if it’s on the north side of our home (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is). Imagine what conditions are like in the back of the room! That’s why, in my opinion, only plants that can tolerate low light can be considered easy-to-grow houseplants.

And they must also be not only capable of putting up with low light, but of doing for long periods. This belief that some many commercial nurseries seem to have—that 8 weeks is an acceptable lifespan for a houseplant (see The Life Expectancy of Houseplants) and therefore that a plant that can last 8 weeks in near darkness can be classified as a low-light plant—is just nonsense! According to my way of thinking, to be shade-tolerant, it always has to be able to grow and even thrive in shade, not just for a few weeks, but years.

In other cases, not-so-easy houseplants are too sensitive to dry air for the average home, too subject to insects or diseases, naturally short-lived or have special requirements that go beyond regular maintenance and thus complicate their care. If you can’t just resume a plant’s care by saying “put it in your living room and water it when its soil dries out,” it’s not an easy-to-grow houseplant.

15 Not-So-Easy Houseplants

Here are 15 indoor plants that appear on other people’s list of easy houseplants. In general, no, they aren’t extremely difficult to grow, at least not for a gardener with experience, but, for one reason or another, you just can’t expect a beginning gardener to succeed with them.

1. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ and other cultivars)

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Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata cv). Source:

This fern tolerates dry air better than most other ferns, which is great, but is far less tolerant of shade. In fact, it really only does well when put in a pretty sunny location … and that’s not what most people do.

The Boston fern used to be a far easier houseplant before the middle of the last century, one our grandparents often grew to astounding sizes. What changed? Our indoor environment! We heat our homes more, yet this plant likes a cool winter. As a result, it often gets smaller and thinner over time instead of plumping up like a happy houseplant should do.

2. Bromeliads (Aechmea, Guzmania, Tillandsia, Vriesea, etc.)

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Various bromeliads. Source:

These plants are totally charming and can last for months in a typical house. But usually, they’re sold in bloom … and that’s a problem, because they die after flowering! And it’s just plain unfair to hoist a soon-to-die plant off on a rank beginner.

True enough, with rare exceptions, bromeliads will produce at least one “pup” (offset) before they go, a pup that will flower in its turn … a few years down the road! Understanding that is a lot to ask of a novice gardener. They’re more likely to become discouraged when they see the mother plant deteriorating bit by bit.

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Air plants (various species of Tillandsia) need such different care from other houseplants, they need to be treated separately. Source:

As for air plants (Tillandsia spp.), a subgroup of bromeliads, their situation is somewhat different. First, they are rarely sold in bloom, but rather as unrooted plants you’re supposed to hang from the ceiling or deposit on or glue to an indoor arrangement of some sort. The fact that they need totally different treatment from any other houseplant automatically makes them complicated. They have to be watered, not by humidifying the soil they grow in (because they don’t grow in soil!), but by soaking them in water or spraying them regularly. Of course, they also need bright light and air movement. I wouldn’t say air plants are necessarily difficult to grow, but they aren’t easy either. If you want to know more about growing air plants (Tillandsia), read How to Make Your Air Plants Thrive.

3. Butterfly Palm or Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens, syn. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)


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Butterfly Palm (Dypsis lutescens). Source:

This plant’s susceptibility to spider mites makes it a challenge to grow. It often breezes through summer in fine shape, then, with the arrival of fall and drier indoor air, spider mites show up and soon start to take over. You never seem to be able to get rid of them entirely!

The butterfly palm is not the only palm with this problem, by the way. As a result, few are good choices for beginners.

4. Cacti and Succulents

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Cactus and succulents: great choices if you have full sun, but most aren’t given nearly enough light and go downhill slowly once you bring them home. Source:

There are hundreds of houseplants in this category and most are not at all hard to grow … if you have a lot of light. Indeed, most even prefer full sun (there’s not much of that in the average home)! Sadly, our homes are simply much more shaded than most people imagine. As a result, I see cactus and succulents in various states of decline wherever I go. Yes, they may be still alive, but barely.

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This is not a happy cactus (Opuntia). It’s severely etiolated due to insufficient light. Move it to a sunny window, fast! Source:

Of course, among the wide variety of succulents, there are some that tolerate some shade and are therefore better choices for beginners, such as aloes (Aloe spp., including A. vera), haworthias (Haworthia spp.), gasterias (Gasteria spp.), succulent euphorbias (Euphorbia spp.) and, of course, the oh-so-popular jade plant (Crassula ovata) … but they still need a location that receives at least 5 hours of indirect light per day, therefore a location very close to a window. You have no idea of how many very sad, floppy jade plants I see, alive but struggling, in people’s homes. Their weeping stems seem to say, “Please put me out of my misery!”

Also, many beginner gardeners lose their succulents over the winter because they water too much. When you grow succulents, it is very important to let the soil dry out before watering again. Doubly so when light is low, as is the case in winter. Often, at that season, cacti and succulents only need to be watered once a month, yet the average indoor gardener tends to water everything they grow once a week. You can just feel the rot settling in!

5. Calathea (Calathea spp.)

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Calathea zebrina. Source:

This is a prime example of a plant that “holds” for several months, especially when you buy it in the spring or summer, but ends up going rapidly downhill in the winter. It’s supersensitive to dry air (a common problem indoors in winter) and really has a hard time dealing with the lower light winter brings. The result is a great plant that soon goes bad.

6. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

20180127I Codiaeum variegatum

Most crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) drop their leaves one after the other when you move them into your home and soon come to look like this. How could anyone possibly call them easy to grow? Source:

Recommending crotons to beginning gardeners is out and out horrific. This plant has a terrible reputation among gardeners for its ability to quickly go to pieces when you bring it home. The problem is that it simply doesn’t tolerate changes in its growing conditions, so when it goes from the full sun and high humidity of Florida or Costa Rica to a dingy apartment where the air is drier than the Sahara, it starts losing leaves. And more and more fall off as time goes on. Now, if you know how to properly acclimatize it, you can get it to adapt perfectly well to average indoor conditions, but it’s hardly a plant you’d want to entrust to a beginning gardener! Shame on anyone who promotes the croton as an easy-to-grow plant!

7. English ivy (Hedera helix)

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English ivy (Hedera helix). Source:

Typically, this plant is easy to grow in spring and summer, then fall comes and it falls apart. The problem is that when the air gets drier, as it almost always does during the heating season, spider mites appear out of nowhere and quickly kill it. Few plants can be covered with spider mites as quickly as English ivy.

8. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

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Like most peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) sold these days, this one is severely underpotted and will quickly go into decline unless it receives very good care. Source:

Sure, this plant is easy enough in general, but it quickly takes on a wilted lettuce look when it runs out of water and each time it does, the next recovery is less and less successful. It always seems to be drastically underpotted when it reaches your local garden center, which, of course, compounds the problem. Quite often, it must be watered more than once a week just to survive! Repotting it into a bigger pot as soon as you get it home will help, but if you’re one of those people who tend to forget to water every now and then, the peace lily is definitely not a wise choice for you!

9. Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

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Severely overcrowded, this pot of Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla) won’t likely live very long. Source:

Few Norfolk Island pines survive more than a few months in the average house. Their need for fresh, humid air while our homes are hot and dry in the winter ends up killing them. Plus, the trend these days is for nurseries to stick a half a dozen or so young plants in the same pot so it will look fuller … and that only means there are more roots competing for the water you apply, with fatal results. Under good conditions, and when reduced to one or two plants per pot, this indoor conifer can live for decades. Still, I wouldn’t offer it to a rank beginner!

10. Peperomia (Peperomia spp.)

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One of many types of peperomia. Here, Peperomia caperata ‘Emerald Ripple’. Lazaregagnidze, Wikimedia Commons

There are too many species (over 1500!) of peperomias for me to make more than a vague generalization about them, but even so, many of the commercially available varieties are prone to rot if overwatered … and who doesn’t apply just a bit too much moisture every now and then? Typically, peperomias grow well at first and its owner is very pleased with the result, then, months later, they suddenly keel over and die. It can be quite a shock to see them go from healthy and happy to dead and rotting in just a few days.

11. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

20180127P Maranta leuconeura erythroneura

Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura erythroneura). Source:

Yet another plant that gives encouraging results at first, especially if you buy in spring or summer, when there is more light in our homes and the air is generally humid, but the low light and dry air of winter cause it to die back gradually. By spring, it’s often only the shadow if its former self, if indeed it’s still alive.

12. Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

20180127H Ficus elastica Burgundy

Rubber plant (Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’). Source:

It’s unfortunate that nurseries continue to insist that the rubber plant is a low-light plant when, on the contrary, it requires a lot of light, even full sun. True enough, it “holds” quite well in shady spots, sometimes for six months or more, but once it’s used up its energy reserves, leaves start to drop one by one until death ensues.

13. Schefflera or Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla, syn. Brassaia actinophylla)

20180127S Schefflera actinophylla

Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla). Source:

This is the larger of the two common scheffleras, the one with big, shiny, umbrella-like leaves, not the dwarf schefflera (S. arboricola), a much, much easier plant to grow. Like English ivy and the golden cane palm, its susceptibility to spider mites makes it difficult to maintain in good shape for very long.

14. Spineless Yucca (Yucca gigantea, Y. elephantipes and Y. guatemalensis)

20180127T Yucca gigantea

Spineless Yucca (Yucca gigantea). Source:

Generally sold as a small tree with a brown, woody looking trunk with tip cut off and two to four tufts of lanceolate leaves at the top, the spineless yucca is a superb plant, but it shares the rubber plant’s bad habit. That is, it “holds” well, for months at a time, even in shady spots, then, when it has spent all its stored energy, it launches into a long decline. It can sometimes survive (one can hardly say “live”) for two or three years under a typical home conditions, but, unless it’s right in front of a sunny window, becomes more and more etiolated and less and less beautiful over time, with yellowing leaves galore!

15. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

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Unless it is properly acclimatized, the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) starts losing leaves and is soon in decline. Source:

Okay, this plant can tolerate the shade and dry air of our homes and can even live decades under such conditions, but, as was the case with the croton, this is only true if you acclimatize it well beforehand. Otherwise, the leaves begin to fall almost as soon as you bring it home and it soon looks dreadful. Many more people manage to kill their weeping fig than succeed in keeping it healthy and happy. Read Stop Your Weeping Fig From Losing Its Leaves to learn how to acclimatize it.

There you go! 15 plants that may be interesting for gardeners who have a bit of experience, but which I would certainly not to offer a wet-behind-the-ears gardener. Definitely not “easy-to-grow houseplants,” in spite of what some websites claim!20180127A Spathiphylium