But not everybody has a green thumb. Maybe you are guilty of murdering a legion of plants… or maybe you go on short kicks where you become hyper-considerate of your plants, followed by months of burn-out, where you watch them wither away and die. That’s okay; I believe that you’re trying your best. To aid in your indoor gardening journey, I have compiled a list of care tips for three of the absolute most difficult plants to kill. And if you manage to kill these, you probably should clear your conscience by opting for some plastic plant decor.
“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ― Vincent Willem van Gogh”
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
The Spider Plant is an aesthetically pleasing plant, and it serves as the perfect houseplant for beginners. It is resilient and requires minimal maintenance, and as a generally hanging plant, it adds a dimensional appeal to your home.
- Light: Bright light. No direct sunlight is required; direct sun exposure may burn leaves.
- Water / Humidity: Only water when soil is dry. The Spider Plant is a moisture-loving plant, and it absorbs humidity in the air through its leaves, so increasing its humidity will keep it looking great all year.
- Grooming: Spider Plants benefit from occasional pruning of dead leaves and brown tips (see common problems). Mature Spider Plants produce spiderettes, which are little Spider Plant babies that can be easily propagated. Wait until the spiderettes have a developed root system, and then you have the options of either rooting directly into soil (using a lightweight potting mix, in a pot with drainage holes), or developing your root system further by placing it in water (see Step 6 in this article about root rot). If you plant your Spider Plant baby in water, you can move it to soil after a week or two. During either process, you may elect to either leave your spiderettes attached to the mother plant, or to snip the runner.
- Common Problems: Spider Plants most commonly suffer from brown tips. This cosmetic damage is typically due to overwatering, underwatering, tap water mineral content, or low humidity. In order to diagnose the source of this problem, first, check to make sure that your plant has a pot with appropriate drainage holes. If your plant isn’t drying out properly between watering, this could cause the leaves to develop brown tips. In most cases, overwatering is much more dangerous than underwatering (see article about root rot), so you need to address this problem ASAP. I also suggest purchasing a moisture meter; they cost around $12 at gardening centers and will save you from a lot of headache! If your plant is being properly watered, try increasing its humidity, or water using rainwater. Some plants, like the Spider Plant, are extremely sensitive to the minerals found in regular tap water, while others are unbothered.
2. Devil’s Ivy (Pothos)
Pothos, commonly known as Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy, is arguably the easiest plant to foster for beginning gardeners. If you have absolutely no green thumb or are guilty of forgetting to water your plants for weeks at a time, you would still have a difficult time killing this one. Pothos is a vine plant, so it serves beautifully as hanging, living decor, and can also be placed on a shelf and drape down, or trained to grow up ladders.
- Light: Pothos is healthiest as an indoor plant, with bright but not direct sunlight. Pothos is also suitable as a low-light plant. As a general rule of thumb, pale leaves indicate too much light, and a loss of variegation points to too little.
- Water / Humidity: Do not mist Pothos; it is fine in regular household humidity levels. Allow the soil to dry out between watering, and then water thoroughly, without soaking the soil. Pothos is a very communicative plant, with leaves that droop when it is thirsty. Do not allow the leaves to wilt for too long, because this will cause yellowing and leaf drop.
- Grooming: Pothos is a beautiful, cascading plant, which can be trained to grow up planting ladders or to drape across walls. When left alone, Pothos can become leggy, and it benefits from an occasional pruning and vine untangling. Pothos is one of the easiest plants to propagate; just snip a portion of your vine with at least one leaf and one healthy node (I recommend 2-3, to give your plant more opportunities to root), and place it in water until it develops a root system. You can keep your baby Pothos permanently in water if you wish; just change the water once a week to maintain healthy oxygen levels and feed it a few drops of a water-soluble fertilizer every few weeks so it’s absorbing nutrients. Otherwise, once a root system sprouts, you can plant your baby in any well-draining potting medium.
- Common Problems: The most frequent issue with Pothos are yellowing leaves. This can indicate many different issues. Sometimes, leaves yellow and drop when a plant is done using them, but if your Pothos has many yellow leaves, this is indicative of a problem. Usually, yellow leaves are due to an insufficient watering schedule (see “Watering / Humidity” section). However, if your Pothos is yellowing while its lighting, watering and drainage levels are appropriate, it might be nutrient deficient and require fertilizing.
3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
The Sansevieria, commonly known as the Snake Plant, is probably harder to kill than your plastic plant decor. With over 70 recorded varieties, the Snake Plant is most popularly native to West Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia. They survive in low light levels, drought, and are actually happiest when they are a bit neglected.
- Light: Snake Plants can withstand direct sunlight or low light levels but are the most handsome when they are exposed to indirect sunlight. Think of keeping your Snake Plant near an east-facing window. If you would prefer to use a west-facing window, this works too – west-facing windows receive 4-6 hours of extreme direct sunlight a day, so be sure to draw the curtains on hot days, to protect your Snake Plant’s foliage.
- Water / Humidity: Snake Plants can easily rot, so make sure that you house your Snake Plant in a well-draining pot, with well-draining soil. A potting soil and sand combination works as well, as Snake Plants originate from arid deserts. Allow the soil to dry completely between watering, especially during winter! Pro tip: avoid watering the leaves, as this could lead to rot, or wipe them down if you have any watering mishaps! And please – avoid any measures that increase a Snake Plant’s humidity! Neglect is their best friend.
- Grooming: As an upright, sword-like plant species, Snake Plants do not require much grooming. As they age, you might want to cut off any unruly or collapsing leaves. Other than this, Snake Plants are exceedingly difficult to successfully propagate, so I would not recommend it. If you are confident in your green thumb and would like to try this anyway, you can cut off a healthy leaf at any point and root it in water, or directly in soil, or divide the mother plant into smaller sections.
- Common Problems: Snake Plants are very susceptible to root rot, so again, be cautious with your pot selection, planting medium, and watering habits. Other than this, Snake Plants are very hearty plants and are tough to kill. They occasionally suffer from spider mites, and if caught early, they can be rid of them fairly easily.
Good luck, and happy gardening!
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