The other day a friend said she wanted to start growing houseplants, but asked if there were any easy plants that I recommend she start with. After thinking about it, I realized that I have a top 5 list of plants that are super easy for a beginner to keep alive. Even if you’re an experienced indoor gardener, this is a useful list for those tricky spots in your house that don’t get good light, or are a pain to water.
The reason I titled this post “My Top 5 Easy Plants That Beginners (Probably) Won’t Kill” with that qualifier “probably” is that of course you can kill these plants. I covered some of the most common ways people kill their plants, and how to avoid them, in this post, but here’s the most important part: Watering too often, and/or soil that doesn’t drain well enough, are the most sure-fire ways to kill a plant. So be sure you have your plant in a pot with drainage holes, and stick your finger in the soil to make sure it’s dried out before you water. Still not sure if your plant needs water? Here are 5 ways to check whether it’s time to water a plant.
Top 5 Easy Plants for Beginners
Spider plant / Chlorophytum comosum – Spider plants may not be trendy, but I think that every indoor garden needs at least one. They’re so easy to grow that they’ll be around to cheer you up even if you can’t keep anything else alive. They’re also very easy to propagate, so even if you do manage to kill one, getting another one won’t be difficult or expensive.
Below is a photo of the “curly” variation I have. There’s also a “reverse” variation, with white on the outer edges and green in the middle of the leaves. If you want an even tougher plant, there’s a version with solid green leaves, which is reportedly even easier to grow because it produces more chlorophyll, the stuff that turns leaves green and helps them turn light into energy.
Pothos / Devil’s Ivy / Epipremnum aureum – Because these plants are so easy to grow and start from cuttings, you see them all over the place. They don’t mind low light and low humidity, can survive neglectful watering, and aren’t especially susceptible to any pests. If you think the standard green/gold version is boring, you can also find “Marble Queen,” which has creamy white variegation, “Neon,” with bright yellow-green leaves, and “Pearls and Jade,” with big white splotches (my favorite, though it’s not quite as easy as the standard version).
Pothos (the green/gold vine above) and heart-leaf philodendron (below) are often mistaken for one another. They’re very similar, and require nearly the same care, so unless you’re a plant nerd like me, you might not care which you have. But one easy way to tell them apart is to look for the brown leaf sheaths. The philodendron below has them, and the above pothos doesn’t. The darker green leaves of philodendron don’t have variegation, either. (Here are even more ways to tell them apart.)
Wandering Jew / Tradescantia – A pretty, low-maintenance vine, the common name actually refers to at least three different plants. Tradescantia zebrina has striped leaves, Tradescantia fluminensis is the green version, and Tradescantia pallida has purple leaves. There are multiple other variations with different stripes and colors. I have the “Baby Bunny Belly” version, with soft, fuzzy leaves that have a purple underside.
ZZ Plant / Zamioculcas zamiifolia – With its slow growth and waxy leaves, it’s easy to mistake this low-maintenance plant for a fake one. ZZ plants are drought-tolerant and can survive in low light, so they’re perfect for that dim corner that just needs a little bit of plant life.
Snake Plant / Mother-in-law’s tongue / Sansevieria trifasciata – According to NASA, this practically indestructible plant is especially good at purifying the air. You can get snake plants in a couple of different patterns, and I think their sculptural shape and low-light-tolerance makes them a good alternative to cacti.
So those are my recommendations for easy plants. Ready to start your own jungle? Even if you’ve killed plants in the past, these easy houseplants can help you turn your black thumb green.